October 20, 2023, 11:56 am
Cleveland Browns (3-2) @ Indianapolis Colts (3-3) Best Lines Available
Browns (-155) @ Colts (+135): O/U 40.5 (-110/-105)
Browns -3.0 (-105), Colts +3.0 (-110)
Bet: 14-13 +0.99u
Lean: 3-5 -1.27u
The Browns are coming off a huge upset win over the 49ers in which their defense made a top offense look lost. Now their starting QB is likely to return against a Colts team who just lost Anthony Richardson for the season. Can Gardner Minshew II put up a fight against the Browns defense, or will he be the next victim of Myles Garrett and the Dawg Pound.
Main Storylines to Watch
How does the Colts backfield look as Jonathan Taylor settles in? The Colts running game was stifled in Week 6 and did not give us much data on how the Zack Moss and Jonathan Taylor split will manifest. Moss took seven carries to Taylor’s eight while the RBs had six and five receptions respectively. Will the JT slowly take a majority share of the touches, or did Moss do enough for Colts brass to keep him heavily involved?
Which version of Deshaun Watson is coming back from injury? Watson’s struggles in Cleveland have been documented enough after an astonishing start to his career in Houston, but now that he is back from a shoulder injury is he even more at risk to play as poorly as last year?
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Deshaun Watson: Watson was a limited participant at Thursday’s practice after missing Wednesday; he seems to be trending in the right direction to start on Sunday. The Colts defense was eviscerated by Jacksonville to the tune of 37 points a week ago, but that came with Minshew throwing three picks, which should be considered unlikely. The Colts defense should be able to match up with the Browns offense and Watson is a bit risky to start this week since we do not know how much the shoulder may hinder him. I would prefer to see a week from him before trotting him out in a lineup.
Jerome Ford: Ford has been reliable for a safe floor each week and not even the 49ers defense could stop him from putting up 84 yards on 17 totes. The ceiling is not super high for Ford, but sees a massive boon any time he scores. A little concern comes from Kareem Hunt becoming more involved as that could eat away at both the floor and the ceiling for Ford.
Kareem Hunt: Although he was still certainly behind Ford, averaging one yard fewer per carry on five less carries, he saw a little work in the passing game and wound up with a rushing TD. It would be tough to recommend starting Hunt at this stage, but his involvement is something to monitor as his role has been increasing since being brough back by the Browns. He was most likely a waiver add this week already.
Amari Cooper: Amari Cooper had a spectacular 58 yard reception to save his fantasy week and finish over 100 yards. Although targeted eight times, he only came down with four of them amidst P.J. Walker’s 2023 debut. With Deshaun back in the lineup, Cooper’s ceiling grows and the WR can certainly be fired up as the best skill player on the team.
Elijah Moore: Elijah Moore has become almost irrelevant to the offense, but it will be worth seeing how his performances differ with and without Watson at the helm. He would be an extremely bold start this week.
David Njoku: Njoku saw four targets , but did not do much with them. The TE has been dealing with facial burns that no doubt affect his comfort constantly. For now, Njoku seems like someone to pivot away from, but again, the target breakdowns will likely be different with Watson back in, who has shown him some love in the past.
Gardner Minshew II: Minshew had a remarkably rough outing last week, throwing three INTs and now faces a Browns defense that is among the best in the league. I do not trust Minshew to produce and am worried about his ability to find his weapons in this matchup. He did still put up high volume stats in Week 6 with 55 pass attempts in a negative game script where the run game struggled.
Zack Moss: Moss was so good to start the year, it is no surprise the Colts did not bench him immediately for Jonathan Taylor. However, I would expect Moss to lose a few touches each week and take a back seat to Taylor as we progress further. Moss faces a tough browns front and his fantasy usefulness could be behind him, however he appears to be the goal-to-go back for the time being. If Moss can stay involved in the passing game, he could be startable in PPR formats.
Jonathan Taylor: JT is working his way back in after missing all of camp and the first few weeks. The slow start is to be expected for the veteran who finally got his payday. I expect Taylor’s value to appreciate week to week and while it may not return in dividends this week with such a tough matchup, JT is still the back to own in fantasy. He may see enough work in the passing game to warrant a start in half and full PPR formats.
Michael Pittman Jr.: Pittman saw 14 targets last week and seems to be the go-to guy for Minshew. While the matchup against Cleveland is tough, he is probably the safest bet for production on the whole team. If Minshew is under duress from the Browns’ front, he will need to rely on his favorite target to find open slots in the zones and force-feed him targets, but the ceiling is low.
Kylen Granson: Granson had a big play last week, but it is nothing to read into. He is another TE on the wire who is fighting for a TD to have a relevant fantasy week. I would rather target somebody playing for a team with a higher implied point total.
PLEASE NOTE: This is intended for entertainment purposes. This is not intended as gambling advice. If you are looking for gambling advice from professionals, please sign up for the SportsEthos WagerPass. These are the thoughts of our fantasy football division experts, and some are sure to be better than others.
This one could be a bit of a slog with the Browns possessing a stifling defense and an unreliable offense. It would be just like them to beat the Niners with a backup QB and then lose to a backup in the following week, but I am not going to put my money on that being the case. The Browns defense is truly spectacular, potentially the best in the entire league, and I trust them to handle business. For the sake of transparency, the Kareem Hunt line is more of an emotional hedge for playing against him in a fantasy matchup I should dominate this week, but fully expect to lose to a bunch of bye-week fillers.
BET: Cleveland Browns -3.0 (-105) 1.05u to win 1u (FanDuel)
BET: Under 40.5 (-105) 1.05u to win 1u (FanDuel)
BET: Kareem Hunt Anytime TD Scorer (+250) 1u to win 2.5u (Bet365)
Lean: Gardner Minshew Over 193.5 Passing Yards (-110) 1.10u to win 1u (Bet365)
Lean: Michael Pittman Jr. Over 51.5 Receiving Yards (-120) 1.2u to win 1u (Bet365)