The Cleveland Browns win total was not even on the board after the 2022 NFL schedule was released. Sportsbooks, the NFL, and the Browns themselves were waiting on the outcome of Watson’s massage fiasco. Finally, it was announced that Watson would serve a six-game suspension as a result of his violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
With that announcement, several sportsbooks pegged the Browns at 9.5 wins. The NFL appealed the decision and Watson’s suspension was upped to 11 games. Now, the Browns win total sits at 8.5 at most sportsbooks. How should NFL bettors play?
Watson will not play the first 11 games of the season for Cleveland. With a bye in Week 9, that means Watson will not be eligible to play until Week 13 when, ironically, the Browns travel to Houston to face the Texans. Houston, of course, traded Watson to Cleveland in the offseason.
Panthers name Mayfield starting QB
Prior to that game with the Texans, the Browns schedule looks like this. Cleveland has two very winnable games to start the season. They will play at Carolina and then host the Jets. The Panthers will have RB Christian McCaffrey back and former Browns QB Baker Mayfield will be the Carolina starter. A win over the Panthers isn’t a guarantee.
In Week 3, Cleveland faces rival Pittsburgh. The Steelers have owned the Browns over the last two decades. Since 2000, Cleveland has just nine wins over Pittsburgh. Cleveland is at Atlanta in Week 4, which is another game like Week 1 in Carolina. It could go either way.
The Chargers, among this year’s Super Bowl favorites, are the Week 5 opponent and that starts a stretch of four games that could break the Browns – Chargers, Patriots, Ravens, and Bengals. Then, Cleveland goes on the road to Miami and to Buffalo before getting another Super Bowl favorite – Tampa Bay – at home in Week 12.
Brissett is 14-23 as a starter in the NFL
With Watson out, the Browns will roll with Jacoby Brissett. He has starting experience in the NFL, 37 games to be exact. Brissett started five games in Miami last year. He went 2-3 and was adequate. For his career, Brissett is 14-23 as a starter in the NFL.
There is a talent drop off from Watson to Brissett, but what’s worse is what happens if Brissett ends up injured. The Browns No. 2 quarterback now is former Steeler Josh Dobbs, who has attempted a grand total of 17 NFL passes. After Dobbs, the Browns offense would fall to the hands of former first-round pick Josh Rosen.
When Watson returns, the Browns will be at Houston. That’s another winnable game. Cleveland then travels to Cincinnati and has Baltimore at home the following week. In Week 16, the Browns have New Orleans at home then go to Washington before closing the season at Pittsburgh.
Even if Cleveland could somehow manage to win four or five games without Watson, getting to nine wins seems like a huge stretch. Four of the Browns final six games are on the road. Two of those opponents are in the AFC North – Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Sure, Cleveland could be beat Houston, New Orleans, and Washington with Watson in the lineup. Winning six of the first 11 games without Watson just isn’t happening. The Browns are currently sitting at +4500 odds to win Super Bowl 57 at SportsBetting.ag and they are +425 to win the AFC North (behind Baltimore and Cincy)