On Monday, the Cleveland Browns finally ended their pregnant pause of waiting to find out what type of discipline new quarterback Deshaun Watson would receive as a result of his sexual misconduct allegations.
He will be suspended for only six games, and he will not even be fined.
So the discipline for #Browns QB Deshaun Watson, pending a possible NFL appeal:
No additional fine
Sue L. Robinson’s decision also requires no massages other than directed by club personnel and no adverse involvement with no law enforcement.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 1, 2022
There has been plenty of outcry from fans, some of whom are outraged that his suspension has been lighter than those given to players who committed less detrimental acts, and some of whom simply felt the acts Watson has been accused of warranted a much harsher sentence.
On the bright side, the relatively light sentence means that the Browns will be allowed to have an elite or near-elite QB in uniform for almost twice as many games as he won’t be allowed to play.
With the strong and talented roster executive Andrew Berry has built over the past several years, Cleveland should still be able to compete for a playoff spot, as long as it can survive its initial stretch without Watson.
The Browns Have A Manageable Schedule Early
Cleveland will be able to ease into the 2022 season, as its September games will be against opponents that will most likely end up missing the playoffs.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 1, 2022
The Pittsburgh Steelers game in Week 3 could be tough, but they’re not a lock to reach the postseason.
All of the Browns’ first four regular season games should be winnable, even with Jacoby Brissett under center.
It will be a tough task to beat the Los Angeles Chargers, even if Watson were allowed to play against them, as they’re looking like a monster on both sides of the football, and the New England Patriots are never easy to deal with.
Cleveland will likely have to win ugly, but luckily, it is equipped to do just that.
They can win games by pounding the ball on a consistent basis to running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, which will allow it to slow down the tempo, and its defense could be one of the best in the league.
If Cleveland ends up winning the majority of those ugly 17-10 ball games, they could be in good position once Watson makes his regular season debut.
The Browns Could Get Some Help From Their Division
As of now, the only strong team in the AFC North is the defending conference champion Cincinnati Bengals.
But what if the Bengals have a Super Bowl hangover and struggle to respond after the rest of the league adjusts to what it did last year?
The AFC is so loaded that there will likely be multiple teams with a winning record that won’t reach the playoffs, making winning their division the Browns’ best bet for postseason play.
They will face the Bengals twice: once in Week 8, when Watson will be allowed to play, and again in Week 14.
Winning at least one of those contests against their cross-state rivals would go a long way in helping the Browns reach the playoffs for only the second time since the 2002 campaign.