CBS Sports - No. 21 (down 1 spot)
They still aren’t doing much on offense, but they found a way to beat the Ravens thanks to the defense. They aren’t done yet.
ESPN - No. 21 (up 3 spots)
Pleasant surprise: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
The former sixth-round pick out of Michigan has been one of Cleveland’s most consistent performers all season. Starting opposite WR Amari Cooper, Peoples-Jones has 782 yards along with 57 receptions, both the second most on the team behind Cooper. Peoples-Jones had his second TD catch of the season in Saturday’s 13-3 win over Baltimore. He even delivered a punt return TD, as well, in a Week 13 victory at Houston. Receiver was a major question mark coming into this season, and DPJ’s emergence has quieted that concern.
NFL.com - No. 20 (up 4 spots)
The Browns had the good fortune to face the Ravens without Lamar Jackson on Saturday and they made the most of it, holding Baltimore out of the end zone in a 13-3 win. Deshaun Watson connected with Donovan Peoples-Jones for his first touchdown pass at home as a Brown, but the QB otherwise remains very much a work in progress after his 700-day NFL layoff. The Cleveland defense — such an issue for much of the year — has significantly improved in recent weeks, but the Browns will need a Christmas miracle to be playing beyond Week 18.
Sporting News - No. 22 (up 2 spots)
The Browns have played well against division foes to put up some respectable results as they reboot late offensively with Deshaun Watson. They can only wonder what could have been with better run defense.
Yahoo Sports - No. 20 (up 1 spot)
Since the trade deadline, running back Kareem Hunt has 33 carries for 142 yards in six games. He hasn’t had double-digit carries in any game. The Browns have a 0.5 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders. The Browns not trading Hunt before the deadline, likely because they asked for too much, seems like a real mistake.
Bleacher Report - No. 19 (up 1 spot)
The Cleveland Browns’ win over the Ravens on Saturday came with disclaimers. Baltimore was without quarterback Lamar Jackson. Cleveland continued to struggle to move the ball since Deshaun Watson’s return. But in defeating their rivals, Browns knocked the Ravens out of first place and won for the second time in Watson’s three starts. Left guard Joel Bitonio told reporters that the Browns want to use the final month of the season to build momentum for 2023.
“We have something to prove,” he said. “We have Deshaun back. We want to build our offense, build our team. Our defense has played really well the last few weeks. [We want to] finish the season with some complementary football, not for anybody else, but just our team to understand like, ‘Hey, we have a pretty dang good team here.’”
Davenport thinks Cleveland’s priority needs to be next season as well.
“The Browns have to decide whether Kevin Stefanski deserves another season at the helm,” he said. “How to approach an offseason when the team has little cap space and no first-round pick. How to build around the quarterback who will, for better or worse, define the team for years to come. All those considerations will matter more than whether Cleveland finishes 6-11 or 8-9—because this team won’t win out and make the playoffs.”
The Ringer - No. 21 (up 1 spot)
After back-to-back ugly starts from Deshaun Watson, the Browns put the training wheels back on the offense. Watson only threw four passes of more than 10 yards downfield in the Browns’ Week 15 win over Baltimore on Saturday; only the Giants’ Daniel Jones threw fewer during the week. The adjustments resulted in what was easily Watson’s best game as a Brown. Easing Watson back into the NFL and avoiding overly aggressive game plans should be the formula for Kevin Stefanski and company as they finish out the regular season.
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.