CBS Sports - No. 7 (up 2 spots)
The defense was suffocating against the Bengals, which is a good sign. The offense wasn’t great, but it did enough in the elements.
ESPN - No. 11 (up 7 spots)
Best debut performance: DC Jim Schwartz
Week 1 stats: Defense held Joe Burrow to 82 passing yards
Cleveland’s new defensive coordinator came up with a game plan that both rattled Joe Burrow and shut down Cincinnati’s passing offense. The rainy conditions helped, but Schwartz blitzed Burrow on 53% of his dropbacks in the first half, the highest rate of the quarterback’s career, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In turn, Burrow averaged just 2.6 yards per attempt, the lowest in a half in his career. The Browns pitched a shutout in the first half and never looked back. Under Schwartz, the new-look defense could prove to be among the most improved units in the league.
NFL.com - No. 13 (up 5 spots)
I won’t harp on this yet, because the Browns’ revamped defense absolutely turned in a banner performance in working over the Bengals in Week 1, and that’s a sign of progress. But it’s a good thing Joe Burrow struggled more than Deshaun Watson did, because the Browns have some issues offensively, compounded by the season-ending injury on Sunday to RT Jack Conklin.The weather conditions in Cleveland were not ideal for pristine execution on Sunday, and it was encouraging to see the Browns try to stretch the field vertically and use Watson’s legs as a real weapon, with the latter strategy at least being effective. But if Watson struggles again throwing the ball vs. an angry Steelers team in Week 2, I am prepared to dive in deeper there.
Sporting News - No. 11 (up 8 spots)
The Browns’ defense made a massive statement, that it is loaded on every level to stop an elite offense such as the Bengals have. Myles Garrett, the linebackers and the secondary are the foundation and make Deshaun Watson and Nick Chubb have a wide margin for error.
Yahoo Sports - No. 9 (up 7 spots)
We can’t keep making excuses for Deshaun Watson, but it was bad luck that he got yet another poor weather game to start this season. Everyone seemed affected by the rain and field conditions in Cleveland. Watson didn’t look very good to start the season, but we’ll see what happens when he plays on a dry field. And if the Browns defense plays like it did Sunday, Cleveland is going to be good whether Watson plays better or not.
Bleacher Report - No. 11 (up 2 spots)
The Cleveland Browns haven’t had a ton of success over the past few years, but for whatever reason, they’ve had Joe Burrow’s number. Entering Sunday’s matchup in Cleveland, the Browns had won four of five meetings with the NFL’s newly minted highest-paid player. Make that five out of six, and about as good of a start to the season as the Browns could have dared hope for.
Deshaun Watson finished only 16-of-29 for 154 yards with one touchdown and an interception, although the weather played a part in those stats. Watson added a score on the ground, and he outplayed Burrow by a sizable margin. Cleveland’s new-look defense under coordinator Jim Schwartz was the big story of the day. The Browns completely dominated one of the NFL’s most potent offenses. Burrow threw for just 82 yards. Cincinnati had just six first downs. And the Bengals pulled Burrow from the game with about four minutes to go.
It was a fantastic opening to the season for the Browns, but things don’t get any easier from here. Next week, Cleveland travels to face a Pittsburgh Steelers team that’s seething after getting waxed at home by the San Francisco 49ers.
USA Today - No. 6 (up 7 spots)
As expected, the defense appears to be the bedrock of this squad – though few could have foreseen a near-shutout of Cincinnati. However don’t underestimate the loss of RT Jack Conklin to a devastating knee injury … even if it will be fascinating to see how 6-8, 374-pound rookie Dawand Jones fills in.
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.
What do you think of the Browns vaulting into the Top 10?