Why are the Colts 8-4?
Quarterback Andrew Luck hasn't just been given the keys to a Ferrari; he is the Ferrari.
Luck is on pace to become the sixth quarterback ever to throw for 5,000 yards in one season, joining Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Dan Marino and Matthew Stafford. His 34 touchdowns lead the league, and he's doing all of this with a subpar running game featuring former Brown Trent Richardson and his 3.3 yards per carry.
The scary part about Luck compared to those names listed above is that he has more athleticism and the knack for making throws on the run outside of the pocket. It's almost not even worth it to blitz this guy. The Colts' shotgun-heavy offense features an array of underneath patterns in addition to deep routes. Luck has been the maestro of a unit that leads the NFL in yards (438.3) and points (31.8) per game.
If Indianapolis finishes 11-5, Luck will be one of the leading candidates for MVP. He's a few playoff wins away from taking the next step to include his name with the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Brees. With Luck, the Colts legitimately have a chance of running the AFC South division for the rest of the decade. He's this good.
Browns' strategy vs. Luck: *Cleveland's secondary has been the strength of the team during the second half of the season. It'll need interceptions and will have to execute a game plan the way it did on the road against Cincinnati, where quarterback Andy Dalton was miserable all night. *
Why might the Colts have an early playoff exit?
Indianapolis' defense is solid but it's not scary. Longtime Brown D'Qwell Jackson brought his tackling machine tendencies to the Colts, leading the team by far with 101. Surprisingly, without a dominant pass rusher, Indianapolis is tied for fifth in the NFL with 34 sacks, led by seven-year veteran linebacker Erik Walden (five). Cornerback Vontae Davis has developed into the No. 1 cornerback the Colts originally pictured when they acquired him in a trade with the Miami Dolphins in 2012.
But if there's a way to beat the Colts, it's relentlessly attacking this unit and putting up points.
Only four teams have beaten the Colts – Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New England – and they all have firepower on offense, scoring more than 30 points in each of those games. Indianapolis has run into trouble when defending up-tempo offenses who can sling it all around the field. It's been better against the run, yielding only 107.8 yards per game (13th in the NFL).
Browns strategy vs. Colts defense: If Cleveland is struggling to run the ball early, a hurry-up, up-tempo pace might be worth the risk, no matter who is playing quarterback. You want to keep Luck off the field as much as you can, but, at the same time, you have to play to win. From all indications, it's going to take 28 points to beat the Colts.
WR T.Y. Hilton (68 catches, 1,145 yards, 5 TDs)
We only say this because it's time to start mentioning Hilton with the likes of A.J. Green, Julio Jones and even Josh Gordon as an absolute game-wrecker. Hilton has an impeccable way of blowing past safeties on deep balls. He scored on a 73-yarder last week against the Redskins. And with his shifty, 5-foot-9, 178-pound frame, the third-year pro can skate for extra yards after the catch.
RB Daniel "Boom" Herron (42 carries, 227 yards, 1 TD)
Herron's totaled 20 combined carries for 154 yards during the two games against the Redskins and Jaguars. He's making a case he deserves more carries than Richardson and he's dangerous on draw plays in the shotgun when he stands next to Luck. His arrival as a threat comes at a perfect time.
Video: says the Browns are still in the hunt