After eight long months and 11 games of regular-season football without Deshaun Watson, the star quarterback finally returned to the Cleveland Browns in Week 13.
Watson showed some rust during the win over the Houston Texans, his former team. But the victory moved Cleveland to 5-7, just two games behind the New York Jets for the AFC’s final Wild Card spot.
With Ohio sports betting set to kick off on Jan. 1, a playoff push heading into the new year could prove to be exciting for Cleveland fans and Ohio bettors alike.
Browns realistically have shot at wild card spot
At 5-7 through 13 weeks of the 2022 NFL season, the Browns are tied with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers at the bottom of the ever-competitive AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are tied for the division lead at 8-4, holding a three-game advantage over Cleveland and Pittsburgh with five games left to play.
Though a longshot to win the division, the Browns’ next two games are against Cincinnati and Baltimore. They will be looking to do more than just spoil those teams’ playoff runs, as only three teams sit between the Browns and the Jets.
Will the Cleveland Browns make the playoffs?
The Browns are playing meaningful games in December, thanks to wins in three of their last five games. Two of those wins came against Cincinnati and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both division leaders, with the third coming in Watson’s return against the Texans.
Their five remaining games feature three divisional tilts and another game against a playoff contender. Three of those games are on the road:
- Week 14: at Cincinnati Bengals
- 15: vs. Baltimore Ravens
- 16: vs. New Orleans Saints
- 17: at Washington Commanders
- 18: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Cleveland betting odds over the rest of the season
Going into Week 14, the Browns are a 6-point underdog on the road against Cincinnati. The Bengals are arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now, coming off back-to-back wins against two of the best teams in the league, the Tennessee Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Browns upset the Bengals in a one-sided, 32-13 matchup in Week 8. While the Bengals look like a much different team than at the end of October, Cleveland has played plenty of close games this year and will likely be involved in another one come Sunday.
There will be considerable interest in betting on the Cleveland Browns once sports betting is live. Here are the team’s current odds:
Cleveland Browns current odds (along with applicable rank):
- +650 to make the playoffs
- +2,500 (3rd) to win the AFC North
- +6,000 (10th in AFC) to win the AFC and make the Super Bowl
- +13,000 (17th in NFL) to win the Super Bowl
- Season over/under win total: 7.5
Start-of-year odds (along with applicable rank):
- +178 to make the playoffs
- +380 (3rd) to win the AFC North
- +1,200 (T-6th in AFC) to win the AFC
- +3,700 (T-17th in NFL) to win the Super Bowl
- Season over/under win total: 8.5
Can Watson make a difference for the Browns?
The Browns acquired Watson on March 20 in a trade with the Houston Texans. Cleveland bet the house on Watson, giving up three first-round picks plus three other picks across the 2022-2024 drafts.
Presently, the Texans would receive the 13th overall pick in the 2023 draft from the Browns. As part of the deal, they will also get the Browns’ third-round pick in 2023.
Watson, the Texans’ 2017 first-round pick and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, requested a trade from his former organization after the 2020 season. He sat out all of 2021 and fulfilled an 11-game suspension due to sexual harassment allegations to start the 2022 season.
In his first game back, Watson brought plenty of cobwebs onto the field, as would be expected after nearly two years off the field. He completed 12 of 22 passes for 131 yards and one interception, with the offense accounting for zero scores on the day.
The Browns ultimately hope he will return to playing at an MVP-caliber level.
With each passing week, the game should slow down for Watson, who has practiced with the team all season and has a sound understanding of the offensive playbook. Expect a few weeks before he gets back to speed.
Defense must keep coming up big
Watson has the second-best offensive line according to Pro Football Focus, along with a top-five rushing attack led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb is second in the league in both rushing yards (1,119) and touchdowns (12).
The offense should be fine throughout the rest of the year, but defense wins championships, and the Browns’ defense is the biggest question mark on the team. It was supposed to be a strength coming into the season but has failed to come close to expectations.
Maybe the “D” turned a corner last week in Houston, though, with a pair of fumble recoveries and interceptions, returning one apiece for touchdowns. The defense also recorded a safety and special teams returned a punt for a touchdown.
Check out other props for Chubb and Garrett
In addition to team betting odds, a pair of Browns in Chubb and star defensive end Myles Garrett are in the running for the following end-of-season awards:
- Most Rushing Touchdowns: Chubb (+275)
- Most Rushing Yards: Chubb (+350)
- The Most Sacks: Garrett (+2,200)
- Defensive Player of the Year: Garrett (+10,000)
- Offensive Player of the Year: Chubb (+13,000)