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Browns-Colts matchup of the day: Thursday

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Posted Sept. 15, 2011 @ 3:34 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Colts game:

Browns RBs Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty vs. the Colts' run defense

The Browns dropped back to pass 42 times and ran the ball 26 times in Week One, with Hillis getting 17 of the 22 carries that went to tailbacks. A greater emphasis on the ground game, with more work for Hillis, wouldn't be a surprise in Week Two against an Indianapolis defense that has had its problems stuffing the run.

The Colts surrendered 167 rushing yards to Houston in a 34-7 loss in Week One. Though Indianapolis didn't allow a rush of longer than 18 yards and gave up a respectable 4.1 yards per carry, the feeling is the Colts need to get more of a push from their front four, especially in obvious run-stuffing situations where the defense has its bigger linemen on the field. One positive: reserve DT Drake Nevis flashed some playmaking ability in the opener, though he must finish better.

The Colts are quick but small at linebacker, and their depth is thin with MLB Gary Brackett (shoulder) and OLB Ernie Sims (knee) expected to miss this game with injuries, LOLB Pat Angerer racked up a team-high 13 tackles in the opener and could replace Brackett in the middle in this game.

Hillis rushed for 57 yards on 17 carries vs. Cincinnati, with a long rush of 17 yards that came off left tackle. He generally didn't find much room to run inside. The Bengals are stout in the front seven and held up well when Cleveland tried to ram Hillis and Hardesty (5-18-0) between the tackles. Whether Indianapolis can withstand similar efforts will be one of the keys to the game. Of note: The Browns' center, Alex Mack, is a rising star, but OLG Jason Pinkston and ORG Shaun Lauvao have only three career starts between them. While the Browns have the power edge, the Colts' linemen are quicker, and Indianapolis will be playing in front of a home crowd that has shown it can get rather loud. 

The 225-pound Hardesty, who missed the 2010 season with a knee injury, looked quick in his limited action vs. Cincinnati.

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