In less than 5 days the Cleveland Browns are hoping for a second consecutive season opening game victory. This would be for the first time since 1993 to 1994. Ironically enough, both of those victories were against the Cincinnati Bengals. The same team the Browns are hosting next Sunday. Browns fans are ripe with anticipation and optimism. Is this optimistic feeling accurate for Browns fans? Or are the critics and naysayers, correct? Most of those same naysayers didn’t bother to do a deep dive into the team’s roster. They would just wave their hand and say, “it’s the Browns”. They could maybe point to Deshaun Watson’s last year’s 6 game performance. But not much else. They have one thing right; the season opener outcome will be impacted by quarterback play. But are they talking about the right quarterback?
Deshaun Watson had an extra week of practice with the Hall of Fame game on the preseason schedule. During the entire training camp, he took practice reps with starters including the joint practices with the Eagles. Watson also had some preseason game reps to help him prepare for the upcoming season. The Cleveland Browns organization worked to do everything possible to get Watson back to his 2020 form. Or at least as close as humanly possible to the 2020 version of our quarterback. Meanwhile in Cincinnati on July 27th their opening day of training camp, franchise quarterback Joe Burrow suffered an unfortunate non-contact calf injury. He had to be carted off the field. He did not return to practice with the Bengals until August 29th. He missed 5 weeks of practice, training camp reps and preseason game reps. In 2022 Joe Burrow missed a similar amount of time when he had to have his ruptured appendix removed. His 2022 season opening game performance was not good at all.
Last season’s opener the Bengals hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers. Burrow went 33-53 with 338 yards, 2 TDs and 4 interceptions. One interception was returned for a touchdown. He ended the game with a quarterback rating of 60.8. The Bengals lost the game 23-20 in overtime. In 2022, their first eight games they had a 4-4 record. After a Monday Night Football 32-13 loss to the Browns on Halloween. The Bengals went on a tear as a team finishing 12-4. (Buffalo Bills game was cancelled after player health scare) They went on to win the AFC North Title, defeated the Ravens in the Wildcard Game, and had a road playoff victory over Buffalo. They were stifled by the juggernaut Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. It’s safe to say that the Bengals along with Joe Burrow had a slow start in 2022 but had a strong finish. Could the Bengals and Joe Burrow have a repeat of 2022? We’ll have to watch and see for ourselves.
This coming Sunday Joe Burrow will have had 12 days to shake off any lingering offseason rust to prepare for the Browns in Cleveland. He has not had much success in Cleveland Browns Stadium or even against the Cleveland Browns. Browns fans have seen firsthand what quarterback rust looks like in 2022. Deshaun Watson said “there will be fireworks” on opening day. The real question is, will there be fireworks after Sunday’s game celebrating a Cleveland Browns victory? Let’s hope the Browns are prepared to light it up!
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