Five things to Watch for in Sunday's Colts-Browns Game
There's going to be Colt on Colt violence this Sunday
Last week was a disaster. We had might as well admit it. This week, there is going to be some Colt on Colt violence as Colt McCoy leads the Cleveland Browns into the Luke to take on the Colts and Kerry Collins. Which horse should you bet on? I don't know that anyone knows at this point. Here's what to keep an eye on...
1. Watch Peyton. Just typing that made me sick. The Browns bring Madden cover-boy Peyton Hillis into Indy, just to rub it in that the Colts season is probably ruined before it started. Thanks for that Cleveland. Hillis had a nice season in 2011, but it was anything but spectacular. Just under 1200 yards and 11 touchdowns are credible numbers, but his DVOA was lower than Joe Addai's. He also fumbled 8 times. Frankly, he's a nice player, but is not worthy of the name Peyton. For the next 48 hours, I will refer to him as Eli Hillis. The Colts are without Brackett and Sims this week, which means Conner and Angerer are going to have to play more frequently. They are going to have to maintain their gaps, because Cleveland's game plan is going to be to pound the ball. Indy did their typical D- job against the run in the Houston game, and will have to control the Browns' ground attack if they are going to keep the offense in it.
2. Watch the response. As much as people love to rag on Jim Caldwell, the Colts problem in week one was not motivation or preparation. It was that their quarterback, who had played a total of one half of one preseason game with the team, fumbled twice inside the 20 yard-line. That makes it hard to win. The Colts have a habit of bouncing back very well from losses that would cripple other teams. In the past two years, the Colts have shaken off more devastating losses than most team endure in ten years. The veterans showed last week that they play hard and stay motivated no matter. The Colts should give a top-shelf effort this week. Against a bad Cleveland team, that might just be enough. In the long run, however, games are won on talent and execution, not motivation. The Indy season isn't lost yet, but if the Colts get off to an 0-4 or 0-5 start, it could go down the drain fast. 4 of the next 5 games and 5 of the next 7 are against 2010 playoff teams. The Colts need this win to have any hope of treading water until Manning is hypothetically ready. It's fair to say that this game IS the season. If the Colts lose it, it's officially time to go on the Andrew Luck watch, because Cleveland may be the worst team they play all year.
3. Watch the shotgun. Collins threw 27 of his 31 passes last week out of the shotgun formation. More often than not, when he's not under center, Indy's throwing the ball. As Collins gets more comfortable with the offense, look for the Colts to run more out of the shotgun. For all the complaining people did about the line last week, the Colts backs were reasonably effective running the football. Obviously the score of the game dictated some of what Indy did in week one, but as Collins becomes more comfortable in the offense, the Colts have to try and run the ball more. It's not the way the offense is designed, but Christensen is going to have to make adjustments. Collins will take 3-4 sacks if asked to throw 30 times in a game. The best way for the Colts to limit big mistakes in the passing game is to run the ball as much as possible. Doing so out of the shotgun will help to keep Collins comfortable while still maintaining balance in the offense.
4. Watch the guy who isn't any good, but some people think he's good. If Colt McCoy played for a team with a less rabid (read desperate) fan base, everyone in the NFL would know he's not very good. However, fans and the media down-right love guys who played good in college and are average at best in the pros. McCoy managed to pull off a pair of high profile upsets in 2010 (against two big name teams in NO and NE with awful secondaries...oh and the Browns returned two picks for scores), and that seems to be all anyone remembers about his season. The Browns are now 2-9 with McCoy as a starter. His career passer rating is 73.8. He's thrown more picks than touchdowns. He has a sack percentage of nearly 9%. There's a reason McCoy isn't a first round pick. Much of the perception that the Browns could be feisty this year revolves around the myth that McCoy is a viable NFL starter. I'm convinced this has way more to do with mythical intangible qualities than his actual play. Colt McCoy will ride that perception of him to a nice long career as a backup quarterback in the NFL.
5. Watch me watch a win. I've been to Lucas Oil Stadium six times to watch the Colts live. I saw both preseason games in 2008, then the first two games of the regular season (Bears and Jaguars). Then I left for Argentina. I'm back now, and have watched two more preseason games there. Add it up and I'm 0-6 at the Luke. Considering the Colts have only lost a handful of games there total, I'm due for a win. It's going to be ugly, but I like the Indianapolis Colts to come through and pull it out 17-13 over the Cleveland Colts.