The page on the latest chapter in the saga of new DeShaun Watson is over – just in time for training camp to start without him. The 6-game suspension given Watson for his mistreatment of two dozen women, deemed a paltry penalty by most public opinion, will certainly have ripple effects across the 2022 NFL season.
Naturally, NFLbets is most interested in how the return of Watson will affect the Cleveland Browns odds for 2022.• Over/under win total: 8½ (+100,-130)
Note that these odds on Cleveland are just the eight-shortest in the AFC, longer than those of both their division mates, the Baltimore Ravens (10/1, 22/1) and defending conference champion Cincinnati Bengals (11/1, 22/1). An otherwise decent value bet of +230 to win the AFC North suddenly doesn’t seem so hot after all. Based on the sportsbooks’ offerings in the “Over/Under Wins Total” proposition bet, the AFC North is expected to look something like this by 2022 season’s end:
Baltimore Ravens, 10-7-0
Cincinnati Bengals, 10-7-0
Cleveland Browns, 8-8-1
Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-9-1
Certainly key to the success of proposition betting the 2022 Cleveland Browns will be about the team’s success in those first six games without DeShaun Watson, in which Jacoby Brissett will presumably be throwing to Jarvis Landry plus free-agent acquisitions Amari Cooper and Jakeem Grant. Fortuitously (?), the NFL schedule makers appear to have given a not unkind schedule over those six:
• at Carolina Panthers
• vs New York Jets
• vs Pittsburgh Steelers
• at Atlanta Falcons
• vs Los Angeles Chargers
• vs New England Patriots
Just two of the six made the playoffs in 2021 (Steelers, Patriots) and only one is currently getting shorter odds to win Super Bowl LVII than the Browns (Chargers, at 12/1). In week 1, the early point spread reads Cleveland Browns +1 at Carolina Panthers.
If Brissett manages to get the Browns to, say, 2-4 (he’s 14-23 lifetime as an NFL starting quarterback), all Watson would still need to lead Cleveland to a 7-4 record the rest of the way – against a slate which includes two games each against Baltimore and Cincinnati as well as at Buffalo Bills and against Tampa Bay Buccaneers in November. That’s a razor-thin margin for both quarterbacks (and a twice-adjusting team) to have to make.
Betting Browns over-8½ wins may therefore depend on your confidence on Brissett and the rest of the team rather than on Watson: If Brissett can eke out three wins – likely in the first four games – than the over is probably golden…