CBS Sports - No. 21 (up 1 spot)
That was potentially a season-saving victory over the Bengals. The defense finally showed up in a game.
ESPN - No. 23 (up 2 spots)
Reason for optimism: Offensive skill talent
Cleveland’s offensive skill talent has either met or exceeded expectations. Amari Cooper has performed like a legitimate No. 1 receiver, Donovan Peoples-Jones has made a ton of tough and contested catches, and tight end David Njoku was having a career season until suffering a high-ankle sprain last week (he should be back soon). Throw in Pro Bowl RB Nick Chubb and the Browns might have one of the league’s more underrated skill contingents. That’s a big reason why Cleveland has ranked in the top 10 in offensive efficiency for much of the season despite playing backup QB Jacoby Brissett.
NFL.com - No. 21 (up 4 spots)
Where has this version of the defense been all season? Joe Woods’ beleaguered crew played like demons on Halloween night, shutting down Joe Burrow and Co. until the game was far out of reach in a 32-13 win in Cleveland. While the defense finally played up to expectations, Jacoby Brissett had all day to work behind an offensive line that dominated in all phases. According to Next Gen Stats, Brissett had an average of 3.24 seconds to throw per pass in another efficient performance. Nick Chubb isn’t a player who needs much help at all, adding two more touchdowns on the ground in what’s been a quietly dominant season. The Browns put themselves in a hole, but they have the talent to dig out.
Sporting News - No. 24 (up 5 spots)
The Browns woke up the offense around Jacoby Brissett with Nick Chubb and Amari Cooper to get back into the division race on Monday night. They need to stay consistent there and also keep up the swarming defense.
Yahoo Sports - No. 25 (up 3 spots)
Cleveland has been waiting for a performance like Monday night all season. We’ll see if that was a one-off game against the Bengals or perhaps a sign that the Browns are improving. I’d bet on the Browns not being able to repeat that performance, but it was pretty impressive.
Bleacher Report - No. 25 (up 2 spots)
Will the real Cleveland Browns please stand up? There are weeks where the Browns look like a decent team—a squad capable of beating inferior opponents but not hanging with true contenders. There was last week’s three-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens. A two-point setback against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5. Then there’s the mistake-prone mess of a team that got blown out by the New England Patriots in Week 6. That team looked like a tomato can. Like the “Clowns” of old.
Then there’s the team that just took the defending AFC champions behind the woodshed, thumping the rival Bengals on Monday night. There wasn’t a facet of the game where Cleveland wasn’t in complete control. The Browns piled up 172 yards on the ground while allowing just 36. Cleveland outgained Cincinnati by a margin of nearly 2-to-1. Cleveland had a 15-plus-minute time of possession edge.
The Browns now head into the bye fresh off their most impressive performance of the year. The key for the team during the off week will be trying to carry that momentum over. Because when the Browns get back at it in Week 10, it gets real—an AFC East road swing through Miami and Buffalo followed by a home date with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Cleveland wants to playing for anything but pride when Deshaun Watson makes his debut in Week 13, the Browns have to figure out a way to win two of those games.
The Ringer - No. 21 (up 7 spots)
Jacoby Brissett deserves more respect for the job he’s done as a stand-in starter for the Browns. He benefits from having Nick Chubb and a top-three rushing attack, but he also ranks inside the top half of the league in EPA per dropback and yards per attempt—a strong eight-week stretch for a player who ranked 31st in The Ringer’s preseason QB rankings. The fact that he isn’t the reason Cleveland is losing games and is actually capable of leading his team to a 32-13 win over the Bengals on Monday Night Football justifies overdue praise at this point in the season.
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.