In Week 5, the Indianapolis Colts will take on the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
There are several ways in which the 3-1 Colts can extend their three-game winning streak to four on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the 3-1 Browns will be looking for a four-game winning streak of their own.
The Colts have some unfortunate injuries to linebacker Darius Leonard (groin) and offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo (rib).
They will both miss this week’s contest against the Browns, and Leonard and his team-leading 27 tackles will sure be missed.
Meanwhile, Cleveland will be missing star running back Nick Chubb.
The Browns will turn to former NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt and second-year running back D’Ernest Johnson.
This battle of AFC playoff contenders will be a very interesting one, and here are three keys to a Colts win over the Browns.
1. Win the Turnover Battle
Heading into Week 5, neither the Colts nor the Browns has lost in 2020 when winning the turnover battle.
In addition, both of the teams have not committed a turnover on offense in either of their last two games.
Unfortunately for the Colts, neither Hunt nor Johnson is prone to fumbling.
However, third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield threw 21 interceptions in 2019.
He ranked second in interceptions last year after finishing with the fifth-highest total (14) in 2018.
In Weeks 1 and 2, Mayfield was looking like his old self as he threw an interception in each game.
Mayfield did not turn the ball over in either of the previous two weeks though.
Xavier Rhodes, who has guarded Odell Beckham Jr. well in the past, should be shadowing the three-time Pro Bowl receiver on Sunday.
After a difficult 2019, Rhodes has had a strong bounceback season thus far:
Xavier Rhodes, when targeted
2019 – 81.5 cmp%, 4 TD, 0 INT, 123.8 passer rating
2020 – 50.0 cmp%, 1 TD, 2 INT, 52.1 passer ratinghttps://t.co/7hrMpSCIcb
— ProFootballReference (@pfref) October 9, 2020
Rhodes has to keep Beckham from duplicating his Week 4 performance of 154 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns.
It may be difficult for the Colts to force Mayfield into turnovers though.
Therefore, Philip Rivers, Jonathan Taylor, and company will have to keep up their strong offensive performance.
Indianapolis has been succeeding with a middle-of-the-pack offense thus far in 2020.
If the Colts can avoid turning the ball over, that should help them win Sunday’s contest.
2. Continue to Stymie the Opposing Rushing Offense
Another important way to win in Week 5 will be to keep the Browns from rushing all over the place.
Here is how the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense has performed thus far in 2020:
- Week 1: 138 rushing yards
- Week 2: 215 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns
- Week 3: 158 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns
- Week 4: 307 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns
It will not be easy for the Colts rushing defense, which has allowed just one touchdown all season on the ground.
The rushing battle will be an important one, and both teams are at a disadvantage.
There will be no Leonard for the Colts and no Chubb for the Browns.
Hunt tallied 71 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Also, D’Ernest Johnson went for 95 yards in his first game as the change-of-pace running back.
If the Colts allow these two rushers to combine for more than 165 yards on the ground, it will be difficult to win.
Unfortunately, the Colts will also have to keep an eye out for some unorthodox plays.
Beckham had 73 yards on the ground on just two carries last week, as the Browns surprisingly had the top three rushers in the win over the Cowboys.
If Indianapolis can force the Mayfield to throw the ball more than he wants, then the Colts should be in a position to succeed.
3. Throw at Browns Free Safety Andrew Sendejo
In four games played this season, Browns veteran defensive back Andrew Sendejo has allowed a perfect passer rating thus far this season.
On 15 targets, quarterbacks have 12 completions for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Sendejo also has three missed tackles this season.
Denzel Ward and Sendejo were not able to prevent this Dallas Cowboys touchdown:
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 4, 2020
Another important statistic relating to throwing on Sendejo is that most of the yards have come through the air.
On the 12 completions, quarterbacks have 188 air yards while just 13 yards after the catch.
Unfortunately, Rivers will not have Michael Pittman Jr. for this matchup.
He would have been a tremendous deep threat.
Zach Pascal, who led the Colts in receiving in Week 4, will hope to find himself matched up against Sendejo in Week 5.
T.Y. Hilton will also hope to get out of a touchdown slump of his own.
If the Colts are successful and keep the perfect passer rating against Sendejo this season, they should win their fourth consecutive meeting against the Browns.