CBS Sports - No. 10 (up 6 spots)
The defense came up big in the upset of the 49ers. They might have Deshaun Watson back this week, but he has to play better.
ESPN - No. 8 (up 4 spots)
Lesson learned: The Browns’ defense is for real.
The Browns’ defense came into the weekend ranked No. 1 in efficiency. Then on Sunday, it shut down arguably the top offense in the league on the way to a stunning 19-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Cleveland’s terrifying pass rush is led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett. The revamped front is stuffing the run. The secondary is locking down the pass with a vise-grip coverage. The Browns have given up just 1,002 yards combined this season. That’s the third fewest through a team’s first five games since the 1970 merger, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The Browns’ defense is not only legit — it has a strong case as the NFL’s best.
NFL.com - No. 10 (up 2 spots)
I caught some heat on social media for putting the Browns as high as No. 12 last week, and the more doubt that was cast on Deshaun Watson’s availability for Sunday, the more I started to think those critics might have been right. But Cleveland’s defense turned in an incredible showing, nearly grinding the 49ers’ offense to a halt, even if several San Francisco injuries were a factor in the Browns win. That defense now has staked its worthy claim as the best unit in the NFL, with PJ Walker doing enough in place of Watson against a 49ers team that’s comparable to the Browns defensively. What a wild, weird season to date for Cleveland, ping-ponging back and forth between excellence and disaster.
Sporting News - No. 12 (up 1 spot)
The Browns’ defense did everything it could to contain the shorthanded 49ers coming off a bye. That rewarded a grinding offense without Deshaun Watson for a must-win game in Week 6. They have another winnable chance in Indy to stay above .500.
Yahoo Sports - No. 9 (up 2 spots)
The Browns’ defense isn’t some secret. The NFL world has been clued into how good Cleveland’s defenders are since Week 1. But shutting down the 49ers brings a lot more attention to a defense that has an argument as the best in football. It gives the Browns a foundation to be a really good team when Deshaun Watson returns, whenever that happens.
Bleacher Report - No. 12 (no change)
Yes, you read that right. The Cleveland Browns, led by a quarterback who wasn’t even on the team just a few months ago, beat a San Francisco 49ers team that has been atop these power rankings most of the season Sunday. It was that kind of week.
The hero of Sunday’s upset was undoubtedly the Cleveland defense. Facing a 49ers team that had just shredded the Dallas Cowboys, the Browns allowed just 215 yards of offense, handing 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy the first regular-season loss of his career. After the game, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was understandably proud of his team while addressing the media.
‘“The truth is, we’re a good football team,” Stefanski said. “We’re not perfect. We know that. But we fought like crazy, and I’m just proud of so many guys.”
What this means much big picture remains to be seen. Running back Nick Chubb is still lost for the season with a knee injury. There’s no definitive timetable for quarterback Deshaun Watson’s return from a bruised shoulder. But the Browns were able to rush for 160 yards and 4.7 yards per carry against the Niners, and Cleveland’s defense tends to keep the team in games. At the very least, the Browns are a tough out. And in an AFC North where no one is pulling away, they remain quite relevant in the division race.
“To the surprise of nearly everyone outside of the Cleveland locker room, the Browns dethroned the previously undefeated 49ers and claimed a victory Sunday despite not having Watson or All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio in the lineup,” Sobleski said. “How did they do so? The league’s top-ranked defense. The Browns really hadn’t played a top-notch offense this season, and their meeting with San Francisco proved to be their first real test. Myles Garrett and Co. weren’t fazed. The group shuttered Kyle Shanahan’s vaunted scheme for most of the contest. They played with energy, flew to the football and made an elite offense look marginal. As the Orange and Brown Report’s Cody Suek noted, the Browns allowing a 31.2 success rate is the lowest of any defense through the first six weeks since at least the 2012 season. Now, the unit just needs a little help from the offense.
USA Today - No. 11 (up 2 spots)
Cleveland’s stingy D has ceded 1,002 yards, fewest through five games in 52 years. On average, the Browns are surrendering 200.4 yards a week, more than 60 fewer than Baltimore’s second-ranked defense.
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.
What do you think of the Browns’ ranking this week?