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What’s next for the Cleveland Browns? Previewing the Indianapolis Colts and how they match up

ARLINGTON, Texas — Riding back to a hotel after the Browns thrilling 49-38 win at AT&T Stadium, I looked out my Lyft’s window and noticed a Six Flags. There were at least five different roller coasters cruising around, plus a massive water park. It looked childishly fun.

I asked the driver if the theme park was open and she said it was. In fact, she just dropped three people off there prior to swooping me.

Regardless of the fun that likely took place at Six Flags on Sunday, there wasn’t a more entertaining place in Texas than the 87-point NFL explosion inside Jerry World.

It came at the Cowboys’ expense, but Browns’ fans are enjoying this. From the ups of Jarvis Landry throwing deep for Odell Beckham Jr. To the uneasiness of Cleveland’s defense allowing 24 points in eight minutes. And topped by a euphoric OBJ-winner, Cowboys-Browns was Six Flags.

The Browns put the NFL (and myself) on notice Sunday. Or perhaps it’s just me, Cowboys’ fans and Fox that annually overrate Dallas?

Either way, Colts coach Frank Reich knows what’s up in Cleveland.

“We play an explosive offensive next week,” he said of the Browns, and it’ll be a good test for us.”

Last week I said the Browns are a legitimate playoff contender. That was solidified with another Myles Garrett strip-sack and the Browns (3-1) rushing for 307 yards without Nick Chubb.

Also 3-1, the Colts come to Cleveland for Week 5. Let’s preview the Browns’ matchup against Indianapolis.

What the Colts do well

Indianapolis does what it takes to win and plays behind one of the league’s best defenses. Indy has enjoyed a weak schedule, with wins over teams with a combined record of 4-8. In Week 1, they lost 27-20 to the Jaguars, which remains Jacksonville’s lone victory.

Their defense entered Sunday ranked first in yards and points allowed. A 19-11 victory at Soldier Field will keep them atop leaderboards. Another tough defensive team is coming to FirstEnergy Stadium.

To be clear, they aren’t Washington. Though veteran quarterback Philip Rivers throws some interceptions (three this season), he’s far more in control of his offense than Dwayne Haskins. The Colts offensive line struggled running the ball against a weak Bears rush defense. Rookie running back, Jonathan Taylor carried it 16 times for 67 yards.

As a team, the Colts averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. Compare that to the Browns 7.7 rush average versus Dallas and it bodes well for Kevin Stefanski dictating the pace of play next week.

Though Rivers has been sloppy at times, the defense remains consistent. Defensive end Justin Houston leads the team with 3.5 sacks and has recorded at least half a sack in each game. He sacked new Bears starting quarterback Nick Foles and hit him twice.

His pass-rush mate and former 49er end DeForest Buckner disrupted Foles too, hitting him three times and deflecting one pass.

Foles and the Bears were incoherent all day. He threw 42 times, only completing 26 passes for 249 yards. He passed for a touchdown but it took 58 minutes. The Bears punted seven times, kicked one field goal, and Foles threw a pick.

The Colts present a challenge somewhere below Dallas and slightly above Washington. But this is the NFL in early October with no preseason games. Operating in certainty is reckless.

Keys to the game

Getting healthy should be the Browns’ top priority. Nick Chubb (knee) and Larry Ogunjobi (oblique injury) left Sunday’s game with injuries. Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge hurt his hamstring during warmups and didn’t play.

Greedy Williams, linebacker Tae Davis and end Adrian Clayborn were all inactive too. Kareem Hunt and Denzel Ward came in with nagging injuries but finished the game.

Still, the Browns must get healthy soon.

Chubb will receive an MRI Monday. If his knee injury keeps him out, D’Ernest Johnson proved he can play in his absence. He totaled 95 yards on 13 carries. But Chubb’s bulldozing production isn’t replicable.

Chicago only ran for 26 yards as the Colts run defense remained stout. If Chubb can’t play, Stefanski faces a difficult challenge of wanting to run on a run-stopping defense, without his top rusher.

The Browns defense is coming off the most challenging offense it will face outside of Baltimore and still forced two game-swinging turnovers. If this unit remains opportunistic, it may not matter how many yards Rivers throws for.

Defending Amari Cooper, Micahel Gallup and CeeDee Lamb doesn’t compare to Colts receivers Zach Pascal and T.Y. Hilton. Neither has eclipsed 60 yards receiving this season.

This is a game the Browns should be able to control as the Colts offense hasn’t scored more than two offensive touchdowns in a game yet.

Betting the line

This line surprised me. Usually, a home team gets a three-point advantage and Vegas handicaps from there. So in a pre-COVID world, this line would mean that the Colts are four-points better than Cleveland on a neutral field.

Again, I wouldn’t advise betting the NFL until after Thanksgiving but this number seems off. Cleveland can score and the Colts struggle to do that even against weak defenses.

So, just tell yourself it’s Thanksgiving and take the Browns plus-one wherever you can find it because I could see this line swing Cleveland eventually.

Fantasy players to watch

Injuries are unpredictable and Fantasy Football is becoming a miserable experience this season. This section of the weekly preview may not exist in a few weeks if things get any worse across the Fantasy landscape.

Until then, if Chubb is healthy then start him. Hunt remains a must-start. And benching Beckham after a performance like that sounds boring.

The Browns haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher yet and I don’t see that changing this week. Hilton doesn’t appear reliable either. In fantasy terms, this game will play out like Washington.

New Browns face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Browns-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection for adults and youth, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All NFL proceeds donated to CDC Foundation.

More Browns coverage

Odell Beckham Jr. clinches 49-38 victory over Cowboys with his 3rd TD of the day for the Browns’ first 3-1 start since 2001

Kevin Stefanek, err, Kevin Stefanski leading a Cleveland Browns team that needs to be known: Doug Lesmerises

Grade Baker Mayfield’s performance against the Cowboys in Week 3: Poll

Pick a word: Spectacular? Stunning? Scary? Browns all that and more as they win in Dallas – Terry Pluto

Running and blocking is working for the Browns: 3 Quick Postgame Thoughts

See social media reaction to Sunday’s game

How the Browns transformed Jarvis Landry into the most clutch receiver on the field in a win over the Cowboys: Film review

Why I was wrong about the Browns on Sunday

Watch the Browns recover a blocked extra point for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter vs. the Cowboys

Watch Odell Beckham Jr. score on a 50-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter vs. the Cowboys

Cleveland Browns halftime scribbles: Offense superb, Myles Garrett’s big sacks – Terry Pluto

Watch Myles Garrett strip sack Dak Prescott for his third forced fumble in as many games

Watch Odell Beckham Jr. make his second touchdown catch vs. the Cowboys

Watch Jarvis Landry’s touchdown throw to Odell Beckham Jr. in the first quarter vs. the Cowboys

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