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Browns NFL Power Rankings: Cleveland falls a little due to uncertainty at QB heading into Week 12

Cleveland is maintaining respect after another big win, but the offense has the national media holding their breath.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Here is a summary of how the Cleveland Browns are viewed across mainstream media outlets in NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 12 of the 2023 NFL season.

CBS Sports - No. 7 (no change)

Dorian Thompson-Robinson didn’t put up big numbers against Pittsburgh, but he found a way to drive them to the winning points. That’s a big moment for him — and big for this team.

ESPN - No. 8 (no change)

Preseason hot seat: Coach Kevin Stefanski
Current temperature of hot seat: Freezing

Stefanski is a lot closer to being the NFL Coach of the Year again than he is to being fired. Despite season-ending injuries to All-Pro running back Nick Chubb (left knee) and $230 million quarterback Deshaun Watson (right shoulder), the Browns are in the thick of the AFC playoff picture. They also have four wins that were decided in the final two minutes of regulation, which, according to ESPN Stats & Information, is a franchise record. The Browns have been stellar on defense and on special teams, and with Stefanski calling plays, they’ve been good enough offensively. Stefanski could be on the verge of a contract extension. - No. 9 (no change)

The Browns passed their first test A.D. (After Deshaun), although it wasn’t easy, as they failed to gain more than 19 yards on a play all game, ultimately edging past the Steelers, 13-10. Dorian Thompson-Robinson was far cleaner in this game than he was in his first start back in Week 4, leading field goal drives at the ends of both halves, connecting on 10 passes combined over those two marches. The fifth-round rookie also ran for two first downs and for 9 yards on a 3rd-and-10. Could Cleveland use a little more from him and the passing game? Absolutely. But with an efficient ground attack and a defense that can take over games, the Browns have the look of a team no one wants to face in cold-weather months. Cleveland is improbably 7-3, and there’s a clear path to the postseason ahead.

Sporting News - No. 9 (down 1 spot)

The Browns survived the Steelers with just enough offense but the outlook still doesn’t look good with Dorian Thompson-Robinson and without Deshaun Watson. The historic defense can only hold up so long.

Yahoo Sports - No. 9 (down 1 spot)

The Browns’ defense is good. The offense with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson was OK, though averaging 3.8 yards per pass attempt isn’t going to take Cleveland very far. It’s hard to see the Browns keeping pace with the Ravens unless the offense gets a lot better. And no, Joe Flacco is not going to fix anything.

Bleacher Report - No. 8 (up 4 spots)

The Cleveland Browns have been through their fair share of adversity and then some in 2023. Running back Nick Chubb has been on the shelf much of the season with a torn ACL. Quarterback Deshaun Watson joined him there last week after breaking a bone in his right shoulder. Losing the best offensive player and starting quarterback would be a crippling blow to most teams—but the Browns have weathered the storm so far. Sunday against the rival Steelers, the Browns trotted out rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who looked abysmal in his first start this season against the Baltimore Ravens.

To be clear, Thompson-Robinson was hardly flawless against the Steelers—24 completions in 43 attempts for 165 yards and an interception. But at the game’s end when the Browns needed a drive from the youngster, he delivered—moving the Browns into position for the game-winning kick. After the game, Thompson-Robinson told reporters that it mattered a lot that Cleveland’s coaches and players believed in him.

“They believed in me,” Thompson-Robinson said. “They trusted me. I’ve been working my tail off. I think that whole drive just shows how close this team is and how much they believe in me.” It’s fair to ask how far these Browns can really go given their offensive limitations. But Cleveland’s defense was outstanding yet again Sunday, and that defense is going to keep the Browns in a lot of games.

“The Browns aren’t asking much from Thompson-Robinson,” Sobleski said. “After being thrust into the lineup due to a season-ending shoulder injury to starter Deshaun Watson, DTR took the reins and helped lead the Browns to a victory over the rival Steelers. Granted, he’ll probably need to play better for the team to compete against better competition. However, Cleveland can shorten games by making them ugly. The Browns have a good offensive line and talented backs to run the ball. Their defense is the league’s best. The rookie quarterback simply needs to make a couple throws and runs per game and avoid back-breaking turnovers.”

USA Today - No. 10 (down 6 spots)

Why is DE Myles Garrett in position to get some MVP traction? He’s on pace for 22 sacks, seven forced fumbles and roughly 50 pressures. For a team with such a decimated offense, why not consider making him the first defender to get the hardware since Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor in 1986?

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

Bengals Browns Ravens Steelers
CBS Sports 18 7 8 14
ESPN 14 8 5 15 18 9 2 13
Sporting News 15 9 5 11
Yahoo Sports 18 9 5 15
Bleacher Report 15 10 4 13
USA Today 26 10 4 12
Average 17.7
(down 6.3)
(down 1.6)
(up 0.3)
(down 1.0)

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