While Johnny Manziel is threatening, Brian Hoyer is still the man under center for Cleveland. After being pulled late in last week's loss to Buffalo and ceding stretch-run time to the heralded rookie Manziel, Hoyer remains the starting quarterback for Sunday's all-important home game against Indianapolis, which is eying a division crown. Hoyer had thrown five interceptions over two games before giving way to Manziel, the lightning-rod reserve who ran for a 10-yard score on his first drive.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has indicated he is game-planning for both Hoyer and Manziel, while on the home front he is tasked with improving a defense that has given up an average of 29.4 points over a five-game span. Fortunately for Indianapolis, Andrew Luck continues to dominate, putting up 370 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-27 win over Washington last Sunday. The Colts own a two-game lead in the AFC South with a win in hand against second-place Houston, giving them a chance to clinch the division crown with a victory and a Texans loss at Jacksonville.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Colts -3.5. O/U: 49.5
ABOUT THE COLTS (8-4): Among the many storylines surrounding this one is the return to Cleveland of former No. 3 overall pick running back Trent Richardson, who was abruptly shipped by the Browns to Indianapolis early last season and has targeted this date as a special one. "I don't want to say it's a revenge game, but it's going to be a lot of emotion put in this game," said Richardson, who has averaged just 3.1 yards per carry in 25 games with the Colts and finished with 12 yards on eight carries while playing second fiddle to Dan Herron (88 yards, one touchdown) last week. Pagano said he is still committed to giving Richardson his share of carries.
ABOUT THE BROWNS (7-5): Manziel has said that being placed back on the bench will only motivate him to get the call the next time and the leash may be short for Hoyer, whose completion percentage has dipped to 56.2, 33rd among 34 qualified quarterbacks in the NFL. Hoyer will be without one of his best possession targets in Miles Austin, who was placed on injured reserve due to a kidney ailment discovered hours after he had seasons highs with nine catches and 86 yards against the Bills. The run game, which managed only 74 yards against Buffalo, also remains a question mark with the status of committee leader Isaiah Crowell (hip) up in the air and rookie Terrance West coming off a tough outing in which he had eight yards on five carries and coughed up a fumble that was returned for a score.
1. Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) has returned to practice after missing five games.
2. Luck ran for two TDs in a 17-13 win over Cleveland in the last meeting between the teams in 2012.
3. Other Colts returning to face their former team are LB D'Qwell Jackson, KR Joshua Cribbs and assistant coach Rob Chudzinski, who coached Cleveland to a 4-12 record last season before being fired.
PREDICTION: Colts 28, Browns 24
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