2) Cleveland Browns (5-3)
As much as it pains us not to have Cincinnati in the second spot, Cleveland’s defense is historically excellent. It is just not as great as Baltimore has been this season. Moreover, the Browns hold the head-to-head victory over the Bengals thanks to their Week 1 victory, even though that feels like so long ago, and Cincinnati is not the same team they were the first four weeks of the season.
The Browns took care of the Arizona Cardinals without much bother, shutting out the Cardinals 27-0. Winning in the NFL is never easy and should not be considered as such. With that said, winning against a 1-8 team that traded away their starting QB a week prior is not the most compelling win.
Still, the Browns boast one of the best defenses in the NFL. Their defensive unit ranks second in yards per play, net passing yards per attempt, and expected added points from the defense. Baltimore (85.51) and Cleveland (85.06) are far and away the best in that category. The next closest is the Dallas Cowboys (31.97). The Browns also rank fifth in rushing yards per attempt surrendered.
Cleveland’s defensive expected points added per play leads the league. Baltimore is third, and Cincinnati is eighth. The Browns’ defense also tops the NFL in yards gained per game. Among the teams that have played eight games, they have given up the fewest yards by far. The Ravens have surrendered the fewest yards among the teams that have played nine games.
Furthermore, in theory, Cleveland’s offense should be improved now that starting quarterback Deshaun Watson is back and healthy. Again, that is in theory.
With an excellent defense and the return of their starting franchise quarterback, things appear to be heading in the right direction for Cleveland. However, that could come to an abrupt end when they face the next team on this list.