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Senior NFL Columnist

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys' D delivering; Browns offense rolling

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The Cleveland Browns have the 11th-ranked offense and the 28th-ranked defense.

They are running the ball, but not stopping the run.

And we wonder why figuring out the NFL is so tough.

In the preseason, the thinking was that the Browns would be good on defense and have issues on offense, especially without top receiver Josh Gordon, who is suspended for 10 games. So far, it's been the exact opposite for the Browns during their run to 3-2, putting them up to No. 17 here in my Power Rankings.

The Browns are running the ball -- ranking third in the league in that category -- and that has helped quarterback Brian Hoyer become a big-play passer, even without Gordon. Hoyer has seven touchdown passes and one interception and he's averaging 8.2 yards per pass play, third best in the league.

The defense was expected to be the unit that carried the Browns after ranking ninth last season. But under first-year coach Mike Pettine, who earned his job from coaching that side of the ball, the Browns defense has struggled. They are 29th in first downs per game and 30th against the run.

Cleveland ran for 158 yards against the Steelers and Hoyer had five pass plays of 20 yards or more. That's pretty impressive when you consider he completed eight passes on the day.

The Browns' next three games are at Jacksonville, home against Oakland and home against Tampa Bay. Those teams are a combined 1-16. The Browns have a real shot to be 6-2 -- and strangely it's not because of the defense.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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