CBS Sports - No. 8 (up 9 spots)
Joe Flacco has given the passing game some life. Who saw that coming? Can he keep it up?
ESPN - No. 9 (up 2 spots)
Biggest improvement: Passing offense
Surprisingly, Cleveland’s passing offense is better now with its fourth quarterback to start a game this season. Joe Flacco and his big arm have given Cleveland’s air attack a boost in these past two games in which he was the starter. Flacco already has more games of at least 250 passing yards and two passing touchdowns (two) than Deshaun Watson has had (one) since being traded to the Browns before last season. Cleveland is beginning to look like a playoff threat in a way that didn’t seem possible following Watson’s season-ending shoulder surgery. Flacco’s unforeseen emergence is a big reason.
NFL.com - No. 8 (up 2 spots)
Joe Flacco went 18-3 against the Browns. For the Browns, he’s now 1-1 with a tough loss that was much closer than the final score suggests. And Cleveland’s going to ride him until the wheels fall off after the 38-year-old led four TD drives — one in each quarter — and the late field-goal march to seal a massive win over Jacksonville. His arm strength and touch on downfield passes have unlocked a chapter of the Browns’ playbook that was too often overlooked this season. Flacco did turn the ball over twice with 14-point leads, possibly costing his own team points on both possessions, and Amari Cooper coughed up a fumble, too. But the Browns forced four Jaguars turnovers, converting the last two into second-half touchdowns. Even without star CB Denzel Ward, Cleveland’s secondary stepped up, forcing three interceptions (two by Martin Emerson Jr.) and 22 incomplete passes — with Browns defenders getting their hands on 10 of those throws. The playoffs look very likely, although all four remaining opponents continue to play hard and will be tough outs.
Sporting News - No. 8 (up 5 spots)
The Browns have found their competent quarterback play again with Joe Flacco in a bizarre, injury-riddled offensive season. They just need to have their defense be consistent with playmaking home and away to be a pesky playoff team.
Yahoo Sports - No. 9 (up 6 spots)
Joe Flacco has had a good career, but it was hard to imagine him being a plus asset for a playoff team at age 38, off a bad season with the Jets, having been out of football from the end of last season to mid-November. But that’s what is happening. He has five touchdowns in two games and has given stability to an offense that needed it. This Browns team is almost certainly going to the playoffs, and Flacco is a big reason why. What a story.
Bleacher Report - No. 9 (up 8 spots)
There hasn’t been a team in the NFL hit harder by injuries this season than the Cleveland Browns. The team’s starting quarterback (Deshaun Watson) and best offensive player (running back Nick Chubb) are both lost for the season. But the Browns may have found a hero who can ride in and rescue the team at a position that been a nightmare since 1999.
That hero? Joe Flacco. No, really. Joe Flacco. In his second start with the Browns, Flacco threw for 311 yards and three scores, Star edge-rusher Myles Garrett admitted to reporters that when the 38-year-old first arrived in Cleveland, he wasn’t sure what Flacco had left. You can consider him converted now.
“He’s one of us,” Garrett said. “And as long as he continues what he’s doing, he’s going to stay one of us. The guy doing it all. He’s just giving it all for this team and got respect from the rest of the guys as well.”
The Browns have one of the best pass defenses in the league, picking off Trevor Lawrence three times Sunday. Cleveland remains committed to the run game with Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt. With just competent quarterback play, the Browns have shown they can beat good teams. Cleveland may not be a Super Bowl contender. But they are becoming that team that no one wants to have to play in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s time to start believing in the Browns as legitimate contenders,” Sobleski said. “For most of the season, they weren’t a serious team because of the inconsistency and poor performances from the quarterback position. Joe Flacco has risen from the ashes like a phoenix to provide Cleveland with exactly what it needed: competent quarterback play. Flacco became only the fifth quarterback since the merger to throw for five touchdowns in his first two games with a new team. While the aging veteran has his limitations and he’s still working his way through a different playbook and new teammates after signing three weeks ago, the Browns now look like a serious threat. The offense can actually do some damage with a quarterback capable of getting the ball into the playmakers’ hands. The Browns’ ferocious defense can handle the rest.”
USA Today - No. 11 (up 3 spots)
Thanks to Joe Flacco, they became the eighth team in league history with four different starting quarterbacks earning wins in the same season. Thanks to Joe Flacco, they don’t plan to need a fifth different passer moving forward.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?