BALTIMORE, MD – SEPTEMBER 17: Tight end David Njoku #85 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates his touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr /Getty Images)

Last week, the Cleveland Browns had an ugly performance, to say the very least. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer threw a total of three interceptions, and he spent a good chunk of the game out with a migraine. Additionally, Isaiah Crowell, the team’s lead running back, could only muster three yards. Perhaps worst of all, receiver Corey Coleman broke his hand (again). But that was last week, let’s learn from our mistakes and move past that.

This Sunday afternoon, the Browns will travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts. Luckily for the Browns the Colts are Andrew Luck-less. Effectively, that makes them the worst team in the league. Currently, both teams are 0-2, so something’s got to give. The Browns are favored in this matchup, so what can they do to really maximize their chances? Let’s take a look at our Browns Keys to Victory for week three of the 2017 season.

1) Make Brissett Beat You

Last week, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for 216 yards and an interception. He completed 54.1 percent of his passes, so it wasn’t exactly the most efficient performance in the world. And yet, Indianapolis was in the game until the bitter end, when former Brown Phil Dawson nailed an overtime field goal for the Cardinals. So, how did the Colts stay in the game that long? Well, it was the rushing game of course.

Somehow, Frank Gore is still a serviceable running back in the National Football League. At 34 years old, that’s really nothing short of extremely commendable for a running back. How he’s found the fountain of youth in the NFL is a question mark, but he must have something that works. Either way, the Browns will need to keep up their stout run defense in week three. Shutting down Gore is imperative to Cleveland’s success. Brissett is still at least somewhat new to the Colts playbook. Therefore, he’ll probably make some mistakes, especially if he’s forced to throw on most plays. Oh yeah, and it might help to have safety Jabrill Peppers in the same zip code as the rest of the defense. That’s one of the unwritten Browns keys to victory this week.

2) Keep Indy’s Defense Exposed

For all intents and purposes, the Colts have the worst defense in the league. Although Malik Hooker was able to collect a pick off of Carson Palmer, that might actually be the only play that Indianapolis has made on defense this season. I mean, they allowed 46 points to the Los Angeles Rams and made Jared Goff look like a football god.

This week, DeShone Kizer should have plenty of opportunities to make the big time plays that fans saw in the preseason. If the Browns are able to keep Indianapolis’s defense out for long periods of time, two positives will come. Obviously, they’ll have more scoring opportunities, but Kizer should also be able to get some confidence back after the debacle that was his game against the Baltimore Ravens. Getting Kizer’s confidence back should be at the very top of the Browns keys to victory list for Hue Jackson.

3) Never Take Anyone Lightly

For the first time since 2012, the Cleveland Browns are favored in a game outside of FirstEnergy Stadium. However, it is of utmost importance that they do not take Indianapolis lightly in any capacity. If there was ever a trap game for the Browns this season, this could be it. But really, this could be the Browns most important game of the season.

Of course, the Browns want to look at things one game at a time. But these next three games are very winnable, and the Browns most likely already know that. If the Browns can’t win this game, though, that could ruin their confidence going forward. On the other side of the coin, you have the positives of winning this Sunday.

In addition to equaling last year’s win total by week three, you also have Kizer getting even more confidence due to his first win. And if you manage to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and/or New York Jets too, you’ve also proven to your players, coaches, and maybe even Jimmy Haslam that, hey, maybe this is actually working this time. In any case, the Browns cannot treat this game as a “cupcake,” even if the Colts really are the league’s worst. If they do take them lightly, and lose this game, this could lead to another lost season in Cleveland.

4) Utilize The X Factor

Recently, there have been reports that Myles Garrett may play this week. Truly, this could be the biggest X factor for both the Browns and Colts this week. Due to the Colts less-than-desirable offensive line, Garrett’s status could either be their saving grace or worst nightmare. For the Browns, this could be the difference between another week of Carl Nassib and this front seven transforming into one of the league’s best. (Note: Nassib is fine, but he’s no athletic freak like Garrett is).

Depending on Garrett’s status for this game, the Browns defense could come out with their hair on fire against the pass, or Brissett might get off to a hot start. As stated in another one of our other Browns keys to victory, the Browns will need to shut down Brissett once he gets the message that he needs to be pass-heavy. Garrett could be a great help to that, especially against the Colts offensive line.

With Luck out, and Brissett still learning the playbook, this Colts team is vulnerable. The Browns need to strike quickly and often to get their first win of the season this Sunday.

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