We have finally made it to the start of the NFL’s regular season. The regular rotation of news, moves, games and reactions is upon us and we couldn’t be more happy.
For the Cleveland Browns, the road to relevance starts and ends with the Cincinnati Bengals. What happens between those games in Week 1 and 18 could decide the futures of many connected to the Browns organization including the entire front office and coaching staff.
Some high-priced players could find their contracts closely examined as well if 2023 is a failure.
It is no hyperbole to say that the 2023 season is the most important in Cleveland’s recent history. The Browns have plenty to prove this season and, in just a few days, will get their chance to do just that.
Until Sunday hits, we have a little time left for some predictions and analysis including these three, plus a bonus, takes that some might consider warm to hot:
Donovan Peoples-Jones will lead the team in combined receptions and yards
While Amari Cooper is Cleveland’s top receiver and Elijah Moore is the exciting new toy in the Browns offense, DPJ can not be forgotten. Except, opposing defenses will not be able to provide him as much attention in 2023.
Last year, Peoples-Jones had 61 receptions for 839 yards, second on the team in both categories. His game log shows that he started to really connect with Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the year then, besides 8 receptions for 114 yards against the Bengals, fell off with Deshaun Watson at quarterback.
In 2023, Cooper and Moore will get a ton of attention in the passing offense while Watson’s ability to extend plays could lead to more chunk plays down the field. Moore could vulture some of Cooper’s production on quick routes as well. That will lead DPJ, a pending free agent, to thrive as the team’s third option.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is the team’s defensive breakout star
The Cleveland defense added a lot to the defensive line, Juan Thornhill in the secondary and already had players like Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II and Martin Emerson. The linebacker group is considered a big question mark for the team.
The improvements on the defensive line, especially at defensive tackle, will unlock JOK as a star, do-it-all linebacker. His college tape showed a player who makes plays attacking the quarterback, as a run defender and in coverage.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish version of Owusu-Koramoah returns in 2023.
Deshaun Watson is considered a Top 10 quarterback
This is likely the hottest take on a national level and the most hopeful thought from a local perspective. Watson was a top-five quarterback with the Houston Texans but looked like a middling, at best, version for Cleveland last year.
In 2023, that reverts back. While top five might be difficult, the talent at the QB position has jumped greatly in the last couple of seasons, Watson being considered among the top 10 is reasonable.
Statistically, that would mean over 4,000 yards passing over 25 touchdowns passing, fewer than 10 interceptions while adding 400 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground.
Bonus: Browns return to the playoffs in 2023
How could we have DPJ with a breakout season, JOK a star and Watson and top 10 quarterback without Cleveland making the playoffs? It is possible, given the difficult AFC but the Browns are ready with a new defense, a more consistent kicker and a more explosive offense.
Last year, despite all the problems hopefully fixed this year, Cleveland blew simple games they should win (New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Orleans). If they had won three of those games, a playoff spot would have depended on tiebreakers.
Going slightly further, the Browns will be no worse than one game behind in the AFC North when the season ends. Given the quality of teams in the division, two or three could make the playoffs but make it difficult for each other to get there.
What do you think of these predictions? Are they hot takes? Warm? Not even? What are your predictions for the 2023 Browns season? Share below in our comment section: