Browns have won respect
The day after my post about the Browns game against Pittsburgh. I wondered if I was too easy on them. They lost a game they could have won. Even if I was convinced they lost to a better team-- maybe I should have been more disappointed.
Then a strange them happened. National writers like lists. At the start of the season, most of them had the Browns ranked in the 30s of the their lists of the 32 teams in the NFL.
NFL.com's Vic Carucci has the Browns ranked 12th and on his list of teams looking good enough to be a possible playoff team. CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco has them in the same space. ESPN's power rankings have the Browns at 11th (after being 9th last week). The worldwide sports leader's main football writer Mark Mosely has the team one higher at 10th. That is the same rank that fans at SportsNation and Fox Sports on MSN's Pete Schrager have them. USA Today has the Browns at 11th and calls the team "legitimate."
Sports Illustrated's Peter King has them ninth while his colleague (and the man who I respect the most) Dr. z also has them 10th along with the caveat that the Browns learned a lesson in the Steeler game.
Over at Yahoo!, Michael Silver has the Browns at 11th. Charles Robinson has them at ninth after having them ranked eighth last week. Their colleague Jason Cole also had the Browns at eighth last week and after the Steelers loss, he moved them up to sixth.
I usually don't care what the national media thinks. But it has to confirm my growing faith that others are noticing that this is in fact a different team. Are the Browns among the league's elite? Of course not, but the playoffs are no longer just a distant memory.
Of course, this week means a trip to Baltimore where the Browns are a road favorite. The Ravens are a wounded and angry team after being embarrassed the last two weeks against the Steelers and Bengals. The team that had a first round bye last year in the tough AFC has yet to win a division game this season. It will not be an easy win. In fact, it is a game that looks very losable. For the first time, the Browns are no longer an underdog but a team expected to win-- despite a flawed defense.
Let's see how this young team reacts.