No wonder the NFLPA put out that statement on Sunday night, asking the NFL to join them in not appealing Deshaun Watson's suspension.
Six games for Watson, the Cleveland Browns' quarterback, has to be viewed as a best-case scenario for Watson and the team. It seemed at times during the offseason like Watson could miss most or all of the season. The NFL was reportedly pushing for a full year suspension. That's why the Browns' AFC North odds at BetMGM shifted. The Browns opened the offseason as favorites to win the division, but fell to third behind the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals as the Watson situation was unsettled.
There will be plenty said about the length of the suspension and how that looks for the league — Watson's suspension will be compared often to Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, who got a one-year suspension for some bets on NFL games that totaled a little more than $1,000 — but in a strictly football sense it's a win for the Browns. You can see that in the betting odds.
The Browns were 30-to-1 to win the Super Bowl on Sunday at BetMGM. On Monday, those odds were shifted to 20-to-1 with the news that Watson would be available for the final 11 games of the season. Their odds to win the AFC moved from 16-to-1 to 11-to-1.
Clearly the Browns' prospects at a big 2022 season got better with news of the light Watson suspension, and the odds reflect that.
Deshaun Watson should return Week 7
There wasn't any news right away if the NFL would appeal disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson's decision. Let's assume for now that the suspension sticks at six games. Here are the games Watson would miss if that's the case:
Week 1, at Carolina
Week 2, vs. New York Jets
Week 3, vs. Pittsburgh
Week 4, at Atlanta
Week 5, vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Week 6, vs. New England
Watson would be eligible to return in Week 7 at Baltimore. He will play in all four games against the Bengals and Ravens, the two teams that were listed ahead of the Browns in the AFC North odds.
The Browns have said they'll go with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback when Watson is out. Late last week they were listed as 1.5-point favorites over the Panthers in Week 1. The Jets and Falcons have two of the lowest win totals on the board for the season, and the Steelers are projected to be a sub-.500 team by those win totals. A 3-3 start for the Browns while Watson is suspended seems feasible. They could even emerge with a winning record after those six games.
The biggest question post-suspension could be Watson himself.
Browns' odds shift after news
Watson didn't play at all for the Houston Texans in 2021, amid his trade request and off-field issues. He won't play this year until Oct. 23 (again, assuming the six-game suspension holds). That's a long time between playing an NFL game.
Watson is also getting used to his new teammates and scheme and will be joining the Browns about a third of the way into the season. That's difficult too.
Watson is a top-end quarterback and he should return to that level, but we also don't know how the toll of the intense attention to his off-field issues and all that time off will affect him. Maybe it won't have an impact on him at all. But it's a question heading into the season.
Mostly, Monday's news brought clarity to the Browns, in terms of what their season will look like. They have a fairly light six-game stretch to start the season, then they get one of the NFL's best quarterbacks back in the lineup.
Most of the Browns' future odds had been off the board for much of the offseason as the Watson situation lingered. For at least the Super Bowl odds, which stayed up, the outlook for the Browns is much better after the suspension news.