Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts Point Spread – Pick ATS

Cleveland Browns (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. Indianapolis Colts (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Sunday, September 18, 2011, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind. TV: CBS
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Cle +1.5/IND -1.5
Over/Under Total: 38

The Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts both got off to miserable starts in Week 1. The Browns crumbled down the stretch and blew a fourth quarter lead. The Colts, without Peyton Manning, looked like a high school team in their blowout loss to the Houston Texans. Luckily for the Browns and Colts, one of them will avoid falling to 0-2 to start the season.

Although it was never pretty – they started off down 13-0 – the Browns found a way to grab a 17-13 lead late in the fourth quarter. But Bruce Gradkowski, who was replacing an injured rookie QB Andy Dalton, threw a TD strike to rookie wide receiver AJ Green, and then running back Cedric Benson ran down the field into the end zone to clinch the victory for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Browns second year QB Colt McCoy was rather unimpressive in the loss, completing just 19 of 40 passes for 213 yards, two TDs and an interception. Star running back Peyton Hillis, who burst onto the scene last season, rushed for 57 yards on 17 carries and added six catches for 30 yards. McCoy’s TD passes went to tight end Ben Watson and fellow tight end Evan Moore.

The Browns did a pretty decent job containing Benson and the Bengals running game before the final drive, when Benson scampered for a 39-yard TD run to finish with 121 yards on 25 carries. The Bengals QBs combined to go 15-for-27 passing for 173 yards, two TDs and no INTs.

The Colts were playing without Manning, their QB and their everything, but the rest of their team was still expected to compete. The Colts, even minus Manning, aren’t chopped liver. They still have a solid running game, some very good wide receivers, a great tight end, a very good offensive line, and certainly some notable defensive players. But somehow the Colts fell apart without their leader and lost 34-7 at Houston.

The Colts started off strong by intercepting Texans QB Matt Schaub on the first possession. But Kerry Collins couldn’t handle the ball, fumbling the snap twice. The Texans moved the ball down the field almost at will with a solid mix of passing and running. And the Colts even allowed Jacoby Jones to return a punt for a TD during the Texans’ 34-0 lead before the half. The Colts couldn’t stop the run, as Ben Tate and Derrick Ward filled in nicely for an injured Arian Foster. Tate had 116 rushing yards, Ward ran for 39 yards, and each ran in a touchdown. Reggie Wayne was the only sign of life for the Colts, totaling 106 yards and a touchdown on six catches. The Colts totaled just 64 rushing yards and receivers not named Andre Johnson totaled nine catches for 91 yards.

Manning will be out again in this game, so the hope for the Colts is that Collins improves and looks more confident behind center. The Colts need to establish a running attack to open things up for Collins and the passing game. They need to get Dallas Clark involved in the middle of the field.

The Browns also want to establish a running game. Hillis is the key for Cleveland this season because the Browns don’t have much of a passing attack and they don’t want to rely on the young McCoy to carry the offense. The Colts allowed 167 rushing yards to the Texans without Foster, so there’s no reason to think Hillis won’t have a very nice effort.

The Browns didn’t do a bad job at all defensively against the Bengals. They contained the Bengals offense but just didn’t force any turnovers. Then, they fell apart in the final minutes. If they can keep it together against the Colts, maybe a force a turnover or two, and control the ball with Hillis on offense, the Browns may have the upper hand in this one. If the Colts do go down at home to the Browns, after a blowout loss to the Texans, to start off 0-2, there will be plenty of panic in Indianapolis.

Ryno’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Who will beat the spread in this game is anyone’s guess. I think the best play here is the UNDER 38 because both offenses appear to be out of synch.

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