Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts Preview: Prediction, Best Bets, Odds, Depth Charts (10/22/23)
The Cleveland Browns (3-2) visit the Indianapolis Colts (3-3) this Sunday (10/22/23) at 1 p.m. ET in week 7 of the 2023 NFL season. The Browns are the betting favorites at -3 against the spread, while the over/under is set at 40.5 points.
This article provides Browns vs. Colts analysis, predictions and betting recommendations and explains why the best bet in this matchup is the under.
Browns vs. Colts Prediction & Best Bet
The Browns have the best defense in the NFL right now. That defense just dominated the previously unstoppable 49ers offense to hand them their first loss of the season.
Colts rookie QB Anthony Richardson is officially out for the season. Journeyman backup Gardner Minshew is starting against the Browns’ defense. Minshew just threw three interceptions and lost a fumble against the Jaguars.
Minshew doing too much on 4th down.. off balance moving backwards leads to an obvious underthrown ball.. INT #3 pic.twitter.com/k8XnHVxM2e
— Fitz (@LaurieFitzptrck) October 16, 2023
Minshew just did that against the Jaguars, and the Browns’ defense is much better than the Jaguars’ defense. There really is not much need for any more analysis than that, but here are a few more reasons to like the Browns in this game.
The Browns got by on offense with P.J. Walker under center against the 49ers. Playing in heavy rain, Walker completed just 52% of his passes for 192 yards, no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Cleveland was able to move the ball against the 49ers’ stout defense because of a dominant offensive line that helped Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt combine for 131 rushing yards on 4.5 yards per carry.
The Colts’ defense is holding runners to a very solid 3.7 yards per carry, but they are still in the bottom half of the league in total run defense (113.5 per game), run defense DVOA (18th) and success rate (21st). The Browns should be able to run on them, and that should be good enough for them to be able score enough points to win and cover. If Deshaun Watson returns for this game, they should also be more balanced offensively.
The Browns won’t need to score much the way their defense is playing. They are allowing just 121.4 passing yards per game, which is 42 less than any other team. Their passing defense leads the league in every advanced metric (DVOA, EPA, success rate, etc.) and they are also a top 5 run defense in most of those categories as well.
For all those reasons we like the Browns to cover the -3 spread in this game, but our favorite bet is the under on 41 points. With both teams focused on running the ball, and potentially having two backup quarterbacks in this game, a total of 41 is just too high.
And did we mention the Browns’ defense is pretty good?
Browns vs. Colts Prediction & Best Bet: Browns win 20-13, Browns cover -3 | Best Bet: under 40.5
Browns vs. Colts Betting Odds
This line is moving in the Browns’ direction as it opened at -2 and has now reached the key number of -3, which is especially significant considering the Browns are on the road.
The over/under is sitting at either 40.5 or 41 points, depending on the sportsbook. Most major sportsbooks opened at 42.5 and have come down a bit, although BetMGM actually opened at 39.5 and has bumped up.
The implied outcome of these odds is the Browns winning 22-19.
Browns vs. Colts Key Injuries
Deshaun Watson’s potential return is the most notable injury to watch in this game. All-Pro LG Joel Bitonio is also at risk of missing this game, which would be a big loss for Cleveland. Starting CB Greg Newsome is also questionable but is trending towards playing.
For the Colts, starting RT Braden Smith and TE Kylen Granson both missed the first two practices of the week and are at risk of missing the game.
Browns vs. Colts Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Browns vs. Colts below.
Colts running backs vs. Browns’ run defense
If the Colts want to have any success offensively against the vaunted Browns defense, they need to find a way to open up running lanes for their two talented running backs, Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss.
Taylor played much more last week than he did in his first week back from injury/holdout. He saw nearly 50% of the snaps and equaled Moss in touches with 13 (8 carries, 5 receptions). The Colts will look to use both backs heavily this week to take the pressure of Minshew in this tough defensive matchup.
If the Browns can keep the ground game bottled up, the Colts will struggle to do much of anything offensively.
Amari Cooper vs. JuJu Brents
As noted above, the Browns are going to lean heavily on their ground game regardless of who lines up under center. But when they do look to pass, they are going to look in the direction of Amari Cooper, who is averaging nearly 8 targets per game and made the biggest play of the game last week.
Amari Cooper wins on the outside for 58 yards!
— NFL (@NFL) October 15, 2023
JuJu Brents has been an impressive rookie for the Colts and just notched his first career interception last week. He is a long and physical corner who is excellent against the run but still developing as a cover man. With his elite route running, Cooper should be able to create plenty of separation against an rookie CB like Brents which could lead to another big play in this game.
In what is expected to be a low-scoring game, just one big play to Cooper could end up being the difference in the game.