The Cleveland Browns are off this weekend enjoying a much-needed bye week.
Cleveland left for the break on a positive note after a convincing win over the Cincinnati Bengals that improved their divisional record to 2-1. The victory also broke a four-game losing streak that, while it did not completely derail their playoff hopes, certainly put a dent in them as the Browns are sitting at 3-5 with nine games left on the schedule.
Today is not a day to dwell on the negative, however, as there will likely be ample opportunities for that in the weeks to come. Rather let’s present five things that Browns fans can feel good about as they wait for the season to resume on November 13 against the Miami Dolphins.
Kevin Stefanski’s offense: The Browns are currently averaging 25 points per game, which if they can maintain that pace would make this year’s squad just the third since the 1960s to hit that mark, joining the 2007 team (25.1) and the 2020 team (25.5).
The offense, which is currently ranked No. 1 overall by Pro Football Focus, is doing that with Jacoby Brissett, a career backup, running the show at quarterback, which makes things that much more impressive. Brissett has not always been perfect, of course, but he has been good enough to be ranked as the No. 10 quarterback by Pro Football Focus and be part of an offense that is tied for the fifth-best DVOA in the league:
The best offenses by DVOA so far pic.twitter.com/Doa4Cspyvz— Football Outsiders (@fboutsiders) November 2, 2022
Despite the occasional flaw in his game, Brissett has exceeded expectations and the fact that Stefanski has been able to build one of the league’s best offenses while dealing with Brissett’s limitations should have fans excited to see what this offense can do once quarterback Deshaun Watson returns to the lineup on December 4 and shakes off the rust after not playing for almost two years.
Running back Nick Chubb: Coming into the season, Nick Chubb was already one of the league’s best running backs. But somehow this year he has taken his game to a new level.
Chubb currently leads the NFL in rushing yards with 841 as he looks to become just the fourth running back in franchise history to lead the league rushing. If he can pull it off, Chubb would be the first Browns running back to do it since Leroy Kelly in 1968 and join Kelly, Marion Motley and Jim Brown as rushing champions.
Chubb is also tops in rushing touchdowns with 10, first in runs of 20-plus yards with nine, second in runs for a first down with 39, and his 51 forced missed tackles is more than 29 teams combined, according to Pro Football Focus.
Chubb continues to be the heart of the offense and proves on a weekly basis that there is still a place for running the ball in today’s NFL.
Ethan Pocic and the offensive line: When general manager Andrew Berry made the decision to release veteran center JC Tretter in the offseason the plan was to turn over the starter’s role to Nick Harris.
That plan fell apart in the preseason when Harris was lost for the year with a knee injury, forcing the Browns to turn to Ethan Pocic, who they signed in free agency after Pocic spent five mostly unimpressive seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.
Through hard work and a bit of offensive line coach Bill Callahan’s magic, Pocic has locked down the center position in a way the Browns likely never imagined and, in turn, has helped the offensive line continue to hold its place as one of the league’s best units.
Cleveland is the second-best offensive line and the best run-blocking line in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, and the O-line has not missed a beat as the interior trio of Pocic (ranked No. 2 out of 37 qualifying centers by PFF), right guard Wyatt Teller (No. 3 out of 81 qualifying guards) and left guard Joel Bitonio (No. 1) continue to lead the way.
The highest-graded player on offense and defense this season pic.twitter.com/ytf0qCBAez— PFF (@PFF) November 3, 2022
Brissett is playing at a solid level and Chubb has taken his game to another level and it all starts with the play of one of the league’s best offensive lines.
Defensive end Myles Garrett: Browns fans - well, most of them - appreciate what defensive end Myles Garrett brings to the field each week. And much like Chubb, Garrett has found a way to up his game through the first eight weeks of the season.
Garrett continues to be at the top of just about every pass-rushing metric, according to Pro Football Focus, even while dealing with injuries suffered in a single-car accident in late September.
Myles Garrett this season:— PFF (@PFF) November 4, 2022
93.7 pass-rushing grade (1st)
41 pressures (1st)
27.4% win percentage (1st)
19.7% win percentage (1st) pic.twitter.com/31dlsHQjoj
Garrett showed a national audience how he can take over a game last Monday night against the Bengals as he posted 1.5 sacks and had eight pressures of Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow. And with a week to rest up, there should be more days like that from Garrett in the second half of the season.
The remaining schedule: The Browns closed out the “easy” portion of their schedule with just three wins, but that is largely due to the weekly bumbling of the defense and/or special teams play.
Cleveland will now enter a nine-game stretch to close out the season that according to ESPN features the league’s third-toughest schedule.
Toughest remaining schedules, according to ESPN FPI:— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 2, 2022
But the situation may not be as dire as it first appears, even with the qualifier that nothing is ever easy for the Browns.
Outside of their Week 11 visit to Buffalo to take on the Bills, there is not a game left on Cleveland’s schedule that can be chalked up as an “automatic loss.”
The game against the Dolphins will not be easy given Miami wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, but if Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has an off day, the Dolphins are beatable. Same with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who despite having quarterback Tom Brady are struggling on offense and have currently lost five of their past six games.
This is wild. Bucs offense is historically bad in third-and-7+ this season. Converting 10 percent. Closest team I can find since 1994 is the 2008 Raiders, 11.4 percent behind JaMarcus Russell. https://t.co/mjiagAa1kh— Greg Auman (@gregauman) November 5, 2022
The Browns have already shown they can beat the Steelers and Bengals, and played the Ravens well enough to pull out a win in their first meeting. Deshaun Watson will be back at quarterback for all three of the divisional rematches, so if the Browns can avoid beating themselves the idea of going 5-1 in the division is not just a pleasant fantasy.
Again, nothing is ever easy for this franchise, but today is all about being positive so we’ll close this by pointing out that eight of the next nine games are all there for the taking if the Browns want them bad enough.
And that could make the second half of the season a must-see for Browns fans.