Realistic expectations for the Browns with Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson will be eligible to make his first start for the Cleveland Browns this weekend.

After an incredibly painful and toxic offseason for the Cleveland Browns, Deshaun Watson will be making his first start with new team this weekend vs. his former team.

The former Clemson star and first-round pick of the Houston Texans completed his 11-game suspension this past week. Cleveland went 4-7 with Jacoby Brissett as the Browns starter filling in for him. While Cleveland has the talent to be a borderline playoff team, the Browns underachieved over its first 11 games of the season. They were about a win or two worse than largely expected.

So with Watson making his not-so-triumphant return to Houston on Sunday, what are some reasonable expectations for him and the Browns in their final six games of the 2022 NFL season?

Cleveland Browns: Realistic expectations for Deshaun Watson this season

Here are the remaining six games left in the regular season after Watson is eligible to come back.

  • Week 13: at Houston Texans (Dec. 4)
  • Week 14: at Cincinnati Bengals (Dec. 11)
  • Week 15: vs. Baltimore Ravens (Dec. 17)
  • Week 16: vs. New Orleans Saints (Dec. 24)
  • Week 17: at Washington Commanders (Jan. 1)
  • Week 18: at Pittsburgh Steelers (Jan. 8)

On paper, the best team the Browns will play the rest of the way is the Baltimore Ravens at home in Week 15. The worst team they will play is at Houston on Sunday. While the Cincinnati Bengals and the Washington Commanders are arguably better than them this season, the Browns are probably better than the New Orleans Saints and the Pittsburgh Steelers at this point of the year.

In theory, Cleveland is capable of splitting its final six games, possibly going 4-2 with Watson at the helm. Conversely, the Browns could go 2-4, maybe even 1-5 if Watson is rusty and divisional play gets the best of Cleveland the rest of the way. This really brings into question the most important part of Watson being reinserted into the starting lineup: How nasty are those cobwebs?

Watson has not played a snap in a game that counts since the end of the 2020 COVID season when he was still with Houston. He sat out all of last year while his legal situation unfolded. If you do the math, Watson has not played a game that matters in nearly two years, having been scratched or suspended for the last 28. The Texans also went 4-12 in his last season with them.

To be quite frank, the Browns traded for Watson because they are desperate for talent at the quarterback position in the most depraved manner possible. Watson is persona non grata in the league, but he can really sling it, which justifies a team like the Browns going after him and landing him. Again, it is all about setting the Browns up for success in 2023 and beyond. 2022 is a trial run.

Realistically, let’s say the Browns go 3-3 the rest of the way to finish the season at 7-10. There will be a game where Watson is the difference-maker, as well as a game where his on-field rust will be too much to overcome. Ultimately, Cleveland would take a 2-4 finish from him as the starting quarterback, so long as he stays healthy and the offense seems to coalesce around him.

As long as the Browns finish at 6-11 or better, they can spin the final third of season as a positive.

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