CBS Sports - No. 25 (down 2 spots)
Deshaun Watson is back. So what? They are done. They are playing for next season.
ESPN - No. 29 (down 6 spots)
What/who is underachieving? Entire defense
On paper, the Browns boast one of the most talented defenses in the league. In reality, it has inexplicably been among the worst. The defensive backfield continues to suffer busts in coverage at inopportune moments, and the defensive front has been thoroughly porous against the run. The Browns haven’t been able to force many turnovers, either (only eight all season). The result is a unit that ranks next to last in actual points allowed (26.9) and expected points allowed (minus-66.84). Cleveland is now on the verge of being eliminated from the postseason before December, and an underachieving defense is the biggest reason.
NFL.com - No. 24 (no change)
The Cleveland Browns are a weird little outfit, aren’t they? You never know which version of Kevin Stefanski’s team will show up. On Sunday at Ford Field, we got both Jekyll and Hyde. Cleveland came out moving the ball up and down the field on the Bills, while Josh Allen struggled to find his footing against an active Browns defense. At one point in the second quarter, Cleveland had 10 first downs to Buffalo’s 12 total yards. The Bills eventually took control of the game, but it was a reminder the Browns have been very competitive for most of the season. The playoffs might be a pipe dream, but adding Deshaun Watson to the mix could make Cleveland a tough out down the stretch.
Sporting News - No. 25 (down 2 spots)
The Browns wanted to stay afloat in the AFC playoff picture as at least a wild-card factor before Deshaun Watson’s return in Week 13. But the funny thing is, Jacoby Brissett and the overall offense hasn’t really been the reason for their dip well below .500, but rather a disappointing defense, especially against the run.
Yahoo Sports - No. 22 (up 2 spots)
If all you knew was the Browns’ record, you’d think it was because the offense has been horrendous with Jacoby Brissett. That’s not the case. He had 324 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to the Bills. While a lot of that came in garbage time and he hasn’t been great all season, he hasn’t been that bad and neither has the Browns offense. The defense has let the team down more often than the offense. That has become a surprising priority to fix next offseason.
Bleacher Report - No. 25 (down 5 spots)
Send in the clowns. The Cleveland Browns mortgaged their future in a trade for Deshaun Watson in the offseason. But by the time Watson is eligible to play for the first time this season two weeks from now, it will be for a team playing out the string. After six losses in seven games, the present is toast.
Frankly, even without Watson the offense hasn’t been the issue. The Browns are one of the best running teams in the NFL. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has been everything the team hoped for when it acquired him. But Cleveland’s run defense has been awful, and Week 11 was no exception—the Bills gashed Cleveland for 171 yards and over five yards a carry. After the loss, safety Grant Delpit said the defense isn’t doing much well.
“In order to have trust, you have to know what you’re doing,” Delpit said. “You gotta have faith in everybody. You have to know what you’re doing and then your team have to have faith they know what they’re doing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then it never works.”
As things stand, the biggest takeaway from the 2022 Browns would be that they would pick seventh in the 2023 draft. But that pick belongs to Houston as part of the Watson deal.
“The hope in Cleveland was that backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a strong run game with Nick Chubb leading the way and a defense with plenty of talent could keep the team afloat until its new franchise quarterback took the reins,” Sobleski said. “Instead, Brissett has played solid ball, Chubb has been mostly great and the defense has been laughably bad at points. So bad in fact, players are openly questioning if teammates are putting in the work and know what they’re actually doing. The amount of breakdowns this season, particularly in the secondary leaving wide-open receivers, is simply staggering and comes across as straight amateur hour. Cleveland isn’t good enough right now to run the table for the rest of the season or even get six wins in seven games to be serious playoff contenders, which equates to a lost season.”
The Ringer - No. 24 (down 3 spots)
Mapping postseason scenarios for the Browns even with Deshaun Watson expected to replace Jacoby Brissett as the starter in Week 13 is likely a waste of time. FanDuel is offering 13-to-1 odds for the Browns to make the playoffs right now. According to FiveThirtyEight, Cleveland’s chances of making the postseason won’t clear 10 percent even if Brissett and company manage to beat Tampa Bay this upcoming Sunday.
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.