CBS Sports - No. 9 (down 4 spots)
The defense, which was supposed to be much improved, is not. They have to be better on that side of the ball.
ESPN - No. 9 (down 3 spots)
How they’ve improved: Though it came in a losing effort, Njoku continued his strong start to this season and delivered a career performance Sunday against the Chargers. He finished with a team-high 161 receiving yards on seven receptions, including a career-high 71-yard touchdown catch in which he shed a defender before racing into the end zone. Njoku, a first-round pick in 2017, has had trouble finding his place in Cleveland. At one point, he even asked for a trade. But as Cleveland’s leading receiver through five games, Njoku might finally be hitting his stride.
NFL.com - No. 9 (up 1 spot)
In wins over the Bears and Vikings, the Browns authored two of the most dominant defensive performances we’ve seen by any team all season. On Sunday, Cleveland’s D entered The Twilight Zone. Kevin Stefanski’s team surrendered 493 total yards — and 26 points in the fourth quarter alone — in a 47-42 insta-classic loss to the Chargers. Disappointing outcome aside, the Browns’ beat-up defense should recover, while a huge bounce-back performance from Baker Mayfield and the offense offered promise of better days. If these Browns can put both sides of their game plan together, they’ll be tough to stop.
Sporting News - No. 9 (down 3 spots)
The Browns’ defense had strange massive breakdowns against the Chargers, taking away from their best balanced offensive performance of the season with Baker Mayfield and the running backs. The injuries may have caught up to them there.
Yahoo Sports - No. 9 (down 1 spot)
Even when the Browns scored 42 points and had 531 yards of offense, Odell Beckham Jr. had two catches for 20 yards. Is he finished? Are the Browns not doing a good enough job calling plays for him? Is there just no connection between him and Baker Mayfield, and if so, why? It’s baffling how a player this good, with a capable quarterback and coach, can be this much of a non-factor.
Will the real Cleveland Browns defense please stand up? Over the first two weeks of the 2021 season, the Browns struggled to make stops against the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, especially on third down. Then the Browns absolutely stymied the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, giving up just 13 points in two games combined.
The Browns surrendered twice as many points in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss in Los Angeles, giving up four touchdowns in as many drives. Injuries played a part in those struggles to be sure; the Cleveland secondary in particular is all kinds of banged up. But the Browns offered no resistance to Justin Herbert and the Bolts on Sunday, surrendering 47 points and 493 total yards.
“The Browns are a good team to be sure,” Davenport said “But the injury-ravaged defense is a real problem, especially ahead of a home date with Kyler Murray and the undefeated Cardinals. If Cleveland can’t iron out the kinks on both sides of the ball quickly, it’s going to be same old sad story by the shores of Lake Erie: a season that starts with promise but ends with bitter disappointment.”
USA Today - No. 8 (down 4 spots)
In his four NFL seasons, QB Baker Mayfield has been on the losing side three times despite Cleveland scoring at least 42 points – including Sunday’s 47-42 barnburner against the Chargers. No other quarterback in league history has suffered such a defeat multiple times.
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.