CBS Sports - No. 23 (down 4 spots)
The defense is horrible. That makes Deshaun Watson’s return meaningless. They are done.
ESPN - No. 23 (down 3 spots)
Who was on the hot seat in preseason: Coach Kevin Stefanski
Temperature of seat right now: Lukewarm
Sure, Stefanski has been without quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is set to return in Week 13 after an 11-game suspension. Even so, the 3-6 Browns have massively underachieved to this point. Stefanski has done well calling plays for an offense that ranks in the top 10 in efficiency. But the team overall, especially defensively, has performed far below its talent level. Unless the bottom completely falls out, Stefanski’s job probably isn’t in jeopardy yet. But his seat is warming up — and could be on the line in Watson’s first full Browns season in 2023.
NFL.com - No. 24 (down 5 spots)
The Browns were unable to carry any momentum from their Halloween beatdown of the Bengals to Miami. The Dolphins went up and down the field on the defense all afternoon, giving their punter the day off in a 39-17 blowout at Hard Rock Stadium. The goal has always been — whether anyone connected to the Browns has said so or not (they haven’t) — to get to Deshaun Watson’s Week 13 return in playoff contention. With Cleveland at 3-6 with matchups against Josh Allen and Tom Brady on tap between now and then, it feels more probable that the Browns’ postseason hopes will be kaput before Watson takes his first snap.
Sporting News - No. 23 (down 2 spots)
The Browns have two more games before they will see what Deshaun Watson can do at QB, but it’s too bad their defense won’t keep them in any kind of wild-card contention until then. Playing the Bills and Buccaneers next confirms that.
Yahoo Sports - No. 24 (down 4 spots)
The Browns are a bad team. A lot of angry fans want defensive coordinator Joe Woods fired, but that probably doesn’t help much. They’ve had one truly good performance all season, in that Monday night win against the Bengals. I have no idea how to explain how they dominated Cincinnati like that.
Bleacher Report - No. 25 (down 5 spots)
Deshaun Watson is back…sort of. It’s still two weeks before Watson can play for the Cleveland Browns. But Watson is now cleared to rejoin the team on the practice field. As Sobleski wrote, the problem is that after getting waxed in Miami, by the time Watson does get on the field the Browns are likely just going to be playing out the string.
“The Browns banked on backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett and a talented roster to keep their head above water until Watson entered the starting lineup,” he said. “Well, Watson has been cleared to practice this week as part of the conditions set forth for his suspension, but the Browns are 3-6 with the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers next on the docket. Realistically, Cleveland could be 3-8 with a season basically down the drain before Watson ever officially steps onto the field. Even if the team splits those contests, a 4-7 start will be difficult to overcome for an organization with playoff aspirations.
“To be fair, this mess is of Cleveland’s own making,” he continued. “Ownership and the front office knew Watson faced a lengthy league suspension. General manager Andrew Berry also chose to overlook certain aspects of the roster—particularly defensive tackle and linebacker—which has come back to repeatedly hurt the team’s overall effectiveness. As such, the team isn’t good at the moment, and it’s only going to get so much better with Watson behind center.”
The Ringer - No. 21 (down 3 spots)
The Browns defense is a mess. Only the Texans and Lions have a lower success rate defending the run than the Browns this season—Cleveland was gashed by the Dolphins for 195 yards on the ground on Sunday—and the defense overall ranks 31st in points allowed per game. Cleveland needs Jacoby Brissett to be a superhero every week to overcome such a disastrous defense, and that’s just not going to happen.
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.