With an excessive amount of fanfare, the NFL released the 2022 schedules for all 32 teams this week.
NFL schedulers put some quirks into the Cleveland Browns slate of games and left themselves open to speculation.
Rumors of Baker Mayfield moving to Carolina might have prompted them to schedule the Panthers in Week 1.
OFFICIAL: The schedule is finally here❗️
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 13, 2022
Analysts point to a relatively easy slate of games in the first 6 weeks, a good deal if Deshaun Watson is suspended.
And Cleveland hits the road for 6 of its last 9 games, minimizing Watson’s challenge with the Lake Erie wind and cold.
In this article, we’ll predict the Cleveland Browns’ wins/losses in 2022 on the assumption Watson plays 17 games.
For Openers- Can Browns Break the Curse?
Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns managed to win one season-opening game, back in 2004.
That is a lot of history to overcome, even if they enter the 2022 opener as 4.5-point favorites over the Panthers.
As of now, Carolina will start a rookie quarterback or Sam Darnold, a decided advantage for Cleveland.
121 days until the Cleveland Browns play the Carolina Panthers to open the season!
— The Browns Clock (@theBrownsClock) May 13, 2022
But season openers, especially home openers, are not always indicative of a season’s projections.
And even in a season with playoff aspirations, Cleveland is a bad bet in Week 1.
If Cleveland manages to take the Panthers game, they can start the season 2-0 for the first time since 1993.
An improved, but untested New York Jets team provides the fodder for the Browns’ home opener in Week 2.
Dealing With Division Foes
Cleveland rolls into 2022 with a new star quarterback and a new #1 wide receiver.
Renewed health across the offensive line, a gelling defense, and their top-ranked running game make them contenders.
But when all is said and done, better special teams play could be the biggest difference-maker.
At 🏠 Under the Lights
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📺: '22 Schedule Release | LIVE on NFL Network pic.twitter.com/6mgWwqr7fV
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 13, 2022
Unfortunately, the Bengals, Ravens, and even the Steelers had successful off-seasons, too.
Las Vegas oddsmakers can’t call the AFC North, predicting the same win total for Cleveland, Cincy, and Baltimore.
And betting against Mike Tomlin never turns out well, so we predict a split across the board against the 3 division rivals.
The Rest of the Pre-Bye Week Field
After a Week 3 Thursday Night Football victory over the Steelers, Cleveland rolls into Atlanta.
Kevin Stefanski’s troops will be the favored team, possibly by a good margin.
But Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, remains incensed by the results of the Deshaun Watson trade game.
New QB in Cleveland.
— Brad Stainbrook (@StainbrookNFL) May 2, 2022
So don’t be surprised if this is a more difficult victory than expected.
Browns fans will be treated to a classic battle between Justin Herbert and Watson the following week.
And the unpredictable New England Patriots come to town after that, but the Browns roll to a 4-0 home record.
Trap Game Out Of The Break
Cleveland should arrive in Miami with a division-leading record of 6-2.
By then, we will know if the Dolphins’ offseason rebuild around Tua Tagovailoa was worth the expenditure.
But the bigger challenge will be not to look past the Dolphins with games at Buffalo and versus Tampa Bay to follow.
.@NickChubb21 was running to the river last time we played in Cincy
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 10, 2022
Likewise, Week 13’s game in Houston precedes games at Baltimore and versus Cincinnati that could decide the division.
Cleveland has to win both trap games and at least one of the 4 tougher games to maintain their title chances.
Rolling Into The Finish
New Orleans comes to Cleveland for the Browns’ final home game in Week 16.
It will be a nationally-televised, Saturday game against dark horse contender that the Browns should pull out.
That is followed by a game in Washington against an inferior team that might still be in contention for a weaker division title.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 31, 2021
Cleveland should cop another victory, especially if the game is vital to their playoff chances.
Pittsburgh hosts the regular-season finale in one of those games where records don’t matter.
Deshaun Watson could end all comparisons to Baker Mayfield with a decisive, division-clinching win here.
Final Tally: 11-6, tied for first in AFC North
Oddsmakers are mostly using 9.5 wins as the target on over/under betting for the 2022 Browns.
In one of the NFL’s toughest divisions, 9-10 wins would not be bad, and 12-13 wins would not shock many fans.
But an 11th victory could be enough to win the division title and guarantee a home playoff game.
You won't find a football team with stronger support than the Cleveland #Browns.
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) May 12, 2022
Stealing a fifth division win by sweeping one of their rivals would make the difference.
And being swept could knock the Browns out of the postseason completely.
That said, Watson, special teams, and a commitment to teamwork should give Cleveland the edge they need.