INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts will warp up their AFC North slate for the 2014 campaign on Sunday afternoon with a trip to Cleveland.
With some help on Sunday, the Colts can actually clinch the AFC South for a second straight season.
What should fans be looking for when the Colts travel to Cleveland?
1. Embrace The Environment
-The elements are alive and well in central Indiana. For football purists this is the weather that separates the men from the boys, if you will. The Colts will hit the road for the first time in more than a month on Sunday afternoon. Cleveland isn't used to meaningful December games but this one certainly qualifies as one. The atmosphere seen on Sunday will be similar to something the Colts will almost assuredly have to encounter in January to make a playoff run.
2. Establish Richardson
-A slew of former Browns will head back to Cleveland this weekend. Trent Richardson will have plenty of attention on him in his return to the team that took him third overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Since Richardson's 14-carry, 77-yard performance against Cincinnati, he has struggled to find his early/mid season form. Will playing the NFL's 29th ranked run defense help get Richardson back on track?
3. Limiting Josh Gordon
-The injury status of Vontae Davis this week was a hot topic in Indianapolis for several reasons. The presence of wide receiver Josh Gordon on the other side of the ball was certainly one of the reasons why. In the last two weeks, Gordon has received 29 targets, a number that most No. 1 receivers wished they could see in back-to-back games. There's a reason Cleveland feels the need to get Gordon the ball that often and the Colts secondary will have to handle that challenge on Sunday afternoon.
4. An Error Free Passing Attack
-Andrew Luck is fresh off a 3-1 month of November where he threw just two picks (compared to 12 touchdowns) in being named the AFC Player of the Month. His first test in December though is pretty potent from a ball-hawking standpoint. Cleveland leads the league with 17 interceptions and No. 1 cornerback Joe Haden is a true shutdown type, where shadowing T.Y. Hilton is among the job duties this week.
5. Familiar Browns
-A quartet of Colts (Mike Adams, Josh Cribbs, D'Qwell Jackson and Trent Richardson) made a pretty large imprint during their careers in Cleveland. All four now play key roles in Indianapolis. Cribbs is one to watch on Sunday as the return specialist has fond memories of his eight seasons with the Browns.
6. December Momentum
-Over the last two seasons the Colts 8-2 mark in the month of December is the second best in the NFL. Playing ascending football to close out the season is something the Colts pride themselves on. With a two-game winning streak entering the final four weeks, the Colts still have an outside chance of earning a bye. However, the first goal is…
7. A Chance To Clinch
-…securing the AFC South for a second straight season. The Colts have a chance to do that on Sunday with the magic number at just two games. If the Colts can win in Cleveland and the Texans lose in Jacksonville, Indianapolis will repeat as AFC South Champions. If anything besides that scenario happens this week, the Colts will have a chance to clinch the division next week when Houston comes to Lucas Oil Stadium.