The first eight games of the Cleveland Browns’ 2022 season didn’t go as planned.
However, they hit the bye week with a wave of momentum after thrashing the Cincinnati Bengals, 32-13, in Week 8.
Still, at 3-5, there’s work for the brown and orange to do.
The second half of the season presents a bit of a tougher schedule than the first half.
Of course, the return of Deshaun Watson to start at quarterback in Week 13 will be the most noteworthy event of this Browns season.
General Manager Andrew Berry has confirmed he expects Watson to start once his suspension is up.
#Browns GM Andrew Berry says he expects QB Deshaun Watson to start when he's eligible to play in Week 13 in Houston.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 2, 2022
What storylines will fans be looking out for in the rest of this Browns season?
1. The Return of Deshaun Watson And How The Team Adjusts
As mentioned, Watson returning to action will be the biggest change the Browns face this season.
It’s expected to be an overwhelmingly positive change with Watson being one of the top quarterbacks in the league the last time we saw him.
The problem is it’s been two years since Watson has appeared in an NFL game.
Whether he can just step back in at the form he last played at is still a huge question mark.
There are other questions to face as well when Watson returns.
How in-sync will he be with Amari Cooper and the receivers?
Watson returns to practice in just over a week.
That gives him and the offense some time to work out some kinks before he returns to game action.
Deshaun Watson will begin practicing with the Cleveland Browns on November 14.
— Football Chopz (@Pchopz_) November 1, 2022
Kevin Stefanski will have some figuring out to do too in terms of learning how to best utilize Watson with his play-calling.
It may take some time to work through some rust which is why the mediocre start to the season could end up costing Cleveland a playoff spot.
2. Can The Defense Be Consistent?
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods is getting plenty of criticism this year.
Rightfully so, as his defense has been gashed time and time again with continual communication issues.
However, they did piece together their best performance of the season in last week’s win over the Bengals.
Myles and Taven combine for a 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘳 of a sack!
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 1, 2022
Browns rookie Isaiah Thomas with his first NFL sack. Beats Jonah Williams with the double swipe. pic.twitter.com/UurimGFoyg
— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) November 1, 2022
It’s the type of effort and performance Cleveland’s defense needs to build on.
A few weeks ago, Woods admitted he felt the defense was behind where he thought they would be and under-performing.
Now, even Andrew Berry can’t help but acknowledge the progress he saw made in the Cincinnati game.
some big improvements from our defense pic.twitter.com/XSpPfzEJ1A
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 2, 2022
The consistency, or lack thereof, of Cleveland’s defense could very well determine how the second half of their season goes.
3. Divisional Games
Cleveland went 2-1 in AFC North games in the first eight weeks.
They’ll have one more chance against all of Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.
The only home game will be with the Ravens.
Cleveland hasn’t managed a 4-2 record or better against the division since their return to the NFL.
To have a legitimate shot at the postseason, it feels like that has to change this year.
It’s certainly possible, too, with the rest of the division ranging from bad to vulnerable.
Watson will be back for all three of those games.