Expert analysis on how the Cleveland Browns can win the AFC North

 Following two weeks of intense AFC North games, the battered Cleveland Browns made their way up to the NFL’s hardest division. Cleveland defeated the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers in back-to-back weeks for the first time in fifteen tries. Their chances of making the playoffs were greatly enhanced by those historic victories.

The New York Times playoff simulator indicates that the Browns have an 89 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason. The team continues to play even after losing $230 million Deshaun Watson and All-Pro running back Nick Chubb.Myles Garrett is in charge of a legendary defense that is focused on winning regardless of the output of the offense. Cleveland’s chances in the AFC North and beyond are as follows.

Battered but not broken

Nick Chubb, injury, Cleveland Browns

Chubb is regarded by many as the finest football running back.Coaches, players, and executives were polled by Sports Illustrated this summer, and they chose the Browns workhorse over Christian McCaffrey to be the NFL’s top running back. He took first place because of his exceptional combination of size, speed, and reliability. He is third all-time among running backs with an average of 1,210 yards per season during his career, a ridiculous 5.3 yards per carry.

Watson played a below-average game the entire season. Naturally, his season came to an end after he went 14-for-14 against the Ravens in the second half, in typical agonizing Browns fashion. They also lost Pro Bowl tackle Jack Conklin for the season, which worsened the situation. Any team’s hopes should be dashed if all of these key players were lost. However, the Dawg Pound soldiers won, thanks to their all-century defense.

Historic defense rising to the challenge

Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

To overcome the endless injuries in a cutthroat division, Cleveland turned to Garrett and their exceptional defense. Zac Jackson of The Athletic laid out just how special this unit has been. Here are some highlights:

  • 52.7 percent three and out rate (highest rate this century).
  • Opponents have gained zero or negative yards on 43.4 percent of snaps (highest rate this century).
  • Allowed only 243.3 yards per game, the fewest since the 2008 Steelers.
  • 131.68 Expected Points Added (EPA), 27 more than the second place Ravens.

Their virtuous defense is currently the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year at +100, with Micah Parsons (+230) and T.J. Watt (+340) finding it difficult to compete. The defense must keep up its devastating ways because their offense is operating on spare parts.Garrett mentioned their unwavering fortitude:

We’re the hardest people around. We will persevere until the very end. We’ll maintain our consistency. We will not give up the fight. Nothing that occurs during the game matters. We will give you our all for at least sixty minutes, if not longer, depending on the situation.

AFC North bloodbath

The AFC North.

Sadly, the AFC North appears marginally less intimidating in light of Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury. If the Steelers, Ravens, and Browns could move to any other team outside the AFC North, they would all be fighting for divisional leads, even with the Cincinnati Bengals probably going to withdraw.

Rahul Mukherjee of Axios reports that this division, which is a gulag, has a composite win percentage of 67, which is approximately 15 points greater than the next closest division (AFC South). The Browns need to overtake the 8-3 Ravens, who are still ahead by half a game, in order to win the AFC North.

The Baltimore Ravens, second only to the Bengals in terms of remaining schedule difficulty, were ranked by ProFootballNetwork. For background, the Browns’ performances against the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos helped them finish 16th.

It comes down to divisional victories and defeats if they finish with the same record. Since they are currently tied at 3-2, the division winner may ultimately be determined by the Browns’ game in Cincinnati and the Ravens’ game at home against the Steelers during the final week of the season. The NYT simulator estimated Cleveland’s chances of winning the AFC North at just 29%, presumably as a result of the Ravens’ strong performance. For Browns fans, even more concerning, it reduced their chances of winning the Super Bowl to just 3%.

How far can they go?

Kevin Stefanski

Regretfully, a lot of their hopes rest on rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR), a fifth-round selection. To be fair, they traded Josh Dobbs because they were so excited about DTR, even though they probably wish they hadn’t done so before the season.Garrett, in particular, has faith in the rookie:

The man is a huge fan of the game. He concentrates on his art. He is very perceptive and always eager to learn new things by listening to men and his elders. He is collecting data from all of us, both offensive and defensive. He demonstrated his desire to be the best version of himself.

Thanks to a full week of practice and preparation, DTR looked better against the Steelers in Week 11 following an understandably terrible performance against the Ravens in his first start of 2023. Against Pittsburgh, he completed 24 of 43 passes for 165 yards and one interception, with a 54.9 rating, which hardly seems encouraging.

On their winning drive, he was nearly flawless (4-5 for 48 yards), with the exception of a bungled play. Though it’s hard to see them going all the way in the playoffs, perhaps they’ll revisit the adage “defense wins championships.”

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