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NFL Power Rankings: Browns only drop a little heading into Week 5 bye, while Bengals and Steelers plummet

The AFC North went from strength to mediocre overnight.

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Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Here is a summary of how the Cleveland Browns are viewed across mainstream media outlets in NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season.

CBS Sports - No. 14 (down 2 spots)

They had to play without Deshaun Watson against the Ravens, and rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson found out what regular-season football is all about. The defense wasn’t as good, either. The bye comes at a good time after that loss.

ESPN - No. 11 (down 2 spots)

Defensive efficiency: 87.0 (1st)
Biggest issue on defense: Forcing turnovers

Despite being No. 1 in the NFL in defensive efficiency, the Browns have continued to struggle to force turnovers. They are tied for 24th with just three forced turnovers, including only one interception. Last season, Cleveland finished 20th with 20 forced turnovers. The defense is obviously much improved this year and playing as well as any unit in the league. Still, the lack of turnovers remains. It’s early, and the Browns are creating plenty of pressure on the quarterback (11th in PRWR, 48.7%). Maybe the turnovers will come. So far, they haven’t. - No. 11 (down 2 spots)

It’s hard to put too much stock into a team losing with a backup QB getting his first real NFL action, but that doesn’t negate the fact that Cleveland was flattened by Baltimore at home, as even the Browns’ vaunted defense couldn’t stop the runaway train. The Ravens led 14-3 four minutes before halftime, and the game essentially was over. Could Deshaun Watson have done anything to change the result? That’s a tough question. He played well in Week 3, but before that? Meh. The funny thing is that the Browns clearly need Watson to win, but his play is also often ripe for deserved criticism. That cloaks the entire operation while Cleveland tries to regroup on bye and gear up for hosting the 49ers in Week 6.

Sporting News - No. 12 (down 4 spots)

Deshaun Watson not playing gave them little chance to beat the Ravens, especially without Nick Chubb. Their defense now has Myles Garrett hurting, too. The bye is early, but it comes at a much-needed time to regroup early.

Yahoo Sports - No. 10 (down 2 spots)

When the Browns traded Joshua Dobbs in late August, it made sense. Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson looked good in preseason. Cleveland got a fifth-round draft pick for Dobbs and a seventh-round pick. But since then, Dobbs has looked pretty good for Arizona and when DTR was pressed into a start Sunday, he struggled and the Browns lost a big divisional game to the Ravens. Maybe the Browns wouldn’t have won with Dobbs at quarterback, but they might have regret sending him away for a late-round pick.

Bleacher Report - No. 11 (down 2 spots)

The Cleveland Browns might actually be a good team—from all indications, they are significantly better than last year’s iteration at least. But the injuries are piling up, and Cleveland snapped under the weight of them Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Losing running back Nick Chubb was one thing. But Sunday against Baltimore, the Browns were also forced to turn to fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center due to Deshaun Watson’s shoulder injury. And with Thompson-Robinson out there, Cleveland’s offense imploded.

While addressing the media, head coach Kevin Stefanski said that Watson made every effort to give it a go. “He wanted to go badly, but he just did not feel that he could go,” Stefanski said. “He pushed himself. He tried. He did everything in his power to get ready, but just did not feel comfortable earlier this morning and didn’t feel like we could put him out there.”

NFL teams don’t generally care for early byes, but for Cleveland having Week 5 off comes at the ideal time. The Browns managed just 166 yards of offense Sunday and averaged a pathetic 2.6 yards per play. Frankly, losing Chubb probably wrecked Cleveland’s chances of being a factor in the playoff race. But without Chubb and Watson, the Browns would struggle to win a single game.

“The Browns’ No. 1-ranked defense finally faced a legitimate Ravens offense and didn’t look like the same dominant force as it had through the first three weeks,” Sobleski said. “Cleveland’s defense is still good, of course. But its earlier performances may have been skewed a bit by playing against a clearly hampered Joe Burrow in the rain and then two bad offenses in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans. Granted, Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s first start and inability to move the Browns offense played a part in the defense being on the field too much. Still, the ability to overcome that level of adversity is what turns a good defense into a truly great one.”

USA Today - No. 13 (down 5 spots)

Week 5 byes are rarely desirous, but the timing is pretty good for a Cleveland team that needs to get DE Myles Garrett and QB Deshaun Watson healthy.

Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.

Bengals Browns Ravens Steelers
CBS Sports 23 14 6 18
ESPN 25 11 7 19 20 11 8 23
Sporting News 24 12 8 18
Yahoo Sports 21 10 8 22
Bleacher Report 23 11 7 24
USA Today 26 13 8 12
Average 23.1
(down 9.0)
(down 2.7)
(up 1.0)
(down 7.5)

What do you think of the Browns’ ranking this week?