The first regular season matchup of rookie quarterbacks takes place this weekend in Indianapolis, as the Andrew Luck-led Colts (2-3) take on the Cleveland Browns (1-5) and fellow rookie Brandon Weeden.
It's been a mixed bag for both teams this season, as the Browns have been in position to win games against better teams, but so far have been largely unable to do so. But they broke through against rival Cincinnati last weekend and took a step in the right direction on both sides of the ball.
Meanwhile, Luck looks like the real deal for the Colts, leading his team to two fourth-quarter comeback wins over Minnesota and Green Bay, both NFC North teams that have a shot at making the postseason.
Both first-round picks have put up similar numbers in the passing game, but Luck has managed to engineer the late-game heroics that made him the No. 1 overall selection, while Weeden has struggled to play consistently for four quarters.
The Colts have a chance to move to 3-3 on the season, which would be an impressive mark considering their turnover on both sides of the ball since No. 18 moved on to the Denver Broncos.
Here's a comprehensive look at everything Colts-Browns matchup this weekend, including spread information, big-time fantasy playmakers from this weekend and a prediction on how this AFC showdown will end.
When: Sunday, Oct. 21 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
TV: CBS (check local listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Listen (radio): WLHK 97.1 FM (Indy); Cleveland Radio Network (check surrounding Ohio area for stations)
Spread: Indianapolis -2 (via Bovada)
In a virtual pick-em game at home, this one sure does look like a lock for the Colts. Winners of two games at home against teams they shouldn't have beaten, Indy has a chance to knock off a Browns team coming off an emotional win against the Bengals.
Lay the points this week. Andrew Luck has been solid, and the Cleveland defense has already allowed four 300-yard passers this season.
The home atmosphere gives the Colts a distinct advantage, and if the Colts win this game, it will be closer to double digits, not two or three.
Who wins this rookie QB showdown?
Over/Under: 45.5 (via Bovada)
Two teams with high-scoring offenses and troubling defense makes for a simple solution here: Take the over. Indianapolis scored 30 and 23 points, respectively, the two weeks it was able to pull off victories; Luck will have to produce that kind of output to get a win.
Cleveland, which just dropped 34 on Cincinnati, gets a favorable matchup against Indy too. The New York Jets scored 35 points last Sunday against the Colts.
Both teams leave little to be excited about on defense. Barring a multiple-turnover day from both quarterbacks (which could happen), both of these offenses are going to score points.
Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
WR Greg Little, Illness, Questionable
WR Travis Benjamin, Hamstring, Questionable
LB Scott Fujita, Shoulder/Neck, Questionable
RB Trent Richardson, Chest/Ribs, Probable
DE Frostee Rucker, Shoulder/Foot, Probable
QB Brandon Weeden, Foot, Probable
S T.J. Ward, Hand, Questionable
LB Pat Angerer, Foot, Probable
RB Donald Brown, Knee, OUT
CB Vontae Davis, Ankle, Probable
DE Dwight Freeney, Ankle, Probable
LB Robert Mathis, Knee, Questionable
DE Cory Redding, Knee, Questionable
Fantasy Big Plays
Cleveland: WR Josh Gordon
Supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon is looking like a steal so far this season. His big-play ability and down-the-field attributes are second to really only Trent Richardson on the roster.
With three touchdowns in the last two weeks, he's established himself as a true fantasy starter at the WR2 spot and is the best option the Browns have on their roster to catch the football—especially with all the injuries at the position.
To make matters more intriguing, Indianapolis has allowed at least one touchdown to a receiver in every game so far this season, including five in the last two games.
If you had to bet, it's a good play that Gordon will be on the receiving end of one of the touchdowns from Weeden. He's in for a big day in Indy and is a must-start after being a popular bye-week pickup in most fantasy formats this week.
Projected Stats: 5 receptions, 110 yards, 1 TD
Indianapolis: WR Reggie Wayne
If facing the Colts secondary is good for Gordon, facing the Browns secondary is twice as good for Wayne, who faces the next-to-last fantasy secondary in terms of giving up points.
Cleveland has allowed five touchdowns in the last two weeks as well, including a huge 25-point fantasy game by A.J. Green last weekend.
Wayne is Luck's No. 1 target, and while Joe Haden is certainly a corner on the rise in this league, Green proved that he's not in the elite class just yet. Wayne is an established and respected player in the NFL, and while he'll certainly see double coverage at some point, he and Luck will be able to find some holes for big plays.
Projected Stats: 8 receptions, 85 yards, 2 TDs
Key to Victory
It's always cliched to say that QBs will determine the outcome of a game, but in the case of these two rookies, it's the most likely scenario.
Look at the tale of the tape on both:
Luck: 118-of-221, 1488 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs
Weeden: 129-of-231, 1519 yards, 7 TDs, 10 INTs
Nearly identical stats, though Luck has accomplished the feat in one less ballgame than Weeden. Luck also doesn't have an accomplished back like Trent Richardson to hand the ball off to, which is why Weeden's passing attempts are slightly lower per game than Luck's.
The winner of this game will be the team with the better QB on Sunday—it's as simple as that. And this game should be a great glimpse of both franchises' new direction.
Luck is 2-1 at home this year, and there's no reason to think he can't make it 3-1—even with the Browns coming to town riding the high of their first victory.
The Colts are able to run the ball just effectively enough with Vick Ballard to keep the defense honest, while Richardson is slow out of the gate due to his rib injury. Indy goes to a surprising 3-3, with plenty of tough games still on the schedule.
Final Score: Indianapolis 31, Cleveland 21
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