Week 14 Preview: Colts @ Browns

Intro: The Colts (8-4) begin the month of December with a trip to Cleveland (7-5) on Sunday afternoon in their final AFC North contest of the season. Here’s a Week 14 Preview of the Colts and Browns.

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INDIANAPOLIS – The chill and flurries have descended upon Indiana's state capitol this week.

Football weather is present in the city of Indianapolis and the Colts have once again positioned themselves nicely heading into December.

At 8-4, the Colts have a two-game lead in the AFC South and now will take to the elements on Sunday in trying to possibly repeat as division champs.

"It's football at its finest," Pagano says of heading outdoors this weekend.

"I love playing in the confines of home, believe me, better than anything. Nothing better than playing at Lucas Oil Stadium but it's also great getting outside, playing in the elements. I love playing when the breeze is blowing off that lake."

Pagano would know as he got his NFL start in Cleveland. From 2001-2004, Pagano served as the Browns defensive backs coach.

That connection is just one of several the Colts have with their road trip this weekend.

D'Qwell Jackson is tied with Josh Cribbs for the longest tenured of four former Browns that will be heading back to Cleveland on Sunday.

Jackson, the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week, was quick to point out all the differences from the Browns team he played on last year versus the 2014 one.

"They have a different coaching staff, different scheme," says Jackson, who spent the first eight years of his NFL career in Cleveland.

"There's a lot of guys on that offense that I don't know. I know a couple of the offensive linemen, but from a standpoint of just the skill positions, totally revamped group. You've got to study it like any other week. You've got to stay true to what you've been doing any other week. That's pretty much it in a nut shell."

In taking on Cleveland this weekend, the Colts will see a Browns team squarely in the thick of a jumbled AFC playoff picture.

Entering Week 14, 11 AFC teams are separated by two games with the Colts just a game behind the top of the conference.

Cleveland will stick with Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback on Sunday after speculation that rookie Johnny Manziel might get his first NFL start.

Hoyer will undeniably be looking towards the direction of Josh Gordon, particularly with Vontae Davis ruled out for Sunday.

Gordon has 15 catches for 195 receiving yards in his two games this season (Gordon was suspended for the first 11 weeks of the season).

Defensively, the Colts will encounter an opportune Cleveland defense that leads the league with 17 interceptions.

A defensive battle on Sunday isn't out of the question with the last seven Colts/Browns meetings each being decided by one possession or less.

No matter how the game plays out this weekend, Pagano knows that this has the making of the atmosphere his Colts could very well see come January.

"The physicality of this type of football game, how it's going to be played, where it's going to be won, it's going to be won in the trenches," Pagano says.

"It may sound cliché-ish when I say that, but that's what it is. The elements, be what they may, it may be sleeting sideways, it may be blowing snow so hard that you can't throw a football 10 yards down the field, I don't know. So you've got to be able to run the ball and stop the run."

INTERESTING MATCHUPSBrowns wide receiver Josh Gordon the Colts secondary:Since returning from suspension, the Browns have peppered Gordon with 29 targets. That's an extremely high number for a two-game stretch. More than a third of Cleveland's pass attempts the last two weeks have gone towards Gordon. That's where the health the absence of Vontae Davis comes into play.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck versus the Browns defense: There's not a more opportunistic unit in the NFL than the Cleveland pass defense. They lead the league with 17 interceptions thanks to lockdown corner Joe Haden shadowing the opposing team's top target. Luck is the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Month as he continues to challenge NFL single season passing records.Quick Facts

-The Colts lead the NFL with 69 plays of at least 20 yards this season.

-Chuck Pagano got his NFL start with the Cleveland Browns as defensive backs coach from 2001-2004.

-Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is a perfect 25-of-25 on field goals in 2014 and is the lone kicker to have yet to miss this season.

-Cleveland leads the NFL with 17 interceptions.

-The Browns also lead the league in opposing team starting field position on kickoffs at 19.4 yards.

-Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas hasn't missed an offensive snap since entering the NFL in 2007 (7,709 straight).NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on leaning on guys like assistant coach Rob Chudzinkski and other former Browns this week):

-"Great resource, it's a great resource. Chud along with D'Qwell (Jackson); we've got some guys, obviously Trent (Richardson), some guys that played with some of those guys and know those guys, and can share information about the players that are still on that roster. They've changed a lot and there's a bunch of players that are there that our guys don't know, but the ones that they do know that are still there they can share, talk to our players here about those guys and give them some of the intangibles, some of the things that you don't see on tape."Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the possibility of getting Dwayne Allen back in the lineup):

-"Well again, we've used multiple tight end sets in the past and obviously having Dwayne back, it gives you that option, that flexibility to jump in and out of that if that's part of the plan. The run game, obviously you get your blocking tight end, not to say Jack (Doyle) and Coby (Fleener) haven't done a good job as far as that goes, but you've got that back in your back pocket. So all those things. The pass game, a mismatch here, a mismatch there, so it's good to have him back."

Colts Running Back Trent Richardson(on staying upbeat through a tough stretch):

-"I always took this phrase from my mom and my uncle, 'You've got to go through the worst to get to the good.' It's going to be bad until you get to the good. Staying with that, time is due for a great game. Last week it is what it was. Who cares about that game now? Another game behind us. From this day on, from this week on, it's all about what you do for me now. The last two games haven't been my best, those games are behind me, but y'all know the games before, they were pretty good games. The game I should have been over 100 yards I ended up getting hurt, and I'm still fighting a little soreness in the hamstring a little bit, but my leg is feeling almost 100 percent and my body's getting healthy, my immune system is trying to adapt to this coldness up here. It's a good feeling, especially going to Cleveland. It's time. It's a great feeling for me, Boom (Daniel Herron) and Andrew (Luck)."

Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine(on why he chose Brian Hoyer over Johnny Manziel as the starting quarterback):

-"There's a lot of things that are involved with it, but for us it was a pure football decision. As it is at every other position, who gives us the best chance to win on a given weekend. Weighed a lot of the factors involved with the game and just kind of where we are as a team and what we've done to date. Came up with the decision that we we're going to go ahead and roll with Brian."Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine(on matching up with the Colts defensive backs):

-"Well I think it's going to be a huge point in the game. If we can win some of these one-on-one battles outside, then we'll have a great opportunity to make some plays down the field. If we can't get off the line of scrimmage and have trouble with the pass rush, then it will be another long afternoon for us. We've just got to challenge our receivers as they're going to challenge their cornerbacks, and when it is man-to-man, we've got to do a good job of running excellent routes, precision routes and the ball's got to be out on time and accurate. They sprinkle in some zones and some good fire zones and some blitzes at the right time and try to confuse quarterbacks, but I think ultimately it's going to come down to can we win some one-on-one matchups and get the ball down the field."Browns Quarterback Brian Hoyer(on how he deals with the hype around Johnny Manziel and fans wanting him to start):

-"You know, I don't really care too much about that, I don't pay attention. Once Johnny was drafted here really I just blocked out all media because I knew if I followed that and got caught up in that hype, it could be bad for me. I've done the same thing throughout the entire season. I ignore it. I don't watch ESPN, I don't go on the internet, I don't go on social media. I know what Johnny brings. Immediately you see when he was drafted the fascination, and obviously he's a good football player; they don't just hand out the Heisman trophy to anybody. He's done a good job of getting better as he's been here and I think he'll be a good player in this league."

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