It is prediction time for the Cleveland Browns’ Week 3 game. What are they this week?
The Cleveland Browns travel to Indianapolis on Sunday for a 1PM contest against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Browns are coming off a 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week, while the Colts fell 16-13 to the Arizona Cardinals in overtime.
It was a disaster game for Cleveland. Quarterback DeShone Kizer started, then missed a ton of action with a migraine. Kizer eventually returned, after Kevin Hogan led the offense on a touchdown drive, but he ended up turning the ball over four times.
The Browns also lost Corey Coleman to a broken hand, and he was placed on injured reserve this week.
Baltimore running back Buck Allen had over 100 total yards and scored a touchdown. Quarterback Joe Flacco had an efficient day. Tight end and former Brown, Ben Watson, had a big day (eight catches, 91 yards). Also, four different defenders each had an interception.
With both teams 0-2, something has to give this weekend.
1. Kizer shows poise and bounces back
As previously mentioned, it was a very rough game for Kizer against Baltimore last Sunday. He was on the field for the first four drives of the game, which resulted in no points, two punts, an interception and a fumble. His migraine forced Hogan into action in the second quarter. Kizer eventually returned with 8:19 to go in the third quarter.
He finished the game 15/31 for 182 yards and three interceptions, while taking two sacks and losing a fumble. It was a huge step back from his Pittsburgh performance, but it was nothing unexpected out of the raw rookie.
Coach Hue Jackson saying Kizer is trying to “uplift everybody” goes a long way in showing his maturity already. Most young quarterbacks would crumble after their first taste of adversity, but Kizer already seems to be putting the Baltimore lost past him and is moving forward.
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After two tough defenses, Kizer and the Browns get a break this week against Indianapolis. The Colts’ front seven is much weaker than the previous opponents, which should mean a stronger rushing attack and a more balanced offense.
Indy’s star cornerback Vontae Davis is practicing this week after missing the first two games, which will certainly put a dent in the Browns’ passing attack. However, without a legitimate No. 1 option, Kizer can look to spread the ball around and avoid Davis (if he does play).
Even without Coleman, Kizer and the aerial attack should be much better this weekend. If the rookie is over his Baltimore performance, as coach Jackson alluded to, Kizer should have a big-time bounce-back performance.
2. Running back Duke Johnson totals at least 100 yards rushing/receiving, as his role grows in the offense
Since drafting Johnson in 2015, the Browns have struggled to find ways to utilize his unique skill-set. He has yet to record a 400-yard-rushing season, though he has caught 114 passes in his first two seasons. He has not been very effective thus far in 2017, total just 21 yards rushing while catching just five passes for 79 yards.
With the lack of depth and skill at the receiver position, Johnson, a great pass catcher, has spent a lot of time in the slot early this year. He showed his explosive ability last week against Baltimore, making an insane one-handed grab that totaled 34 yards.
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Johnson had 80 total yards on just seven touches last week, showing why he can be a play-maker for the Browns’ offense.
It is no secret that fellow running back Isaiah Crowell has struggled in Weeks 1 and 2, and his comments about wanting a new contract and the ball more show a lot. It is certainly plausible Crowell’s ineffectiveness on the field could at least be partially affected by his desire to receive a new contract.
His struggles may open up some more time in the backfield and touches overall, for Johnson.
Without Coleman, Johnson will be much more involved in the offense. Add in the issues surrounding Crowell, and it appears Johnson is looking at a bigger role.
If the Browns get him the ball 10 to 12 times this week, including four-to-six catches, it is not out of the question that he totals 100 yards against the Colts.
3. Defense gets at least five sacks
In preparation for Week 1 against Pittsburgh, first-overall pick Myles Garrett suffered a high-ankle sprain. His timetable was four-to-six weeks, and he was put into a walking boot. Garrett did not make his career debut against either Pittsburgh or Baltimore. It doesn’t look good either for Sunday.
Garrett ditched his walking boot earlier this week and now just has a sleeve on his ankle. Even better, he has been working off to the side at practice.
Obviously, the team is not going to rush him back, but the Browns really need him. He dealt with an ankle injury in college as well and knows how to manage the pain and play through an injury.
Regardless if Garrett plays or not, Cleveland will go head-to-head against a poor Colts’ offensive line. Garrett being on the field is huge for the Browns defense, but even without him, plenty of pressure should be seen regularly. As a result, don’t be surprised if five or more sacks are racked up given the talents and blitzes defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will call.
While watching the Browns play this year, casual fans may have wondered why there were “only” nine or 10 players in the defensive formation. Obviously, Cleveland had all 11 men on defense, but 99% of the time, Peppers and/or Kindred were lined up 20-25 yards downfield.
According to ESPN’s Pat McManamon, Williams has done this in the past, notably with former Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor. The concept is strange. However, Cleveland has done a great job of limiting the deep balls from great deep throwing quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco.
This week against Indianapolis, the Browns get second-year quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was just acquired from the New England Patriots. He does have a big arm, but he has only started a handful of games in his NFL career.
Throwing a safety extremely deep is likely not the best way to defend this Colts offense with Brissett at the helm.
Williams should adapt his defense for this week and look to put both Peppers and Kindred in the box more to bring them on blitzes. Especially without linebacker Jamie Collins, Peppers should get some looks as a linebacker this weekend, where he played last year at Michigan.
Expect to see more of the two safeties pre-snap, as Williams should look to move them around and confuse the young Colts QB.
5. Browns, as road favorite for first time since 2014, win their first game of the season
Alright, so it did not work last week, but this weekend’s game is much different from Baltimore. The Colts’ defense is nothing like the daunting Ravens, and the Browns should find much more success on offense.
The Browns defense has looked solid so far and could have a field day against the young Brissett at quarterback. T.Y. Hilton is a good weapon for the QB, but he has not been able to get the ball routinely this season.
Look for Kizer to bounce back and for Johnson to have a big role on offense. Without quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts are one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Prediction: Browns 20-10