It’s a classic Midwestern matchup as the Cleveland Browns head out to take on the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday. With both teams in the thick of crowded division races, let’s take a look at some Browns vs. Colts player props for key contributors like Jonathan Taylor and Gardner Minshew.
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With quarterback injuries on both sides, let’s see how different players might be affected and make some picks based on our findings.
Gardner Minshew u198.5 Passing Yards (-115 BetMGM)
Every week I call out lines that I feel should not even exist, let alone be offered at nearly-even odds, but here we are; another completely inexplicable line. Perhaps the sportsbooks think that the Browns will completely pull away and force the Colts to the air on almost every snap, but with the 27th best offense by DVOA and 30th by EPA, they probably don’t have the firepower to do that regardless of who’s under center.
Even if the Colts do try and throw the ball every play, it’s probably still not going to work well enough for Minshew to accumulate any sort of volume. The Washington State legend has done pretty well this year in terms of stacking up yards, but this Browns defense is a totally different foe. For starters, they’ve only allowed 200.4 yards per game this year- that’s total yards, 121.4 of which, on average, have come via the pass.
Unsurprisingly, this has them placed first in the NFL in passing defense DVOA, EPA, and success rate, despite facing the Niners and Ravens in recent weeks. The Colts air game is nothing like those ones, ranking 23rd in success rate and 18th in both DVOA and EPA.
That’s not bad, but it also won’t cut it against this absolutely stifling pass prevention group, with studs like Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith pressuring passers, and talented Safety Grant Delpit up top. Kenny Pickett threw for 222 yards in a very weird game against the Browns; nobody else has cracked 200 through the air so far, and Minshew is not going to make it a two-man club either. He’s coming off of his worst performance as a Colt, a three-interception debacle, and with Anthony Richardson done for the year he’s going to need some better showings but this is not the place to start.
Jonathan Taylor u43.5 Rushing Yards (-115 BetMGM)
This seems like a low number for someone who is less than two years removed from a remarkable campaign in which he led the league in both rushing yards and touchdowns, with totals of 1,811 and 18, but Taylor hasn’t been the same since then.
His yards per carry dropped by a full yard in 2022, while his carries also decreased and injuries mounted. After a hybrid IR stint/contract holdout, Taylor is back, but the early returns are incredibly underwhelming; in two games back, he’s run the ball 14 times, and picked up 37 carries, a rate of 2.6 per tote.
It’s hard to fault the Colts for easing him back, especially after the sizable investment they finally ended up making, but the efficiency is concerning. Indy’s line ranks fifth in PFF’s run blocking grades, but Taylor simply doesn’t have the burst he used to have, or at least isn’t comfortable quite yet.
If it’s the former, he’s in big-picture trouble, but even if it’s the latter, this is not the game to regain comfortability. That’s right, the Browns run defense is nearly as strong as their pass unit. They’re fourth in both success rate and DVOA, and their 79 rushing yards allowed per game, via just 3.5 per carry, is good for third place in all of football.
It doesn’t help Taylor’s case that Zack Moss has generally been excellent in his relief. In Taylor’s first game back, Moss carried the ball 23 times for 165 yards and two scores, and while last week he took a step back, Taylor was also very unproductive.
The Browns will probably start looking to lean on Taylor more, but it probably doesn’t matter; when the 26th best rushing offense by both EPA and Success rate meets a unit that’s top 10 in both, don’t expect much production from the lead back in a relatively split room.
Dustin Hopkins u1.5 Field Goals (-110 BetMGM)
With all of the uncertainty around the quarterback position in Cleveland this week, it’s probably best to not focus on individual performances on that side of the ball and make a pick based on game flow. As you may know if you’ve been following my work, that means we’re fading a kicker.
Normally, it isn’t an actual fade as we’ve successfully bet against some of the best kickers in the league in games where their team just didn’t need their services. This time, it’s actually a bit more of a statement on Hopkins, as well as of course a wager on his number of attempts. He barely kicked last year, was a bit spotty in 2021 across two teams after an outright bad 2020, and has already missed two kicks this year that should have been well within his range.
That being said, he just isn’t going to have many chances in this one. The Browns offense is ninth in the league in red zone efficiency, and the Colts defense is 21st in opponent defensive red zone touchdown rate; the ball finds the end zone more than half of the time when either of these units find themselves inside the 20.
With the quarterback situation, the Browns could struggle to move the ball outright, which of course isn’t great for field goals either, but it’s not likely that they’re going to stall out midway through too many nice drives and kick field goals.