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The Cleveland Browns are flying under the radar this season, which is okay

The Deshaun Watson factor will linger nationally even if the Browns start winning

NFL: Preseason-Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

As great of an offseason as the Cleveland Browns have had, there are some national media pundits who aren’t buying into them. In fact, most are not.

Despite having a stacked roster, which most consider the most talented it’s been in quite some time, many believe that this team is still going to finish last in the AFC North.

Granted, this division could be the best in the league this season. The Cincinnati Bengals are going to be in the conversation regardless, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have made improvements to their squads.

For some reason, NFL Network correspondent Adam Rank has the team going 6-11:

Browns fans took note of that, and so did safety Juan Thornhill:

It’s no mistake that the national media are low on the Browns this season but it doesn’t take long for anyone to connect the dots as to why this is the case:

The reason is simple: QB Deshaun Watson.

The off-the-field issues that led him to be traded to Cleveland are well-documented. While it does not impact logical analysis of on-the-field ability, many have good reason to have a negative outlook on Watson.

On the field, Watson looked nothing like the quarterback he was in Houston. It is easy to write that off as shaking off the rust but until he proves he is the player he once was, along with the far more important off-the-field issues, optimism is not coming his way.

Fast forward to this preseason and Watson looks completely different from last season. I was able to attend a training camp practice this year. His athleticism is still there but his processing, ability to maneuver and command the offense stood out to me. Getting a full offseason seems to have him in the right space.

Separating Watson the person from Watson the player is tough as Kyle Brandt noted on The NFL Network:

Watson could potentially return to a top-10 level and the Browns will be in the playoff discussion in a loaded AFC. The national media would have no choice but to talk about the Browns, but again it wouldn’t be a surprise if they didn’t and that is okay and understandable.