The Browns are a good bet to reach the playoffs in the upcoming season. Some also consider them to be a decent outside bet to win the Super Bowl. But there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding Cleveland’s season, and most of that is down to Deshaun Watson.
The question is, will Watson play a role in Cleveland’s season and, if so, can he make a difference?
In the following guide, we’ll make some NFL 2022-23 predictions regarding Cleveland and their star Quarterback, including whether or not he will feature this season.
What’s the Story?
If you follow the NFL, or just watch the news on occasion, you’ll no doubt be up to date regarding the Deshaun Watson saga. If not, here’s a quick summary:
Watson was signed by the Houston Texans in 2017 and signed a four-year extension with them in 2020. Despite this, he didn’t play throughout the 2021 season and requested a trade.
Watson’s lack of game time was mostly down to disagreements with the front office, but there were also a number of sexual misconduct claims filed against him. These claims began in 2021 and followed him throughout the season. Over 20 claims were settled, with Watson denying any wrongdoing throughout.
In March 2022, the Browns signed Watson to a 5-year contract worth over $230 million. The contract is one of the most expensive in NFL history, but the sexual misconduct claims mean it’s also one of the most controversial.
The NFL investigated the claims and ultimately suspended Watson for 11 games. He was also fined $5 million.
It means that the Browns will be without their new star QB for the first 11 games of the NFL season. If he’s going to have an impact, they’ll have to do most of the work without him.
Can The Browns Make it to the Playoffs Without Deshaun Watson?
Deshaun Watson could ruin the Browns’ chances of a playoff position, and not just because he won’t be there to guide them to the required victories.
There are a couple of issues here.
First, there’s a good chance that the Browns could get there without Deshaun Watson. They’ll do the work, keep themselves in the running, and then wait for Watson to return. When he eventually appears, the Browns could be a couple of big wins away from a place in the playoffs.
But we’re talking about a QB who missed most of 2021 and will then miss the majority of the regular season in 2022/23. He’ll be fit. He may even be game ready. But he’ll still be rusty.
The team needs time to adapt with Watson under center. That would happen if he was there in the very beginning and was allowed to form strong bonds in week 1. But that’s not the case. He’ll be dropped into the action when opposition defenses are peaking and the Browns offense is starting from square one.
The great irony of this situation is that Deshaun Watson will return during the week that the Browns play the Texans. It means that his first game back will be against the team he departed, the team that caused him so many problems. He will have a point to prove, but so will they, and if the Texans are in their stride, they’ll be better positioned to make their point.
What Games Will Deshaun Watson Miss?
The first step for the Browns is to leave Deshaun Watson with a shot at the playoffs. They should be able to do that, but it won’t be easy.
Watson will miss key games against the Pats, Steelers, and Dolphins. He also won’t be there when the Browns face off against the Bills and Buccs, the two market leaders for Super Bowl 57. They might have a better chance against the Jets, Bengals, Chargers, Falcons, and Ravens, but this is the NFL and there are no easy games.
Jacoby Brissett will need to guide the Browns through all of these games. He’s a competent QB and a good man to call on in an emergency, but he’s a backup QB, not a playoff star. Brissett has been the second choice with most of the franchises he has played for. He is technically a Super Bowl winner, but he didn’t play in the big game and was second fiddle to Tom Brady.
What Do the Oddsmakers Say?
You can get +2800 for the Browns to win the Super Bowl, giving you a payout of $2800 on a wager of just $100. It’s a long shot, to say the least, but that’s not the bet that we’re talking about here.
The question is whether or not they can reach the playoffs, and the odds for that are much shorter.
Most bookmakers have set the odds at between +200 and +250. Based on these odds, the experts think that it will be close but that Cleveland will ultimately fall short of that elusive playoff spot.
Do you agree with them? If not, you can find plenty of great value by wagering on the Browns this season.
Summary: Watson and the Playoffs
Initially, Deshaun Watson was banned for just 6 games. It’s a sizeable chunk of the season, but it would have given the Browns a much better shot at the playoffs. They could have picked up a couple of wins, given Watson time to settle, and then claimed the victories needed to take them over the line.
With the ban now extended to 11 games, it’s hard to see how it can be done. Without him, they are missing a star QB that could make a big difference in key moments. With him, he may struggle to find his feet and won’t have enough time to make his mark.
If the Browns can get those wins and Watson does find his feet, it’ll be interesting to see how far this team can go. The NFL championship is a long shot, but getting anywhere near to that big game will be a huge achievement for a team experiencing such a difficult season.