It is hard to make a strong case for either of these teams, frankly, which I say with a nod to last week's results. The Colts lost by 27 to Houston, while the Browns lost by 10 to Cincinnati. Indianapolis' struggles drew widespread attention, but Cleveland's sloppy play in losing to Cincinnati didn't exactly impress, either.
Something PFW Colts correspondent Tom James recently said about Indianapolis resonates with me. When I asked him about the club's mindset with Peyton Manning out for an extended stretch, James, who covers the club for the Terre Haute (Ind.) Tribune Star, wrote: "Move on. Next man up. Take your pick. They are mad that everyone thinks that the Colts are a one-man team, even if that one man is Peyton Manning. Now they have a drive to prove everybody wrong."
I don't know if the Colts wanting to prove their many doubters wrong will materially help them this season. I do know this: Manning is out, and he's been out since the preseason. There is a significant drop-off from Manning to Kerry Collins, but it's already happened. I don't think anyone's in danger of overestimating the Colts in their current state, but I think there's a risk of underestimating them the more they are held to a standard they likely can't reach without Manning.
The Colts' roster is without its best player, but it is not without some very good players, and those players will make Indianapolis competitive against certain clubs. Not all clubs, but not zero clubs, either.
Certainly, Indianapolis can compete against a Cleveland club that looked vulnerable against Cincinnati. And I expect the Colts to win.
Wilkening's pick: Colts 24, Browns 17
Season prediction record: 0-1