The Browns are set to face another AFC opponent on Sunday when they travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts in Week 7.
So, let's take a look at three of the biggest keys for the Browns to beat the Colts on the road at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Limit the Colts in their run game
The Colts have two elite players in their backfield with RB Jonathan Taylor and RB Zack Moss, who have played an important role in their overall success in the run game.
Moss has been successful in running the ball, especially this season. In five games, he has rushed for 466 yards on 96 carries and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He has also scored four touchdowns. Taylor has played in two games with the Colts and has rushed for 37 yards on 14 carries.
"They have a really sound run scheme," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "Those two guys run hard. They have speed to have breakaway runs. In order to stop the run in any game, but particularly this game, you have to play as eleven. You have to be really sound in your run fits, and then you have to run to the ball because they run really, really hard. It's good offensive line. They have a varied run scheme. So, in order to try to slow them down, you have to be in your gaps, and you got to run to the football."
The duo also presents another challenge in that sometimes they are on the field together. Linebackers coach Jason Tarver said they saw it on film twice where the Colts had both Taylor and Moss out on the field together and have prepared for the possibility of both being used together.
Overall, the Colts' run game is ranked 14th in rush yards this season and have eight rushing touchdowns this season, which is fifth in the league.
"I like stopping the runs, like hitting people," DT Dalvin Tomlinson said. "So, super excited. I always love the challenge with a good running back. They got a good running back group, and they're one of 32 for a season. So, always embrace the challenge of going against a good running game."
Check out photos of the team working to prepare for the Indianapolis Colts
Handle the Colts' style of defense
OC Alex Van Pelt said the Colts have a distinctive defense under DC Gus Bradley and has played against that style of defense over the years. It presents unique challenges for the Browns.
"It's unique in the fact that it's a lot of zone, a lot of weak rotation with the safety, some unique looks where they keep the safety a little bit higher in their single high," Van Pelt said. "They cheat their safety to the field. It's a 60/40 look. It's a distinctive defense and they play it really well. It's not a lot of complexity to it, but they understand where they are in each coverage, call each run fit and they play it really well."
TE David Njoku said the Colts are a smart defense and play in unison, so it adds a challenge for not only the tight ends, but the Browns offense as a whole. He said the zone element is also different than most teams in the league, so they have to rely on players across their offense to combat the Colts defense.
The Colts will also be without DT Grover Stewart in the middle of their defensive line after he was suspended this week for six games. Van Pelt said it changes their front because it takes out a solid run stopper. As the Browns went through their preparations this week, Van Pelt said they had highlighted Stewart as a top player on the defense.
However, they have two talented linebackers in Zaire Franklin and Shaquille Leonard who can play side to side and sideline to sideline. However, TE coach TC McCartney said it's a similar structure that they've played against in the 49ers, which provided them experience with different angles that they need to take and a play style where they have to be solid against a defense who can run.
The Browns offensive line also had a strong showing against the 49ers, who have a stout front. Having that same level of success against the Colts front could prove beneficial for the Browns, especially being able to take advantage of the Colts not having Stewart in the middle.
Continue to build on run game production
The Browns had the most success this season in running the ball since Week 2 against the 49ers with their duo of RB Jerome Ford and RB Kareem Hunt. Ford finished the game with 84 yards on 17 carries, while Hunt ran for 47 yards on 12 carries. Hunt also scored the Browns only touchdown against the 49ers with a 16-yard run in the second quarter.
They were able to have success in the run game because of how well the offensive line played against the 49ers. In order for that success to continue, not only against the Colts, but in future weeks, the Browns will need that same production from their offensive line.
The Browns have a challenge heading into Sunday's game, as the Colts run defense gives up an average of 113.5 yards per game, allowing 3.7 yards per carry. However, they've also given up nine rushing touchdowns this season.
Being able to have that versatility in their offense and take some of the weight off WR Amari Cooper, who has been one of their most consistent threats this season, would prove beneficial. Building on the step they took in the run game in Week 6 is important as Ford and Hunt take charge in the backfield.
"Those guys ran hard," OC Alex Van Pelt said. "I thought Kareem ran extremely hard. He made some tough four or five-yard runs. There was a crease there and he put his head down and did some really dirty work in between the tackles. He's a great screen runner. We know that. And then Jerome, man, he's nifty in there. He's tough to bring down. He's got great feet. He had some huge runs, especially in that fourth quarter. So, happy with where those guys are right now."
Hunt is listed as questionable with a thigh injury heading into Sunday's game. Kevin Stefanski said on Friday that Hunt practiced, and that they will wait to see how he came out of the work in practice.