Deshaun Watson will start as quarterback for the Browns against the Houston Texans on December 4.
This week, general manager Andrew Berry indicated that Watson would resume practising on November 14.
Watson’s record-setting contract guarantees that he will be their quarterback when the Browns come to Houston in Week 13.
The 3-Game Schedule Before Watson Returns
Following their bye this coming Sunday, the Browns will travel to Miami, take on Buffalo, then host Tampa Bay at home. That’s a total of three formidable foes in as many Sundays. It would take a Browns fan with a lot of confidence and bias to bet on three straight wins.
The Bills will be heavy favourites over Cleveland. Even so, Miami will be favoured. The Browns will likely go either 2-1 or 1-2 during this three-game set.
Many people have labelled Sunday’s game against the Bengals as a must-win, but Sunday’s game against Miami is just as crucial.
In other words, the Browns will likely be at 5-6 or 4-7 when Watson returns. That’s a fair and reasonable assumption to make.
The Six-Game Schedule After Watson Returns
The Browns’ schedule is as follows: Houston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, New Orleans, Washington, and Pittsburgh. Only the Baltimore and New Orleans games are played in Cleveland.
Current rankings and records imply that both Houston and New Orleans are winnable contests.
Houston is the weakest opponent imaginable for a clearly rusty Watson to make his debut against. This does not negate the fact that Watson once played in Houston and left on bad terms. The Texans may have additional emotion on their team.
It is unlikely that Watson will lead the Browns to a 6-0 record while “running the table.” Since the Texans’ 41-38 loss to the Titans on January 3, 2021, he has not participated in an NFL game. It has been 23 months since the last live NFL game.
Watson completed 28 of 39 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in the defeat. Despite the loss, it was a remarkable day for any NFL quarterback.
Watson may be able to shake off his rust and lead the Browns to a 5-1 record. Yes, it is possible. A score of 4-2 is more plausible.
Season End Prediction
An overall season record of 9-8 is produced by a 2-1 record before Watson’s participation and a 4-2 record upon his comeback. After a 3-5 start, it results in a 6-3 result. Sadly, it presumably implies there won’t be any playoffs.
An argument for this season ending with a 7-10 record may be made from a pessimistic perspective. Definitely, 8 to 9 are highly likely.
Following the Bengals’ humiliation on Monday night, fervent supporters may have visions of a 10-7 record and a playoff place. It’s encouraging that the defence just had their best performance.
A record of 8-9 and a record of 11-6 would definitely guarantee qualification for the playoffs and, quite perhaps, first place in the AFC Central Division.
Although it’s conceivable, doing so would require the defence to keep getting better and Watson to continue being very effective despite his extended layoff.
It is difficult for me to say this, but I believe an 8-9 or 9-8 record is plausible, barring a meltdown or a sudden run of victories.
The most important point is that neither a 5-3 nor a 4-4 record has been attained as of yet. We can’t just erase and disregard the very winnable games that we lost to the Jets, Falcons, and Chargers.
A Longer View
When they signed Watson, management and ownership must have known he would be suspended for at least some time, but what did they expect?
No one knows for sure, but I doubt they bargained for a ban that would keep them off the field for 11 games. This team was put together with the specific goal of winning in 2022 and going far in the playoffs.
To play football, Watson must remain with the Browns until the 2026 season, according to his contract. The squad is young and talented enough to be competitive for the next four years. Even if Watson’s pay makes future moves costly, their opportunity to win a Super Bowl will stay open.
An 8-5 record after 8 games in 2022 would be disappointing given the high hopes from preseason training and the current 3-5 record after 8 games. I don’t think it could be much worse than that.