2020 Colts Preview: Colts/Browns, Week 5

After closing out the first quarter of the season with three straight wins, the Indianapolis Colts (3-1) travel to take on the red-hot Cleveland Browns (3-1) Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. Check out the official game preview.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Two of the hotter teams in the AFC square off Sunday along the shores of Lake Erie, where the Indianapolis Colts (3-1) and the Cleveland Browns (3-1) get set for their Week 5 battle at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Kickoff is at 4:25 p.m. ET.

The Colts, winners of three straight, wrapped up the first quarter of the 2020 season last Sunday with a hard-fought 19-11 road victory over the previously-undefeated Chicago Bears. Rookie Jordan Glasgow would partially block a Chicago punt on its opening drive, setting up the Indy offense near midfield, and six plays later quarterback Philip Rivers would find tight end Mo Alie-Cox with a 13-yard touchdown pass. Some stingy defense, as well as four Rodrigo Blankenship field goals, the rest of the way would be all she wrote.

The Browns, meanwhile, also won their third straight game last Sunday, hanging on to defeat the Dallas Cowboys, 49-38, in their entertaining Week 4 matchup at AT&T Stadium. The Browns would go on a 27-0 run to break a 14-14 tie to lead 41-14 before the Cowboys eventually went on a 24-0 run of their own to get to within three points, 41-38. That's when Cleveland iced the game with a wild 50-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter. The Browns had 307 rushing yards and three scores on the ground on the day, despite losing top running back Nick Chubb with a first-quarter knee injury.

So what all should we be looking for when this thing kicks off? Here is the official game preview.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday, Oct. 11, at 4:25 p.m. ET
  • Cleveland; FirstEnergy Stadium
  • TV: CBS — Spero Dedes (play-by-play), Adam Archuleta (color)
  • Radio: Sports USA — Josh Appel (play-by-play), Brandon Noble (color)
  • Colts Official App (*Geographic and device restrictions apply. Local & primetime games only. Data charges may apply.)
  • Colts.com mobile website (Safari browser ONLY)
  • Yahoo! Sports mobile browser or app
  • Click here for MORE WAYS TO WATCH.
  • To find out what games will be on in your area, click here.
  • Local radio: Colts games can be heard in Indianapolis on 93.5, 107.5 and 1070 The Fan and 97.1 HANK FM, plus the desktop version of Colts.com with Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Rick Venturi (color), Larra Overton (sideline) and Bill Brooks (pregame/postgame analyst) on the call.
  • National radio: Fans can listen to the live local call on Colts.com (desktop only) and NFL Game Pass. Get your free seven-day trial by clicking here.

*Please check your local TV listing to confirm availability. iOS mobile web and app users should "Allow Location Access" (via Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Safari).

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Tied, 17-17; Colts are 10-7 all-time against the Browns on the road; Indy has won 10 of its last 12 in the series
  • Last game — Week 3 of 2017; Colts won, 31-28, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Browns:

  • HC Kevin Stefanski
  • OC Alex Van Pelt
  • DC Joe Woods
  • STC Mike Priefer

LAST WEEK

Colts:

  • Won at Chicago Bears (3-1), 19-11

Browns:

  • Won at Dallas Cowboys (1-3), 49-38

INJURY UPDATE

Colts:

  • OUT — LT Anthony Castonzo (rib); LB Darius Leonard (groin)
  • DOUBTFUL — N/A
  • QUESTIONABLE — LB Anthony Walker (ankle)

Click here to read more on the injury report for Sunday's game.

Browns:

  • OUT — DT Larry Ogunjobi (abdomen); CB Greedy Williams (shoulder)
  • DOUBTFUL — N/A
  • QUESTIONABLE — DE Adrian Clayborn (hip); S Karl Joseph (hamstring)

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • NFL's top rushing offense vs. NFL's top defense — The battle in the trenches will undoubtedly be one of the more critical aspects of Sunday's game between the Browns, who average an NFL-best 204.5 rushing yards per game, against the Colts, who have the NFL's top overall defense, and rank fourth against the run (77 yards per game allowed). While Cleveland will be without its top back, Nick Chubb, who suffered a knee injury last week against the Dallas Cowboys and is out indefinitely, they've got arguably one of the top No. 2 backs ready to go in Kareem Hunt, who leads the team with five touchdowns this season. D'Ernest Johnson also had a strong performance when Chubb went down last week, finishing with 13 carries for 95 yards. Indy will respond with the likes of run-stuffing specialists DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart, but as we'll touch on below, the health at linebacker could make this matchup much more challenging for the Colts' front seven. Either way, this should be a fun storyline to keep an eye on throughout the afternoon.
  • Philip Rivers opening it up? — Through his first four games as the Colts' starting quarterback, Philip Rivers has certainly played winning football, as he's completing passes at an extremely high rate and his yards-per-attempt figure is right in head coach Frank Reich's wheelhouse. But after attempting 46 passes in Indy's Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Rivers has seemingly relied much more upon the run game — and it's worked, leading to three straight wins heading into Sunday's matchup against the Browns. But could this game be an opportunity for No. 17 to have his best throwing performance of the season thus far? The Browns allow 310.5 passing yards per game, which ranks 30th in the NFL, and Dak Prescott just completed 41-of-58 passes for 502 yards with four touchdowns to one interception against this Cleveland defense last week — granted, Dallas was trailing much of the game, but that's still a massive performance through the air any way you look at it. While Rivers most certainly needs to be mindful of an extremely opportunistic Browns defense, which leads the NFL in takeaways (10), the film from the first four weeks also shows some clear cracks in their secondary that are there to exploit. Rivers, of course, will do whatever it takes to win, but could that mean a few more throws downfield in this one?
  • Health at left tackle, linebacker — The Colts have had more than their fair share of injuries throughout the early portion of the season, losing starters at running back (Marlon Mack) and safety (Malik Hooker) for the year, and losing other key players at wide receiver (Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr.) indefinitely. But Sunday's contest against the Browns is really the murkiest the Colts have been heading into any game to this point in regards to their injury situation. On offense, starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo is battling a rib injury that has forced him to miss practice time. On defense, all three starting linebackers — Darius Leonard (groin), Bobby Okereke (thumb) and Anthony Walker (ankle) — have landed on the injury report and have missed at least one day of practice, if not more. If Castonzo can't go, perhaps it'll be fifth-year veteran Le'Raven Clark who gets the start at left tackle; will Myles Garrett, who leads the NFL with five sacks, then slide over to try to test Clark from time to time? And we've already talked about the Browns' ultra-productive run game; if one or more of the Colts' starting linebackers are limited or can't play, how will guys like Zaire Franklin, E.J. Speed (who also is on the injury report with an elbow issue) and/or rookie Jordan Glasgow respond to the challenge?

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts RT Braden Smith vs. Browns DE Myles Garrett — While we mentioned above the possibility of Garrett sliding over to get some reps opposite Le'Raven Clark if he's pressed into duty at left tackle, the NFL's leader in sacks (five) has mostly lined up opposite the right tackle this season, so one would assume he'll mostly be Smith's responsibility on Sunday afternoon. Smith is hoping for a bounce-back performance after a challenging matchup last week against the Bears and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, in which the third-year tackle allowed a season-high seven quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus, although none of those resulted in a sack. In fact, Smith is yet to allow a single sack all season, which is pretty impressive considering he usually is going up against the NFL's best of the best pass rushers on a weekly basis. That's certainly going to be the case again on Sunday against Garrett, who had two sacks and a forced fumble last week against the Cowboys.
  • Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Browns CB Denzel Ward — Ward is coming off his best performance of the season last Sunday against Dallas, as he finished with four tackles, two passes defensed and his first interception of the year, earning a season-high 78.4 coverage grade from PFF. And if you need a reminder of just how talented this young cornerback is, consider this: the Browns took at No. 4 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft — two spots ahead of Colts All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson. The veteran Hilton, meanwhile, has been averaging about three receptions for 40 yards through the first four games this season, but many believe it's only a matter of time before he breaks out in a big way. He knows he has his hands full once again on Sunday when he's lined up against Ward. "He's a special guy," Hilton said of Ward on Thursday. "He's their guy at corner. He's feeling really good. He's playing with confidence, playing with swag and I look forward to the matchup. He is their top guy and he's going to compete. That's what you like to see from DBs."
  • Colts DE Justin Houston vs. Browns LT Jedrick Wills Jr. — We've talked about the Browns' strong running game, which, of course, is made possible by the five guys up front. And through the first four games this season, Wills Jr. has proven to be one of the top rookie offensive linemen in the NFL. The Browns' first-round (10th-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft out of Alabama, Wills owns a very impressive 75.7 pass-blocking grade from PFF; he's allowed just four overall pressures and two sacks to this point of the season. But perhaps what's even more impressive is Cleveland's run production behind Wills Jr.; the Browns, according to NFL analyst Warren Sharp, have run the ball 13 times behind Wills Jr., and average 10.5 yards per carry (!) on those attempts. Perhaps a wily veteran like Houston, who leads the Colts with 3.5 sacks and is showing no signs of slowing down, can provide Wills Jr. with a couple of his first "welcome to the NFL" moments on Sunday.
  • Colts CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. — While we can't say with any certainty that Rhodes will be lined up against Beckham Jr. the entire game, one has to imagine the history between these two will make for some quality entertainment when they are matched up. It was 2016 when Rhodes' Minnesota Vikings took on Beckham Jr.'s New York Giants in a matchup that can only be described as epic — at least from Rhodes' perspective. Beckham Jr. was targeted nine times that night, but Rhodes limited the star receiver to three receptions for 23 yards. Also in that game, Beckham Jr. drew a personal foul penalty after expressing his displeasure to being hit by Rhodes along the sideline. Rhodes will undoubtedly be in coverage against Beckham Jr. at times throughout Sunday's game, but the now-Colts cornerback says his past with the receiver is water under the bridge, at least to him. "Odell's a great receiver, man, one of the top five receivers in the league," Rhodes said this week. "With him, you've just got to be mentally prepared, because it's going to be not only a (physical) battle, it's going to be a (mental) battle."

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

REGULAR SEASON LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Philip Rivers (984 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Jonathan Taylor (250 yards)
  • Receiving — TE Mo Alie-Cox (194 yards)
  • Touchdowns — TE Mo Alie-Cox, RB Nyheim Hines, RB Jonathan Taylor (2 each)
  • Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (27)
  • Sacks — Justin Houston (3.5)
  • Interceptions — CB T.J. Carrie, CB Xavier Rhodes (2 each)

Browns:

  • Passing — QB Baker Mayfield (729 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Nick Chubb (335 yards)
  • Receiving — WR Odell Beckham Jr. (236 yards)
  • Touchdowns — RB Kareem Hunt (5)
  • Tackles — LB B.J. Goodson (27)
  • Sacks — DE Myles Garrett (5.0)
  • Interceptions — LB B.J. Goodson, S Karl Joseph, LB Malcolm Smith, CB Denzel Ward (1 each)

COMPARING 2020 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 21st (360.3 YPG)
  • Scoring — 17th (25.8 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 18th (245.0 YPG)
  • Sack percentage allowed — 3rd (3.20)
  • Rushing offense — Tied-15th (115.3 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 30th (34.62 percent)
  • Red zone offense — 28th (46.67 percent)
  • Total defense — 1st (236.3 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 1st (14.0 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 1st (159.3 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-10th (10)
  • Rushing defense — 4th (77.0 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 1st (31.11 percent)
  • Red zone defense — 19th (62.50 percent)
  • Time of possession — 2nd (33:36)
  • Turnover differential — 5th (+4)

Browns:

  • Total offense — 13th (387.0 YPG)
  • Scoring — 4th (31.0 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 30th (182.5 YPG)
  • Sack percentage allowed — 14th (5.17)
  • Rushing offense — 1st (204.5 YPG)
  • Third down offense — Tied-20th (40.00 percent)
  • Red zone offense — Tied-2nd (80.00 percent)
  • Total defense — 25th (402.3 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — Tied-28th (31.5 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 30th (310.5 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-8th (11)
  • Rushing defense — 5th (91.8 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 26th (49.02 percent)
  • Red zone defense — Tied-25th (75.00 percent)
  • Time of possession — 13th (30:52)
  • Turnover differential — 1st (+6)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • With one interception returned for a touchdown, cornerback T.J. Carrie will tie numerous players for the second-most interceptions returned for a touchdown (two) in single-season franchise history.
  • With one touchdown, tight end Jack Doyle will pass Ken Dilger (18) and tie Tom Mitchell (19) and Dwayne Allen (19) for the fourth-most total touchdowns by a tight end in team history. With two touchdowns, he will pass Tom Mitchell (19) and Dwayne Allen (19) for the fourth-most total touchdowns by a tight end in team history.
  • With at least one reception, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton will tie Marshall Faulk (77) for the sixth-longest streak of consecutive games with a reception in franchise history.
  • With one touchdown, Hilton will pass Dallas Clark (46) for the 11th-most total touchdowns in team history. With one receiving touchdown, Hilton will tie Dallas Clark (46) for the sixth-most receiving touchdowns in team history.
  • With one game with 10+ receptions, Hilton will pass Don McCauley, Lydell Mitchell, Joe Washington, Anthony Johnson and Dallas Clark, all with three, for the third-most games with 10+ receptions in team history.
  • With four receptions, running back Nyheim Hines will tie Joe Washington (127) for the third-most receptions by a Colts running back in their first three seasons in the NFL. He would also tie Washington for the 10thmost receptions by a Colts player in their first three seasons. With five receptions, he will pass Joe Washington (127) for the third-most receptions by a Colts running back in their first three seasons in the NFL. He would also pass Washington for the 10th-most receptions by a Colts player in their first three seasons.
  • With one safety, defensive end Justin Houston will tie Ted Hendricks, Doug English and Jared Allen (four) for the most safeties in NFL history.
  • With one interception returned for a touchdown, cornerback Xavier Rhodes will tie numerous players for the second-most interceptions returned for a touchdown (two) in single-season franchise history.
  • With one game with 400+ passing yards, quarterback Philip Rivers will tie Ben Roethlisberger (12) for the fourth-most games with 400+ passing yards in NFL history.
  • With one game started, Rivers will tie Bruce Matthews (229) for the second-longest streak of consecutive regular season games started by a player since 1970.
  • With four passes completed, Rivers will reach 5,000 career passes completed. He would become just the fifth player in NFL history to reach that plateau, joining Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
  • With one punt inside the 20-yard line, punter Rigoberto Sanchez will pass Chris Gardocki (80) for the fourth-most punts inside the 20-yard line in franchise history.
  • "I would say that just visiting with other people around the league, the guys that have worked with him that I know and just his reputation, I think for me exceeded what they were saying. You really can never put an example or a way of saying what kind of guy he is. You don't really know that until you start to visit with him and talk to him – what kind of family guy he is, what kind of character he has and the effect he's going to have in the locker room. Sure they say things like he works hard, he hustles. You can see that on tape and what kind of practice player he is. He's all that and more, but just the kind of character he has is really amazing." — Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
  • "It's just our same philosophy we have with other players. We want to spread it around. We want to keep our guys fresh. We want to do what the player does best. I think it's a combination of everything – that we just want to keep all those three things that I just said. I have a ton of confidence in Jonathan (Taylor) and he could carry the ball 25 times a game. We just have a lot of confidence in the other guys as well and they do things really well also and we want to let them shine as well and keep everybody fresh." — Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni on spreading the wealth a little bit more of late at the running back position.
  • "That's what he is. You're right, he's a weapon. His placement on punts is just phenomenal. The difference between – you talked about hidden yardage – we down a ball on the two-yard line opposed to it being a touchback, that's 18 yards of hidden yardage really when you think about it. He just does that consistently. Then his kickoffs have been great – placement, hangtime. Really in every way, this guy is a winning player. He's a consistent playmaker and is just getting better all the time." — Colts head coach Frank Reich on punter Rigoberto Sanchez.
  • "Because you are preparing yourself to go out and compete and be confident in what we're doing and go out and execute at a high level. The ins and outs of the plan and why and, 'Here's this and here's this adjustment and oh, we can do this and do that.' Shoot, that's just a passion and love for the sport in its totality. I love that part of it, and I sure as heck love trotting out there at 1:30 p.m. and getting to practice at 38 years old with a bunch of your buddies. It's a pretty good deal." — Colts quarterback Philip Rivers, asked why he still loves the preparation aspect of the job each and every week.

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