Brian Hoyer vs. Colts secondary
Brian Hoyer will be under pressure this week against Indianapolis and that's why the Browns are so confident in their quarterback. When Hoyer's back has been against the wall – New Orleans, at Tennessee and at Atlanta – the 29-year-old delivered clutch performances. And let's remember in Cleveland's two other big tests of the year – Pittsburgh and at Cincinnati – the Browns were able to steamroll both teams behind a fast start.
Playing the Colts is not a typical week. Andrew Luck averages 41 pass attempts per game. The Browns want to run the football and control the clock but they'll need to score touchdowns instead of kicking field goals and make big plays in the passing game to beat Indianapolis. Hoyer has to be accurate, protect the football and may need one more fourth-quarter comeback for Cleveland to pull off the upset at home.
*Who to watch for: Taylor Gabriel – The rookie has 357 yards at home compared to 183 on the road. A few big strikes down the field from Hoyer to Gabriel could be needed to match Luck. *
Paul Kruger vs. Colts offensive line
The Browns are 4-1 in games where Kruger sacks the quarterback. Kruger has meant everything to the Browns' pass rushing attack in 2014 and will be leaned on heavily against Indianapolis. Luck has been sacked 21 times this season, so even with his quick release, it's plausible to frustrate the quarterback with pressure.
*What to watch for: Third downs – Five of Kruger's eight sacks this season have come on third-down situations. If Kruger is held in check, Luck could have all day to throw. *
Justin Gilbert vs. Donte Moncrief/Hakeem Nicks
The Colts often use four-wide receiver sets, and sometimes five. By necessity, Gilbert is going to be on the field Sunday and he'll need to play well. In his last pressure situation against the Falcons, Gilbert successfully defended Devin Hester 20 yards down the field on a key third down. Cleveland forced Atlanta to kick a field goal and then Hoyer led a game-winning drive. Gilbert misses last week's game against the Bills with an illness but he's practiced all week.
*Who to watch for: Donte Moncrief – The rookie receiver from Ole Miss has been a home run hitter for Andrew Luck. Moncrief scored on a 79-yarder last week against the Redskins. *
Jim Leonhard vs. Andrew Luck
Leonhard's interception last week against Kyle Orton was a thing of beauty. On one of the only plays Sammy Watkins was able to beat Joe Haden, Leonhard bailed out his teammate by reading Orton's eyes and picking off a pass in the end zone. That's the thing about Leonhard: He knows the Browns' defensive system so well he can sense how certain plays are going to unfold. Luck will have to be watchful of the crafty veteran.
*What to watch for: Unique formations – Against Buffalo, the Browns used all three safeties (Leonhard, Donte Whitner and Jordan Poyer) a handful of times. That could persist on Sunday. *
Football is a sport that can be won and lost on emotion, and Sunday's game has more storylines than an afternoon soap opera. Josh Cribbs, Trent Richardson and D'Qwell Jackson all admitted their trip back to FirstEnergy Stadium is unfamiliar territory and will drum up lost feelings. Richardson went as far as to say he's going to make the Browns pay for trading him. Cleveland has to match the intensity from the Colts and give the Dawg Pound something to cheer for early in the game.
Who to watch for: Cribbs – Out of all the returnees, the special teamer should have the Browns on high alert. Cribbs is reenergized, fearless and still fast enough to break a game wide open.