The Browns might be for real. The Colts, too.
We could find out on Sunday, when Indianapolis visits Cleveland. Both teams are 3-1, winners of three in a row, and carrying questions about who they have beaten.
The Browns were pummeled by Baltimore before defeating Cincinnati, Washington and Dallas, combined record 3-8-1. Indy lost badly at Jacksonville, which since has dropped three in a row, and then defeated Minnesota, the Jets and Chicago, combined record 4-8 headed into Week 5.
This matchup could prove something, with Cleveland’s dynamic offense facing the league’s most stingy defense.
“This will be our defense’s biggest challenge. You’ve got the No. 1 offense as far as running the ball,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “The other thing that they are No. 1 at is explosive plays in the run game. We’ve got the No. 1 defense so this is what it’s all about. We’ll see how it stacks up.”
Indeed, says Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who won’t have leading rusher Nick Chubb (knee).
“They are a really sound defense. They play together. They are coached well. They hustle. You can see the effort. They swarm to the ball.”
The action began Thursday night with Chicago’s 20-19 home victory over Tampa Bay. Nick Foles beat Tom Brady again, Cairo Santos kicked a 38-yard field with 1:17 left and the Bears held on when Brady seemingly lost count of downs on his final play.
Cincinnati (1-2-1) at Baltimore (3-1)
Joe Burrow looks like the real thing: He has three straight 300-yard passing games, a rookie record. And his top running back, Joe Mixon, has been a stud.
That said, the Bengals, coming off their first win following a tie, face a difficult test in Baltimore. The Ravens are 26-11 against the AFC North at home under coach John Harbaugh, who took over in 2008. Baltimore is 73-25 overall at home under Harbaugh.
Two of this year’s most productive kickers will be featured. The Ravens’ Justin Tucker is 8 for 8 on field goals and owns an NFL career-best 91% success rate on FGs. Cincy’s Randy Bullock is tied for the NFL lead in scoring with 45 points.