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NFL Power Rankings: Browns’ defense keeps ranking high heading into Week 5

The power ranking gurus have questions about Baker Mayfield, but see the defense coming together.

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Here is a summary of how the Cleveland Browns are viewed across mainstream media outlets in NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 5 of the 2021 NFL season.

CBS Sports - No. 5 (up 3 spots)

It wasn’t pretty at Minnesota, but they found a way. That’s the sign of a good team. They just keep fighting — even on bad days.

ESPN - No. 6 (no change)

Biggest surprise: How quickly the defense has come together

Why it’s a surprise: After finishing 19th in defensive efficiency last year, the Browns overhauled their defense in the offseason, bringing in or drafting eight new starters. The talent upgrade across the board was evident. But how quickly this defense has jelled in four weeks is still surprising. Already led by the league’s No. 1 pass rush win rate, the Browns own a defense that has the look of a championship-caliber unit. - No. 10 (down 2 spots)

When the Browns’ defense dominated the Bears in Week 3, it felt such a mismatch of personnel and scheme that it was difficult to distill signs of actual progress. Sunday’s 14-7 win over the Vikings was different: Cleveland went into a hostile environment and shut down an opposing offense that had been humming as well as any unit in football in the season’s first three weeks. All the Browns need now is balance. Baker Mayfield completed less than half his passes in one of his worst performances in recent memory. Mayfield has always been a streaky quarterback, but he was a liability on Sunday. Cleveland will continue to win games with a stingy defense and elite running game, but Mayfield must improve to make the Browns true Super Bowl contenders.

Sporting News - No. 6 (down 3 spots)

The Browns are winning with the running game and defense. They’re not getting many style points, but that shows how high of a floor they have. The key to jumping up to “impressive” status and emerging as the AFC North favorite is getting better play from Baker Mayfield.

Yahoo Sports - No. 8 (up 3 spots)

Baker Mayfield was hard on himself after Sunday’s game, when he was misfiring to everyone. “I pride myself on being extremely accurate,” Mayfield said. “And today, I don’t know what the hell that was.” The beauty of this Browns team is it doesn’t need a great day from Mayfield to win. The defense has come a long way from last season.

Bleacher Report - No. 7 (down 3 spots)

Over the first two weeks of the 2021 season, the Cleveland Browns were all about the offense. But the past two games, the Cleveland defense has held up its end of the deal—and Sunday in Minnesota, the defense keyed the Browns’ third win of the season. Playing against a hot Vikings offense coming off an impressive effort against the Seahawks, the Browns allowed a touchdown on the first drive of the game. Those were the only points the team allowed.

While Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled, the Browns defense gave up just 255 yards of offense. Cleveland put the clamps on Dalvin Cook and the Vikings ground game, surrendering 65 yards and less than three yards per carry.

Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb had no such issue on the ground for the Browns. The duo combined for 169 yards on 35 carries. With Cleveland running the ball and playing defense at such a high level, the Browns are capable of beating anyone. But Mayfield will have to up his game next week against Justin Herbert and the Chargers if the Browns are going to keep rolling.

USA Today - No. 4 (down 1 spot)

They now feature the league’s No. 1 rushing offense and No. 2 overall defense, which has been simply oppressive last two weeks. But QB Baker Mayfield needs to dial it in if this team is to go further than any Cleveland team ever has ... meaning Super Sunday.

Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.

Bengals Browns Ravens Steelers
CBS Sports 13 5 10 28
ESPN 16 6 7 24 15 10 5 20
Sporting News 14 6 7 21
Yahoo Sports 17 8 10 21
Bleacher Report 14 7 8 27
USA Today 14 4 7 22
Average 14.7
(up 3.3)
(down 0.5)
(up 0.7)
(down 2.7)