CBS Sports - No. 19 (up 2 spots)
They come off the bye with a tough road game at Miami to face the Dolphins. The defense will be tested in that one.
ESPN - No. 20 (up 3 spots)
Non-QB MVP: RB Nick Chubb
Chubb was leading the NFL with 841 rushing yards headed into Cleveland’s bye this past weekend, while averaging a whopping 5.64 yards per carry. The Browns’ running game has been virtually unstoppable. While Cleveland’s O-line has been dominant, Chubb performing like the NFL’s best back to this point is the biggest reason why. An honorable mention goes to Myles Garrett, who is back to playing like a defensive player of the year contender.
NFL.com - No. 19 (up 2 spots)
General manager Andrew Berry confirmed during the bye week what the football world presumed: Deshaun Watson will be the Browns’ starting quarterback when he is eligible to return from suspension on Dec. 4 against the Texans. Watson’s debut after nearly two seasons off the field profiles as the mother of all distractions for head coach Kevin Stefanski, who knows full well how divisive Watson’s presence is after his off-the-field actions prompted a lengthy absence. In the here and now, the goal is to stack some wins and put Cleveland in the playoff picture by the time the controversial but talented QB takes the reins.
Sporting News - No. 21 (up 3 spots)
The Browns saved their season by pounding the Bengals in Week 8 and were rewarded with a much-needed bye to keep cleaning up their defense. They are just looking to stay afloat in the wild-card race until Deshaun Watson returns in Week 13, and Jacoby Brissett has played pretty well in his place.
Yahoo Sports - No. 20 (up 5 spots)
Maybe last week’s win will be the one that propels the Browns to the playoffs. Or, it might be a win that changed the Browns’ mind from trading Kareem Hunt and getting a valuable mid-round pick, when that was the right move to make (especially with the talented D’Ernest Johnson behind Hunt).
Bleacher Report - No. 21 (up 4 spots)
With the Cleveland Browns sitting at 3-5, there’s been some speculation that head coach Kevin Stefanski could be on the hot seat. Dating back to last year, there have been criticisms of Stefanski’s play-calling. But over the Browns’ bye week, general manager Andrew Berry came to the defense of his head coach, telling reporters, “Our belief in Kevin is just as strong as the day that we hired him.”
“Kevin has shown that he has the ability to both manage the game and call the offense,” Berry said. “He’s done a nice job under a variety of circumstances as the play caller, and he’s organized and bright enough where he can manage the broader aspects of the job. He’s acutely aware, as really we all are, that as the head coach it’s not just about running the offense or calling the plays; it’s about managing the entire team. He takes that responsibility seriously.”
The Browns’ leaky defense has been a much bigger issue than an offense that ranks fifth in yards per game, third in rushing and seventh in points. Stefanski has had to coach under unique circumstances over the past year-plus, too. But with road trips to Miami and Buffalo up next, the Browns could be all but out of the playoff race before Deshaun Watson returns in Week 13. If that’s the case, Berry’s steadfast support for Stefanski may wane.
The Ringer - No. 18 (up 3 spots)
Despite a defense that’s tied for 28th in points allowed, only one of the Browns’ five losses this season has been by more than three points. That tells me this is a competitive team that has been kept afloat by Nick Chubb, who is breaking through tackles and busting explosive runs better than any other back in the league, and Jacoby Brissett, who has three more games as the starter before Deshaun Watson returns from suspension. Keeping the gas pedal down offensively through the second half of the season will be paramount for any chance of a postseason run for the Browns, as they face the third-hardest remaining schedule, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.