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Avoiding the Letdown
Playoff position now secure, Colts must stay focused
written by Stephen Conway

After clinching their division in a hard fought battle versus Washington, the Colts will face a different kind of challenge when they travel to Cleveland this week: not overlooking a weak but hungry opponent. Clearly the 12-2 Colts hope to ride the crest of their surprising season into the playoffs with two more wins in their remaining regular season games. The 2-13 expansion Browns would seem to be little more than a bump in the road. Therein lies the danger. Victories must be earned each week by the play on the field, not by past accomplishments.

In this, their last game of the season, the Browns have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They have yet to win a home game. Their starting quarterback and number one draft pick, Tim Couch, will sit out due to an ankle injury sustained last week versus Jacksonville. In addition, the Browns almost certainly have certainly been distracted by the injury and indefinite suspension of Orlando Brown. Last Sunday, The Browns' starting offensive tackle was accidentally struck in the eye with a penalty flag thrown by referee Jeff Triplette. An enraged Brown returned to the field after the incident, pushing Triplette to the ground. What else could go wrong?

The Colts have been living life at the other end of the karmic football scale this year. Whether you attribute it to the hard work and dedication of the entire organization or the stars simply being in alignment, the Colts find themselves on wholly unfamiliar ground: an insurmountable lead with two games to play. With an eleventh consecutive win against the Browns this week and a Jacksonville loss to Tennessee, the Colts could put themselves in a position to fight for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But barring a second Jacksonville loss in week 17 to the Bengals, it is unlikely the Colts' playoff position will change.

It all comes down to focus. The Colts want to enter the playoffs with momentum; a win against the Browns is unlikely to boost their confidence, but a loss could be devastating. In past weeks, the Colts have been tested by quality teams fighting for their playoff lives and have managed to put each game away. Now they face a different sort of test: to beat a team they should beat. Sometimes the toughest test is not playing down to the level of your opponent.

That, folks, is why they play the games.


Matchups
Breakdowns of the key matchups on offense, defense, and special teams.

Game Prediction
The weight of the letdown burden falls heavily on Jim Mora and his coaching staff. They must convince their players to prepare for this game just as they would any other. The work ethic and dedication to detail demonstrated by Jim Mora is very evident in the quality performances produced by his players. The  Colts of old might have phoned this one in, but the Colts of old would never have been in this playoff position to begin with! I look for a solid all-around effort by the Colts to result in a comfortable margin of victory
.


Score: Colts 24 Browns 7

Next Opponent
Cleveland Browns
12/26/99

when: 1:00 EST
where: Cleveland
TV: CBS

Game Prediction

Matchups:
Offense
Defense
Special Teams


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1999 Schedule

9/12 BUFFALO W31-14
9/19 at NE L 31-28
9/26 at SD W27-19
10/03 BYE
10/10 MIAMI L 34-31
10/17 at NYJ W16-13
10/24 CINCY W31-10
10/31 DALLAS W34-24
11/07 K.C. W25-17
11/14 at NYG W27-19
11/21 at PHI W44-17
11/28 NYJ W 13-6
12/05 at MIAMI W37-34
12/12 N.E. W20-15
12/19 WASH W24-21
12/26 at CLE 1 PM
01/02 at Buff 1 PM

 

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Updated:
04/19/06

1999