CBS Sports - No. 14 (no change)
They come off their bye with Baker Mayfield on the COVID list. That’s never a good thing. (Note: He’s since been clear since that was written).
ESPN - No. 16 (no change)
Recalibrated expectation: End their 18-year playoff drought - Despite another front-office shakeup, another coaching change and an unprecedented offseason, the expectations for the Browns before the season were to make the playoffs. There was too much talent in place. At the midway point, those expectations have not changed. Cleveland is 5-3 with one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league. Injuries, including to WR Odell Beckham Jr., have hurt. But if Cleveland doesn’t finally snap the NFL’s longest playoff drought, this season will be a massive disappointment.
NFL.com - No. 15 (down 1 spot)
Not so long ago, the Browns were the Factory of Sadness. The organization has made unquestioned strides since the lost 2010s, but it seems to have moved from the factory and into a carnival fun house, one with mirrors that bend and distort it from Sunday to Sunday. To wit: Cleveland has either scored 30-plus points or seven or fewer points in every game this season. Unsurprisingly, the Browns are 5-0 when they score big and 0-3 when the offense dries up. The good news for their fans: The post-bye schedule sets up well, with matchups against three sub-.500 teams (Texans, Eagles, Jaguars) on tap in the next three weeks. If this team can conquer its inconsistency, the Browns should be in good position for a playoff spot come December. They should be, anyway.
Sporting News - No. 14 (up 3 spots)
The Browns had an eventful end to the bye week with Baker Mayfield landing on the COVID-19 list. Their wild-card chase got a lot harder with the Raiders and the Dolphins winning close games. They must take advantage of three very winnable games ahead.
Yahoo Sports - No. 15 (down 1 spot)
Nick Chubb’s return is huge for the Browns. The strength of that team is its unique 1-2 punch at running back, and Chubb and Kareem Hunt should both put up good numbers the rest of the season.
Bleacher Report - No. 15 (up 1 spot)
On many levels, the first half of the 2020 season has been a success for the Cleveland Browns. They’re 5-3 at the halfway point for the first time since 2014. But two of the three losses were to AFC North rivals in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Neither game was close, and quarterback Baker Mayfield played poorly in both games. However, Browns general manager Andrew Berry dismissed the notion that the second half of the regular season could serve as a referendum on Mayfield’s future with the team, per Tom Winters of the Associated Press:
“I really do not get too caught up in that type of narrative. All I know is that I think Baker has played well and he has done a nice job during these first eight weeks. He has allowed us to play winning football. We’ve had winning football from (the quarterback) position. Expect him to keep doing that over the second half of the year.”
Over the second half of the season, the Browns have only three contests against games with winning records. But two of them are against the Ravens and Steelers, and they need to fare better in the second go-round of those matchups to be taken seriously as a contender.
Associated Press - No. 15 (up 1 spot)
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.