The Cleveland Browns and their mega-salaried quarterback Deshaun Watson may be coming into the 2023 season with a bit of a chip on their shoulders because the prognosticators think all the money in the world isn’t going to buy the Browns a winning record and a playoff spot.
Deshaun Watson Doesn’t Deserve His Salary, According to 1 Expert
Looking around at the predictions made after the NFL officially released its 2023 schedule last Thursday, May 11, the experts do not think very highly of the Browns chances, even with their star quarterback playing his first full season with the team.
“The Browns will have their quarterback for an entire year at a salary an NFL starting quarterback should earn — just not this one. They aren’t as good as the three other teams in the division, and that means flirting with .500 once again. Record: 7-10,” wrote USA Today analyst Barry Werner.
Sports Illustrated doesn’t think much better about the Browns’ season, predicting that they go 8-9 and finish last in the AFC North.
“After struggling in the first year of the Deshaun Watson era, the Browns enter 2023 with the benefit of a last-place schedule. Cleveland should be favored in most of its games outside the division, but the AFC North matchups are going to be rough. Last year, the Browns went 3–3 in the division and should be improved with Watson fully reinstated,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s analyst Matt Verderame. “If Cleveland is going to push for a playoff spot, it’ll need to win some of the softer games on the slate, including home dates with the Cardinals and Bears, and road games against the Texans and Colts.”
While Bleacher Report thinks the Browns could be “a playoff challenger,” they still only predict the team to go 9-8.
“The Browns have flirted with an above-.500 record in each of the past two seasons, and after a very strong offseason, they should finally get over the proverbial hump and perhaps back into the postseason,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, adding, “With the seventh-easiest schedule in the league, Cleveland should be a playoff challenger. Whether it’s anything more than that will depend on how quarterback Deshaun Watson plays in his first full season following last year’s 11-game suspension, which came after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual assault and misconduct. If Watson can show some semblance of the Pro Bowl form he had with the Houston Texans, the Browns could be a surprise AFC contender.”
Fox Sports says that “ultimately,” the Browns will be go “as far as Deshaun Watson takes them,” saying the pressure is on to “live up to his five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract.”
“If he doesn’t step up, the Browns are a middling team,” writes Fox Sports’ Ben Arthur, predicting the team to finish 9-8.
Pro Football Network is a Lone Predictor Saying the Browns Will Contend
Pro Football Network’s analyst Ian Valentino is perhaps the only pundit who thinks the Browns have what it takes. He still only thinks they’ll finish 10-7, but he does call them “one of [his] top Super Bowl sleepers.”
“I expect their offense to be much improved in 2023. With Watson no longer rusty and playing in a more spread offense with capable weapons, the Browns have serious talent worth watching. Getting favorable home draws will certainly help that,” wrote Valentino. “The two toughest road games that could swing their season come at the Seahawks and at the Broncos. Both are much better home teams than on the road, and Cleveland must notch as many wins as possible in order to survive the brutal AFC North.”
ESPN’s Jake Trotter doesn’t actually make a prediction for the Browns’ win-loss record, but he does say that he thinks they’ll win their home opener against Cincinnati on September 10 and that if they can survive their tough first five games, they “could be well on their way back to the postseason after a two-year hiatus.”
The bright side of their first five games, which are against their three division opponents, the Tennessee Titans, and the San Francisco 49ers is that the Browns play four of those five at home. Their only away game before October 22 is at Pittsburgh on September 18.
The full Browns 2023 schedule is below:
Week 1, Sunday, September 10 vs. Bengals, CBS, 1 p.m. ET
Week 2, Monday, September 18 at Steelers (MNF), ABC, 8:15 p.m. ET
Week 3, Sunday, September 24 vs Titans, CBS, 1 p.m. ET
Week 4, Sunday, October 1 vs. Ravens, CBS, 1 p.m. ET
Week 5: BYE
Week 6, Sunday, October 14 vs. 49ers, FOX, 1 p.m. ET
Week 7, Sunday, October 22 at Colts, CBS, 1 p.m. ET
Week 8, Sunday, October 28 at Seahawks, FOX, 4:05 p.m. ET
Week 9, Sunday, November 5 vs. Cardinals, CBS, 1 p.m. ET
Week 10, Sunday, November 12 at Ravenx, FOX, 1 p.m. ET
Week 11, Sunday November 19 vs. Steelers, CBS, 1 p.m. ET
Week 12, Sunday, November 26 at Broncos, FOX, 4:05 p.m. ET
Week 13, Sunday, December 3 at Rams, FOX, 4:25 p.m. ET
Week 14, Sunday, December 10 vs. Jaguars, CBS, 1 p.m. ET
Week 15, TBD vs. Bears
Week 16, Sunday, December 24 at Texans, CBS, 1 p.m. ET
Week 17, Thursday, December 28 vs. Jets (TNF), Prime Video, 8:15 p.m. ET
Week 18, TBD at Bengals