CBS Sports - No. 25 (down 4 spots)
They just aren’t scoring points with Deshaun Watson, although the weather impacted the offense against the Saints. He has to pick it up.
ESPN - No. 26 (down 5 spots)
On March 18, the Browns traded three first-round picks to the Texans for Watson then signed him to a new five-year deal worth $230 million, the richest contract in NFL history. Watson, however, was suspended for 11 games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual assault and inappropriate sexual misconduct during massage sessions. The suspension meant backup QB Jacoby Brissett filled in for those 11 games. Whatever happens moving forward, the franchise will be defined by the Watson trade.
NFL.com - No. 26 (down 6 spots)
The Browns’ playoff hopes died Saturday in fitting form — a frustrating one-score loss that came down to a lack of execution in the game’s most important moments. Deshaun Watson led the Browns to just one touchdown drive in miserably cold conditions, but that doesn’t tell the whole story: Amari Cooper slipped and was unable to catch a surefire touchdown pass in the first half, while Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Njoku both failed to come up with potential touchdown catches on accurate Watson throws during Cleveland’s final drive. The last two weeks become fully about getting Watson up to speed ahead of 2023 and beyond.
Sporting News - No. 25 (down 3 spots)
The Browns’ first abbreviated season with Deshaun Watson will end without a playoff trip and not because of quarterback play and the running game, but more for porous defense that became injury-riddled and struggled mightily vs. the run at times and broke down vs. the pass at the other times.
Yahoo Sports - No. 23 (down 3 spots)
I get why everyone is eager to rip Deshaun Watson, but judging the Browns trade a failure because he didn’t play well on that ice rink of a field on Saturday isn’t it. The trade might be a failure but you shouldn’t make any big judgments from what happened in those conditions.
Bleacher Report - No. 24 (down 5 spots)
The Cleveland Browns made arguably the most controversial acquisition in NFL history when they acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson shortly after the conclusion of police investigations into reports from 10 women accusing him of sexual harassment or assault. It was a move that cost Cleveland multiple first-round picks and a $230 million fully guaranteed contract. And so far, the return on that investment has been…not great.
Granted, some growing pains were to be expected given that Watson hadn’t played in nearly two full years. The weather in Cleveland certainly didn’t do the passing game any favors, either. But after completing just 15 of 31 attempts for 135 yards and an interception Saturday, Watson is completing 57.7 percent of his passes, averaging 175.8 passing yards per game, has more interceptions than touchdowns and has a passer rating of 69.3. That’s not the superstar the Browns thought they were getting, and Davenport thinks the long-term concern in Cleveland is genuine.
“There will probably be an effort made by some to write off Watson’s struggles in a lost season as rust,” he said. “But there’s going to be tremendous pressure on Watson to flip the switch in 2023, and it’s going to be awfully hard to improve the team around him with little cap space and no first-round pick. The Watson saga is already pretty ugly, and it could get a whole lot uglier from here.”
The Ringer - No. 25 (down 4 spots)
Deshaun Watson has been the 31st-ranked quarterback (among 34 qualifiers) in EPA per dropback since making his first Browns start in Week 13. And overall, the offense is performing substantially worse with Watson (minus-0.26 EPA per drive or worse) than it did with Jacoby Brissett (when it was below minus-0.15 just once in Brissett’s 11 starts). Officially eliminated from the playoffs after Saturday’s loss to New Orleans, Cleveland’s top priority in its last two games must be to show any signs of life offensively with Watson at the helm.
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.