Indianapolis Colts (3-1) at Cleveland Browns (3-1)
Coming into the season, I expected the Colts to be one of the best teams in the league and, even with a disappointing performance week 1 in Jacksonville, the Colts still rank 3rd in the NFL in first down rate differential at +6.71%. They haven’t faced the toughest schedule, but none of their wins have been that closely fought, including a game last week in Chicago against the previously 3-0 Bears in which the Bears trailed 19-3 before a garbage time touchdown made the final score look closer than the game was.
Going into this week, I was expecting to be betting the Colts again, as small road favorites in Cleveland, but the Colts are starting to get hit by injuries, something that hasn’t affected them in a significant way yet this season. This week, they’ll be without left tackle Anthony Castonzo and linebacker Darius Leonard. Castonzo’s absence isn’t as big as it might seem because the Colts have a capable backup and a strong overall offensive line at the other four positions, but Leonard’s absence is huge because he’s not only one of the best linebackers in the league and arguably the best defensive player on one of the best defenses in the league, but the Colts also don’t have anyone close to filling in what he does on this defense, as their linebacker depth is very suspect. Leonard’s absence should move this line 2-3 points by itself.
This line has moved down to even from 1.5 earlier this week, but that’s a pretty insignificant shift, so we’re not getting real line value with the Colts. The Browns have a high level player missing as well in running back Nick Chubb, but the Browns have a proven feature back behind him on the depth chart in Kareem Hunt, who should be more than capable of carrying the load for a few weeks, and they have arguably the best run blocking offensive line in football. I’m still taking the Colts for pick ‘em purposes, but I have no confidence in that pick.
Indianapolis Colts 24 Cleveland Browns 23
Pick against the spread: Indianapolis PK