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Sober Monday: The Cleveland Browns -- Yes, the Browns -- Are in First Place

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COMMENTARY | It's not a dream or a season on Madden NFL 25. The Cleveland Browns are a real life first place football team at the start of October, and those preseason prediction pieces that had the Browns finishing the season at or around .500 don't look all that bad anymore.

Several attention-grabbing things occurred at FirstEnergy Stadium on the final Sunday of the first month of the campaign. The Cleveland offense officially changed starting quarterbacks, the team's defense put the rest of the NFL on notice, and the Browns may have even proved that the Cincinnati Bengals are a little overrated. When all was said and done, Cleveland found themselves with new life at 2-2 and a share of first place in the AFC North.

Trent who?

Browns beat Bengals: For real

Whether or not Brian Hoyer is Cleveland's QB of the future has yet to be proven. What is for sure, though, is that the Browns have a championship-level defense, one of the best in all of the NFL. Cleveland is one of only five teams to be allowing under 300 total yards of offense per game, they are surrendering 79 rushing yards a contest, and they are behind only the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins in team sacks.

Defense wins championships. It's not just an adage. It's a proven fact. Ask the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants about it. The Browns have a foundation of a defense that could win a title. Building upon it and also getting stability on offense will make Cleveland a contender sooner than later.

Browns beat Bengals: Not for real

Maybe the biggest cause for Cleveland fans to have hope in 2013 is that the AFC North appears to be very, very average. The Bengals are one yard away from being 1-3. I'm not convinced Cleveland would have lost to Baltimore on September 15 had Hoyer started that game. The Pittsburgh Steelers are nothing short of awful and with no quick turnaround coming.

According to math that I completed back in August when evaluating the team's schedule, the Browns will need to at least split their divisional games to have even a chance of finishing at 8-8. They are, after Sunday, well on their way. When you consider the fact that Cleveland sweeping Pittsburgh is hardly a crazy notion at this stage of the season, the Browns going 4-2 in AFC North play looks very realistic.

Browns beat Bengals: No debate

Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski announced on Monday that Hoyer will get the start when the Browns face off with the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, news that surprised not a single knowledgeable person on earth. Hoyer's stats against the Bengals, pretty good if not great, say little about his getting at least four more quarters to lead the Cleveland offense. The Browns have been a completely different team with Hoyer and not Brandon Weeden as starter, one that has found the end zone, appeared to be having some fun, and, oh yeah, one that is 2-0 since Weeden sprained his thumb.

As I stated earlier, it's too soon to say that Hoyer is the guy. He's the guy for right now, and that much is crystal clear. Hoyer gives the team a chance to win, something the Browns lacked in Weeks 1 and 2. So what if it's unfair to Weeden to lose his job because of injury?

The team is winning, and that's all that matters.

Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010

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