INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts wrap up an early two-game home swing on Sunday, when they play host to the Cleveland Browns.
The Colts (0-2) are coming off a 16-13, overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week in Indy. The Browns (0-2), meanwhile, fell to the Baltimore Ravens, 24-10, last week in M&T Bank Stadium in Maryland.
So what should fans be looking for in this Colts/Browns matchup on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium?
1. More Brissett
Sunday's game will represent a second straight start at quarterback for Jacoby Brissett, who seemed to have a good grasp on his responsibilities last week in his first start against the Cardinals. Though he was just acquired in a trade from the New England Patriots earlier this month, Brissett was able to move the Colts' offense, especially early in the game, when Indy scored a touchdown and a field goal on its first two drives. The key this time around against the Browns is to see even more development and improvement out of Brissett and the Colts' offense. Will he be more in-sync with the receivers? Will the team be able to implement even more of its playbook, including some more shots down the field? The Colts hope the answer to both of these questions are a resounding "Yes" by the time Sunday's game is wrapped up.
2. Defending 'Daffy Duck'
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano remembers being an assistant coach with the University of Miami and facing off against then-Florida head coach Steve Spurrier's read-option offensive attack, referring to the scheme as "Daffy Duck." Pagano uses that same phrase when describing the offensive approach with Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who certainly can make all the throws, but has also shown the ability to read the defense and run with the ball when needed. While the Colts know they need to be disciplined in their approach against the read-option, they also hope to have the chance to be aggressive and wreak havoc on the rookie quarterback throughout the afternoon, forcing him into a similar performance like last week against the Ravens, when he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
3. Secondary Shakeup
The Colts on Sunday will see yet another change among their starters in the secondary. After having a solid performance in his first-career start last week against the Cardinals, the team announced on Friday that rookie cornerback Quincy Wilson will be out on Sunday with a knee injury. Looking beyond Rashaan Melvin, who has started the first two games, and Nate Hairston, who also started last week at the nickel corner spot, the Colts only have two other fully-healthy cornerbacks heading into the Browns game: Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore II. Vontae Davis, who is yet to play this season after suffering a groin injury during the third preseason game, returned to practice this week, but is labeled as doubtful for the Browns game; Chris Milton, meanwhile, is questionable with a hamstring injury. That could pave the way for T.J. Green to get more snaps at the cornerback position for Indianapolis on Sunday. Green, who has been making the transition over from safety, started at cornerback Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams, but played just one defensive snap last week against the Cardinals.
4. Run, Run, Run
The Colts have yet to really get their run game going this season, as their 75.5 rushing-yards-per-game average ranks 24th in the NFL, and their 2.8 yards-per-carry average ranks tied for 31st in the league. While much of that has to do with the fact that the team couldn't utilize the run much when it fell behind so quickly Week 1 against the Rams, the Colts hope to get this trend going in the right direction against the Browns, who have actually been productive against the run this season, allowing just 85.5 rushing yards per game, ranking 13th in the NFL. If the Colts can get their run game going, then that'll open things down the field for Brissett and the rest of the offense. One note at the running back position for Indy: the team on Sunday will be without rookie Marlon Mack, who has an injured shoulder. The Colts brought up third-year back Matt Jones, who had been on the practice squad, in Mack's place on Friday.
On the flip side, Indianapolis hopes to continue its strong play against the run on Sunday. Through two games, the Colts have allowed just 73 rushing yards per contest, ranking seventh in the league in that category, while their 2.5 yards-allowed-per-carry average ranks second in the NFL. The Colts will be going up against a Browns rushing attack that has struggled so far this season; their 75 rushing yards per game average ranks 25th in the NFL, and their 3.3 yards-per-carry average ranks 24th.
6. On The Hunt
Margus Hunt was one of many defensive free agent signees by the Colts this offseason, but he is quickly separating himself as one of the better additions brought in by new general manager Chris Ballard. Through the first two games, Hunt has posted three tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits, and, according to Pro Football Focus, his seven total QB pressures leads all Colts players (outside linebackers Jabaal Sheard and John Simon who each have six). In fact, it was Hunt's pressure on quarterback Carson Palmer last week that ultimately led to rookie Malik Hooker's first-career interception. Look for big No. 92 to continue this trend on Sunday against Kizer and the Browns.7. Milestones
Sunday's game could produce several milestones for the Colts:
• Pagano needs one regular season win to reach 50 for his career.
• Running back Frank Gore needs eight carries to pass former Colts great Eric Dickerson (2,996) for ninth on the NFL's all-time list; he needs one rushing touchdown to tie Pete Johnson (76) for 22nd on the all-time NFL list; and needs 107 rushing yards to pass Dickerson (13,259) for seventh on the league's all-time rushing list.
• Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton needs 73 receiving yards to pass Lenny Moore (6,039) for the fourth most in franchise history.
• Kicker Adam Vinatieri needs one win to pass Gary Anderson (201) for the second most career regular season wins in NFL history.