On Monday, August 1, 2022, Judge Susan L. Robinson ruled that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson should serve a six-game suspension after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct. While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could still add games to that on appeal, the QB and the NFLPA will not contest the ruling.
This means that from Weeks 1 through 6 of the NFL season, Cleveland will be without its $230 million signal-caller. Here’s what the 2022 Browns schedule looks like through the first third-plus of the season.
Week 1 at Carolina Panthers, Sunday, September 11, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Cleveland Browns kick off the 2022 NFL season with the Baker Mayfield Bowl against the Carolina Panthers. The Browns have loads more talent than the Panthers, and the organization obviously believed backup QB Jacoby Brissett gave the team a better chance to win than Mayfield.
The Browns should win this game on talent alone. However, if Mayfield does beat his old squad, the media will have a field day with the trade and subsequent Deshaun Watson suspension.
Prediction: Browns win
Week 2: vs. New York Jets, Sunday, September 18, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Browns will once again have the overall talent advantage and may even have the better QB. While Zach Wilson could be in line for a breakout year, the Browns veteran has started 24 more games than the former BYU standout and played in 47 more.
This game could go either way and is likely more a referendum on Wilson than Brissett or the Browns. However, in the home opener, the Dog Pound should give the home team the advantage and propel Cleveland to 2-0.
Prediction: Browns win
Week 3: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, September 22, 8:15 p.m. ET
In Week 3, the Browns take on the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers without Deshaun Watson. Finally, Cleveland sees a team without a significant talent deficit, but again, the Browns could have the better QB.
Depending on who wins the Steelers training camp battle, the Browns will either face Mitchell Trubisky or rookie Kenny Pickett. On a short week, with Mike Tomlin on the opposite sideline, the Browns probably lose this one. However, if Pickett’s under center, it’s anyone’s ballgame.
Prediction: Steelers win
Week 4: at Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, October 2, 1:00 p.m. ET
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Browns are more talented than the Atlanta Falcons and might even have the better QB. Atlanta — with Marcus Mariota or Matt Corral — could be one of the worst teams in the NFL next season.
Going on the road in the National Football League is always a tricky proposition, but the Falcons just aren’t a good team. Brissett should be able to game-manage the Browns to another W.
Prediction: Browns win
Week 5: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, October 9, 1:00 p.m. ET
Finally, the Cleveland Browns face a team during the Deshaun Watson suspension that has a distinct talent and quarterback advantage. The LA Chargers are one of the most talented teams in the league heading into 2022, and Justin Herbert is a top 10 signal-caller.
The Chargers should roll over the Watson-less Browns. That said, it is a West Coast team (and a Chargers West Coast team) coming east for an early Sunday game. This formula has hurt even the best West division teams over the years, so you never know.
Prediction: Chargers win
Week 6: vs. New England Patriots, Sunday, October 16, 1:00 p.m. ET
Finally, we reach the first and only game during the Deshaun Watson suspension, which seems like a 100% loss for the Browns. Bill Belichick has made his career by exploiting teams’ biggest weakness, so Jacoby Brissett is likely in for a rough day.
Could Mac Jones have a sophomore slump and the offensive take a step back without an offensive coordinator in New England? Sure. However, it’s hard to believe Belichick won’t figure things out against a team without its franchise QB.
Prediction: Patriots win
Final Browns record during the Deshaun Watson suspension
The best guess seems like the Cleveland Browns will go 3-3 during the six-game Deshaun Watson suspension. Could things go bad, and the team goes 2-4 or even 1-5? Sure. With the relative lack of strength in this first part of the Browns 2022 schedule, there is a way the team could go 4-2 or even 5-1, too, though.
All in all, it seems like things worked out about as well as they could have for the Browns. The only thing that could change this now is Roger Goodell tacking on more games to Watson’s punishment.