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What Watson’s Return Means to Browns, AFC North...and the Odds

Written by:
Don Shapiro
Published on:
Nov/29/2022

His final game as the steward of the quarterback position in Cleveland, saw Jacoby Brissett earn the win, and what a win it was. Down by a touchdown, 32 seconds left in regulation, fourth-and-10 at the Bucs’ 12, Brissett hit tight end David Njoku in the back of the end zone.

Overtime.

In the extra period, he twice found Amari Cooper (17 and 46 yards, respectively) before Nick Chubb’s game- winning, three-yard touchdown.

It was a great team win, and a great win personally as Brissett beat Tom Brady, whom he understudied early in his career in New England. Cleveland is on the right track entering December.

Brissett also puts the pressure on Deshaun Watson to continue the winning.

Deshaun Watson Officially Back

At exactly 4 pm ET this past Monday, the league officially reinstated Watson after his 11-game suspension. He will take first-team reps at practice, beginning Wednesday when the team retakes the practice field. At some point during the week, he will address the media.

He will be more contrite (possibly) than the last time he spoke to the media, though never sufficiently in the minds of many. The suspension’s length is never going to satisfy many people, either. Watson is back, regardless, and he’s going to start at quarterback again, beginning with Sunday’s game against the Texans in Houston. Ironically, that’s the place where the more than two dozen allegations of harassment took place.

What can we, and  the Browns, expect out of Watson?

Deshaun Watson the Quarterback

The last time Deshaun Watson threw a pass in an NFL game that counted, it was Jan. 3rd, 2021. That was Week 17 of the ‘20 season, Eatson ended with his third-consecutive 300-yard game (365 yards, three touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans in a losing effort).

He finished that season with 4,823 yards (33 touchdowns, seven interceptions), and a passer rating of 112.4. This was the season after he lost DeAndre Hopkins.

There‘s no question Watson is a quarterback with skills. At least he was. When he takes the field in Houston, it will have been 23 months since his last game. Much has happened to him since then, and none of it good. When we saw him play briefly this past preseason, before the NFL issued its suspension, he was someone appearing to just go through the motions, and not a player who wanted to be there.

That was the preseason, and it’s hard to know if any of that was relevant. We won’t really know until this Sunday, and maybe even then, we won’t know. He’s likely to be rusty, even if he’s the old Watson physically and mentally. Houston isn’t much of a test. It won’t really be until the next game (at defending AFC champion Cincinnati) before we know anything.

Perhaps.

Watson’s Impact This Season

Cleveland can’t afford to be losing games, so short of running the table and getting to 10 wins, it is highly unlikely Watson will lead the Browns to the playoffs (they’re a 150-1 shot to win the title, according to Super Bowl odds). Regardless, after his seasonal debut in Houston, there’s the Bengals in Cincinnati, then the Ravens at home.

Those teams are leading the AFC North, so even as the Browns season may be irrelevant by then, what Watson may do to the divisional race won’t be.

Cleveland will play all three of its AFC North foes once more before the end of the season. Assuming a successful “prep”against the terrible Texans, Watson will face a Cincy team coming off a game with the Chiefs. It is possible that will be a need-it game by the Bengals.

Baltimore surrendered another fourth-quarter lead at Jacksonville in a losing effort. Baltimore is playing the Bengals in Week 18. They will need wins to make that a meaningful final game.

Baltimore is odds-on (-250) to take down this division, as per NFL odds.

Watson is back, and like it or not, he is going to have a say on who ultimately wins the North.

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