What do the Browns need in the first 11 games without their new star quarterback Deshaun Watson?
For starters, the backup now starting signalcaller Jacoby Brissett to play like an NFL-calibur starting field general instead of the journeyman he has been so far in his career. He has talent, is a mobile QB just like Deshaun, very high football IQ and is a big-bodied player.
On paper, this Cleveland offense is either great or only so-so. The biggest questions are if the center position is solved and what will the receiver group bring to the table each game?
DBN has assembled some dedicated minds who have spent their time and thoughts to come up with the answer to this query.
So, the question posed is: What is the prediction of the Browns first 11 games without Deshaun Watson?
DBN Staff Writer
Week 1 @ Carolina
QB Baker Mayfield has already won the Panthers’ starting job, and he is going to take it to us. Baker is at his best when he is not challenged with a lot of pre-snap confusion, and when he has options against man to man coverage. CB Denzel Ward can only cover one person, and Panthers head coach Matt Rhule will find ways to get RB Christian McCaffery one on one.
Myles will get his, but Browns DC Joe Woods’ scheme is worrisome in this matchup. On the other side of the ball, RB Nick Chubb will do Nick Chubb things, but it won’t be enough to rely on the running game to play catch-up. QB’s Jacoby Brissett, Josh Dobbs, or whoever is the Browns’ starter will not be able to get the job done, and the Browns will drop this one. Browns 0-1
Week 2 vs. NY Jets
The Jets are a mess. Their WR trio has huge potential, but they are relying on OT Duane Brown to pass protect for QB Joe Flacco, and unfortunately for the Jets it isn’t 2012. Myles and company wreak havoc on D, and the run game is enough to win this game. Browns 1-1
Week 3 vs. Pittsburgh
My brain tells me to pick the Steelers here, but I can’t do it. I think they will have the better offense in this game, and I think they have the better defense top to bottom. Browns win - somehow. Browns 2-1
Week 4 @ Atlanta
I am assuming WR Drake London is healthy for this one, and if he is we are going to have trouble covering two tall pass catchers in London and TE Kyle Pitts. DE Grady Jarrett causes problems inside on defense, and we lose. Browns 2-2
Week 5 vs. LA Chargers
The Chargers throw it everywhere they want, and DE Joey Bosa sacks Browns QB’s at least twice. This one gets tough to watch. Browns 2-3
Week 6 vs. New England
The Patriots put on an absolute clinic the last time we played them (with a rookie at QB, to boot). Their defense is a schematic nightmare for our offense, as the classic Patriots head coach Bill Belichick 3-4 (and its continuation into the current Pats defense) was more or less built to stop the zone run game. Browns 2-4
Week 7 @ Baltimore
I thought Baltimore had one of the best drafts among NFL teams this spring, and it amazes/frustrates me to see players inexplicably fall to them year-after-year. We don’t have what we need to stop their defense schematically or in terms of personnel. Browns lose ugly. Browns 2-5
Week 8 vs. Cincinnati
This is your friendly reminder that we didn’t just beat the AFC Champion Bengals last year, we blew them out. And we swept the Battle of Ohio (though neither Baker nor QB Joe Burrow played in Week 17). It easily could have been us in that game, and then we proceeded to blow up our organization for a guy who is an alleged serial sex offender. Even if we roll over the $23.4 million in 2022 cap in to 2023, we are projected to have somewhere between -$11.5 to -$32.5 million in 2023 (according to Sportrac and Overthecap). All this to say the Bengals will win this one. Browns 2-6
Week 10 @ Miami
I think the Dolphins’ defense is underrated, but we get enough turnovers to win this one. Mike McDaniel is a good coach, but he doesn’t have the personnel he needs on offense yet. Browns 3-6
Week 11 @ Buffalo
The Bills’ offense will take a step back with the reinvented Brian Daboll now coaching in New Jersey. But the Bills are a legit Super Bowl contender and this one gets ugly.
Week 12 vs. Tampa Bay
The Bucs are a really good team with a veteran quarterback who will go far this year and may win it all again. Will not be a close game.
After 11 games: Browns 3-8
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Game 1: At Carolina Panthers (Win)
- With a LOT to prove in Week 1 at Carolina, I’m giving the Browns the edge in this game. While I believe that QB Baker Mayfield will do everything he can to have his new team come out swinging, I feel that the Browns’ defense will be able to come out on top. Even though QB Jacoby Brissett isn’t the most dynamic athlete we have ever seen, I think he will be able to keep the Browns offense afloat and come away with a close win in this matchup. The Panthers offensive line has a ton of question marks, and I think the Browns front will be too much for them to handle. While I think it may be a close game, the Browns defense does their job and the Browns come out on top.
Game 2: vs NY Jets (Win)
- Coming off of a close game against the Panthers, the Browns start hitting their groove and come away with an easy win at home vs. the Jets. Although the Jets had a decent off-season, I think they will struggle to find consistency this season, especially without QB Zach Wilson during the beginning of the season. While I like some of their new pass catchers such as Garrett Wilson, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, I just don’t think they stand a chance against a loaded Browns secondary. I think the Browns will get it firing on all cylinders and put on a show for the fans for the home opener.
Game 3: Vs Pittsburgh Steelers (Loss)
- While the Steelers offense seems to have an abundance of question marks, they somehow always find a way. They’re a well coached team and their defense is going to have to be their recipe for success (it always is). The Browns have a better overall roster, but coming off of two straight wins, I have the Steelers getting the better of the Browns in a close match.
Game 4: At Atlanta Falcons (Win)
- The Browns bounce back after their first loss to the Steelers and come out and stomp the Falcons. The Falcons have one of the worst rosters in the league and I believe that the Browns defense and run game will be enough to suffocate the Falcons early. Sure, the Falcons have some young weapons, but that isn’t going to be enough against Cleveland. The Browns handle their business and get an easy win in Atlanta.
Game 5: Vs LA Chargers (Loss)
- The Chargers have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, with explosive players on both sides of the ball. The Browns were able to rely on their defense and run game to get them to this point in the schedule, but this isn’t going to be an offensive shootout like we’ve seen in years past. While I like Brissett a lot, I’m just not confident in his ability to go toe to toe with QB Justin Herbert. The Browns run game is at the top of the league in my opinion, but solely relying on that to win this game isn’t going to cut it.
Game 6: Vs New England Patriots (Loss)
- Coming off of an ugly loss to the Chargers, I have the Browns losing in this game too. Like the Steelers, they just always seem to find a way. However, offensively, the Browns are able to get it back on track and have success in the running and passing game, just not enough to keep up and get the win. I’m not entirely sold on QB Mac Jones and if Brissett can play a clean game, I think this is a close one, but I have them falling just short.
Game 7: at Baltimore Ravens (Win)
- The Browns break their losing streak and come out on top in a stunning win over the Ravens. While the Browns haven’t had a ton of success with the Ravens in recent years, I think the coaching continuity pays off big here for the Browns. DC Joe Woods has watched QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens explosive offense cut apart the Browns defense time and time again, but Woods finally has the quick, rangy, athletic play makers at all levels of the defense to be able to handle what the Ravens want to do offensively. As long as the defense can do their job and the offense can keep up, I have the Browns getting a surprise win over the Ravens.
Game 8: Vs Cincinnati Bengals (Loss)
- QB Joe Burrow has yet to beat the Browns, but he finally gets his opportunity during Monday Night Football. I am of the belief that the Bengals will have a pretty strong Super Bowl hangover, but I have the divisional game in prime time going their way. The Bengals have had a good off-season of tightening up their offensive line and surrounding Burrow with weapons and I think they will be too much for the Browns to handle in MNF.
Game 9: at Miami Dolphins (Win)
- The Browns bounce back here with a solid win over the Dolphins. The Dolphins bring in new head coach Mike McDaniel, and have some studs in receivers Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, etc. but still some concerns at the quarterback position. If the Browns can get out to an early lead and maintain the time of possession with the run game, I don’t think that the Dolphins will have the firepower to make a comeback. The Browns win big over the Dolphins.
Game 10: At Buffalo Bills (Loss)
- The Bills may be the most complete team in the NFL. The Browns just don’t have the strength offensively to compete in a Brissett led shootout against a probable MVP candidate in QB Josh Allen. However, I’m not enamored with the Bills skill position players. While I see Stefon Diggs, Devin Singletary, Dawson Knox as very good players, I wouldn’t consider them top 5 at their respective positions. With that in mind, I think the Browns defense will be able to make some plays to keep them in the game, I’m just not sure that the Browns running game will be enough to push them over the top in this matchup.
Game 11: Vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Loss)
- Had QB Tom Brady actually stuck with retirement, I probably would have put the Browns on top in this matchup. But with TB12 coming back, I have to give the nod to Tampa Bay here. Assuming the Bucs get their offensive weapons back healthy, I think they could be too much for the Browns to handle.
After 11 games: Overall, I have the Browns going 5-6 with Brissett as their starting quarterback. While it won’t be perfect under Brissett, I am still optimistic that the Browns will be in a position to possibly fight for a wildcard spot upon Deshaun Watson’s return.
DBN Staff Writer
Browns @ Panthers W
The Panthers have lots of issues and a new quarterback who wants to win this game more than anything just won’t be enough. Carolina was 18th against the run last year and the Browns are built to run.
Jets @ Browns W
The Browns winning their first two games is a good thing, but they are playing some easy teams early.
Steelers @ Browns L
Tough one to predict. The Steelers always have a good defense but what will their offensive attack look like other than RB Najee Harris? Should be a close game and could go either way.
Browns @ Falcons W
Starting 3-1 is amazing. This game will not be close. Both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will top 100-yards rushing while three offensive linemen will be mentioned for the Pro Bowl just from this one game.
Chargers @ Browns L
Ah, the difficult games begin. QB Justin Herbert is a very accurate passer and should have a good day with a lopsided score. Herbert threw for the second most yards last year with a 97.7 QB rating. Receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both gained over 1,000-yards last year and are both healthy. The Browns counter with a very good defensive backfield, but this duo is just too much. Chargers prove why they are a very good club.
Patriots @ Browns L
Another good team and another loss although a close game instead of the 45-7 beat down a year ago. RB Damien Harris is a good back who scored 15 touchdowns last season. The weakness of the Pats is their defensive secondary which Brissett will need to exploit.
Browns @ Ravens L
Beating QB Lamar Jackson on the road is a tall order. If they can contain Lamar it may be close. If he exits the pocket it is over while the game will be over by halftime.
Bengals @ Browns L
Halloween game without the treats. QB Joe Burrow is a good runner as well and his passing it sterling. Bengals remind Browns’ fans that the division still runs through Cincinnati. The receiving corps is insane with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd with Stanley Morgan coming off the bench and Hayden Hurst at tight end is a defensive nightmare. If the Browns have any significant injuries in their secondary this one will be a huge problem. The Bengals last year had offensive line issues, which are now fixed.
Browns @ Dolphins W
It has been a while since a win and thankfully a bad offense for the Browns pass rush will cure it all. Miami was 14th against the run last year and have basically the same personnel from last year with five of the front six the same so Cleveland should have a good day rushing.
Browns @ Bills L
Buffalo shows why they are the best team in the league and kill the Browns in a very cold game. Tough to run against this Bills defense plus the weather.
Buccaneers @ Browns W
I don’t know. Will Tampa be THAT good this year with a horrible offensive line and a half-century old quarterback? Will the receiver group come through? Bucs were third best at defending the run last year. I think the Browns might be able to take this one. Or not.
After 11 games: 5-6-0. This stretch will decide if the 2022 season has a post-season chance or is a waste of another year with a talented roster.