Nick Chubb Is Elevating the Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield Is Holding Them Back

Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns v Jacksonville Jaguars
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns v Jacksonville Jaguars / Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Since returning from a knee injury in Week 10, Nick Chubb has been on fire. The Cleveland Browns running back has led the team on a three-week winning streak to improve its record to 8-3. All the while he's been putting up some gaudy numbers. His performance has helped the Browns overcome the shortcomings of quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Chubb has been excellent in the seven games he's played this season. So far he's rushed for 719 yards and six touchdowns on 115 attempts. Among running backs, that's an NFL-best 6.3 yards per carry. He has also regularly done things like this. Chubb is third in the league in yards per game (102.7) and has been over 100 yards in five of the seven games he's played in. It's worth noting he's paired with Kareem Hunt in Cleveland's backfield and Hunt is averaging 4.5 yards per carry on 157 rushes this season.

In the past three weeks since returning Chubb has rushed for 384 yards on 58 carries, or 6.62 yards per attempt. CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso pointed this stat out and went even further in his analysis of how the Browns got to 8-3:

"And, since Nick Chubb's return in Week 10, he's averaging 6.62 yards per rush. Since that return -- this is going to blow your mind -- Chubb's yards-per-carry average is actually higher than Mayfield's yards-per-drop back average (6.38). That dynamic almost never, ever happens in the NFL."

While other teams have moved to pass-heavy offenses, the Browns are relying on the running game and that even translates when they're passing the ball. As Trapasso points out, since Week 7 Mayfield is 26 of 37 for 439 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions off play-action passes. He's averaging 11.9 yards per attempt off play-action and much of that has to be attributed to defenses respecting Cleveland's running game.

Mayfield has been average at best this season. He's completed only 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,108 yards, with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His passer rating (92.3) ranks 16th leaguewide and he's consistently made some horrible throws. Given the weapons at his disposal, he should be putting up much better numbers. Chubb and the NFL's best rushing attack have managed to lift the team to its best start in 30 years despite Mayfield's struggles.

Cleveland may not be as good as its record, but with that ferocious rushing attack the team has a shot to make noise in the AFC playoffs. When was the last time we could say that about the Browns?