After a long and winding offseason filled with controversy and injuries, the Cleveland Browns will finally open the 2022 season on Sunday when they travel to Charlotte, N.C. to take on the Carolina Panthers.
That game will have a little more meaning than usual as it will pit former Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had some choice words about the matchup, against his former team.
After months of anxiety about Deshaun Watson’s suspension, it is now time for Cleveland to overcome its circumstances and give itself a shot at somehow reaching the playoffs this year.
In the past 20 seasons, the team has gotten to the postseason only twice, and all of Northeast Ohio is starving for some real success from the Browns.
However, several national media outlets don’t think it will happen.
The Sporting News is picking them to win just seven games and finish last in the AFC North this year due to Watson’s 11-game suspension and all the offensive problems it will cause.
NFL.com feels the Browns’ ceiling is just 9.8 wins, and its prediction is 8.4 victories, just barely under the over/under line.
Although some Browns fans may stubbornly feel the team will find a way to pull together and get a few unexpected wins without Watson, it is very understandable the NFL community isn’t hopeful about its chances this year.
Without Watson, Everyone Must Step It Up
No one, other than Watson and his accusers, know what really happened during those dozens of massage therapy sessions during which he has been accused of sexual misconduct.
But the fact is that he was found to have violated the league’s code of conduct, and he will be unable to play for the first 11 games of the schedule.
Watson’s alleged misbehavior has seemingly divided the Browns’ loyal fan base in two, with some fans ever swearing they will never root for the team again.
But his suspension, as well as Mayfield’s departure, has left a gaping hole under center.
Jacoby Brissett, who has started 37 of his 60 career games, will try to fill that void, but he isn’t exactly someone who generates tons of confidence among fans.
Just in case, the squad has also brought in Joshua Dobbs, Josh Rosen and Kellen Mond for additional depth at QB.
— Fred Greetham (@FredGreetham9) September 1, 2022
The Browns’ best hope is to muck up each game, keep the pace and scores down as much as possible and win ugly with their defense and running game.
Behind Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and a talented offensive line, they certainly have the personnel to keep themselves in games while Watson is fulfilling his discipline.
— BrownsAllTay🧡🤎 (@TWoods_12) September 7, 2022
With four relatively manageable games to start the season, Cleveland will likely need to start 3-1 or 4-0 in order to maintain any real hope of making the playoffs.
Starting with a Week 5 matchup versus the Los Angeles Chargers, things will get tough for it, and it will need to find a way to upset a few of the contenders it will face beginning that week and ending with Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The following week, Watson will be eligible to return – against, of all teams, the Houston Texans, his former employer.