CBS Sports - No. 6 (up 4 spots)
Are the Browns for real? We will know for sure this week if they beat the Steelers on the road.
ESPN - No. 10 (up 4 spots)
Biggest weakness: Secondary
The Browns were banking on big things from second-round pick Grant Delpit, but the safety was lost for the season to an Achilles injury in training camp. Days before Delpit’s injury, nickelback Kevin Johnson suffered a lacerated liver in practice; Johnson has since returned but hasn’t yet regained the form he flashed in training camp. Throw in corner Greedy Williams’ shoulder injury, which has sidelined him all five games, and Cleveland’s secondary has yet to reach full strength. As a result, it has struggled at times defending the pass, surrendering 296.4 passing yards per game, third worst in the NFL.
NFL.com - No. 9 (up 4 spots)
The Browns are 4-1 for the first time since 1994 after they once again got key contributions from both sides of the ball. Indy entered the game with the league’s stingiest defense, but the Browns piled up more yardage in one half than the Colts had been allowing all season to a slate of lesser opponents. Baker Mayfield played extremely well in those first two quarters, and when the offense cooled off after the intermission, the defense closed the game out with big plays, including a pick-six by Ronnie Harrison Jr. Cleveland’s fierce pass rush also forced a frazzled Philip Rivers into a crucial intentional grounding penalty that created a safety. A fascinating showdown looms this week in Pittsburgh.
Sporting News - No. 13 (replacing MMQB)
The Browns’ loss to the Ravens in Week 1 seems like a long time ago. They’ve found their run-heavy formula to win games, and surprise, it’s also getting better play out of Baker Mayfield in the passing game and more inspired rested defense as a result. Kevin Stefanski and Joe Woods have succeeded at bringing back winning, complementary football to Cleveland.
Yahoo Sports - No. 8 (up 4 spots)
Myles Garrett had a sack, four quarterback hits and his pressure on Philip Rivers that led to an intentional grounding in the end zone resulted in a safety at a crucial point in the game. He’s going to be in the NFL defensive player of the year conversation all year, and rightfully so.
Bleacher Report - No. 7 (up 6 spots)
The last time the Cleveland Browns were 4-1, Bill Belichick was their head coach. Nick Saban was the team’s defensive coordinator. And Bill Clinton was in his first term as president. It isn’t just that the Browns are 4-1 for the first time in well over two decades. Or that the Browns have peeled off four straight wins. After victories over the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington and Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland notched a win over a team with a winning record.
And afterward, quarterback Baker Mayfield told reporters that the Browns won even though they didn’t play up to their potential. “I think that was the worst game I have played out of the five so far,” he said. “I have to get better. A lot to learn from, but we learned on that defense and we got the yards when we needed it.”
It certainly wasn’t a flawless performance. Mayfield threw two interceptions, and the pass defense continues to be an issue. And next week brings an even bigger test against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has long dominated their rivalry. But we’re five weeks into the season, and the talk around the Browns has more to do with a potential trip to the playoffs than next year’s draft position. It’s an interesting change of pace.
“The Browns being ranked in the top 10 of B/R’s power rankings is almost certainly a sign of the coming apocalypse,” Sobleski said. “The current incarnation of the team is legit, though, and an impressive victory over a tough Colts squad shows the Browns can be more than just a good story. Kevin Stefanski’s offense managed 385 yards against the Colts’ No. 1-ranked defense. The Browns are now well-prepared and not just talented on paper.”
Associated Press - No. 13 (up 5 spots)
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.