The announcement finally came on Monday morning. Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season after an investigation into sexual misconduct by Watson involving accusations from multiple massage therapists.
There was a feeling that the suspension could have been a season-long one or at least stretch out to eight games. Appeals are possible, although, on Watson’s side of things, he figures to be willing to accept the six-game ban considering that the NFL Players Association announced they will not appeal the ruling.
The NFL was looking for a much longer suspension so perhaps they could appeal the decision.
With the idea that Watson will miss the first six games, let’s take a look at the impact when it comes to the sportsbook.
Cleveland’s odds to win the AFC North Division have gone from +300 to +225 since the news broke. The Browns still trail Baltimore and defending AFC champion Cincinnati in the odds to win the division title.
Impact on Browns Schedule
The first five teams that the Cleveland Browns will play during the regular season missed the playoffs in 2021. The first 2021 playoff team that Cleveland will meet without Watson would be the New England Patriots in Week 6.
Three of the first six opponents, Carolina, the New York Jets, and the Atlanta Falcons, could be among the worst teams in the NFL this season. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers might be playoff teams in 2022.
A 3-3 or 4-2 start isn’t out of the question even without Watson in the lineup. Games against Baltimore, Cincinnati, Super Bowl favorite Buffalo and NFC title contender Tampa Bay would be among the first five games in which Watson would be eligible to play.
A Dec. 4 game at the Houston Texans — Watson’s former team — could result in one of the more surreal scenes in recent NFL memory, as the pushback from Watson back on the field could be rather intense.
Breaking Down the Odds
According to the NFL expert picks, the Browns are coming in at +2500 to win the Super Bowl and that is tied for 12th overall and tied for seventh among AFC teams.
The NFL picks to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, something that Cleveland has never accomplished, came in at +1200 before the suspension was announced. The number is currently at +1000.
Watson is currently tied for fifth at +1000 in the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award according to the NFL predictions. If Watson were to win that award, after his off-the-field behavior led to the Texans sidelining him for the 2021 season, it would be on the eye-opening side even by NFL standards.
Judge Sue L. Robinson’s decision says Deshaun Watson’s “pattern of behavior was egregious,” but notes that behavior was “nonviolent sexual conduct” in explaining the decision to suspend him six games, per source.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 1, 2022
Watson’s NFL Odds to win the Offensive Player of the Year award remain at +2200, which is tied for 11th. Running back Nick Chubb (+1600) is the Cleveland player with the best odds to win that award.
Watson is tied for 16th at +5000 in the odds to win the NFL’s regular season MVP award.
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Who’s Up First?
The quarterback position figures to belong to Jacoby Brissett until Watson is cleared to return. The first game when Watson would be eligible to return to action would be on the road against AFC North Division favorite Baltimore.
Brissett passed for 1,283 yards with five touchdown passes and four interceptions in 11 games with the Miami Dolphins in 2021. He passed for 3,098 yards with Indianapolis in 2017 and 2,942 yards with the Indianapolis Colts in 2019.
Brissett has a 14-23 record as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He was 2-3 as the Miami starter last season.
Watson had a 28-25 record as the starting quarterback in Houston before he was traded to Cleveland in the offseason. He missed the entire 2021 season when lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct were being filed by massage therapists.