Did you know Deshaun Watson is back? He is, seriously ... I saw him. Watson took snaps for the Browns and threw passes, and everything — and he was functionally worse than Jacoby Brissett in the process.
It was a banner day in Houston for the Watson redemption arc to begin, and no shortage of willing participants to start pushing the narrative. Shit, the sun hadn’t even risen yet when Adam Schefter posted his obligatory, agent-mandated “make my client look good and I’ll keep giving you info” quid pro quo.
Deshaun Watson has made what NFL and NFLPA experts have described as "signs of progress" during his mandatory treatment program, per sources.https://t.co/7az28z8HrE— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 4, 2022
“Signs of progress”?! Wow! You mean, he hasn’t sexually assaulted anyone or coerced them into sex acts in five months? Hell yeah Deshaun, great work dude. I mean, we can ignore the fact he’s not allowed to see any massage therapists outside of the Browns organization and he’s severely limited on what outside contact he has with women at all — he’s making some really astounding progress worthy of praise the morning of his first game.
We can bury the details of the 28 different women who filed suits against Watson in the sixth paragraph, like Schefter did. You can click through and find it, it’s just before defending his completely happenstance return against the Texans and at least it got higher billing than pointing out Watson is the sixth QB to make his return against his old team — which is still a third the number of women who allege Watson made unwanted sexual advances, forced them to touch him, or coerced them into performing sex acts.
No, Watson is back... the focus should be on football now. Focus such as, how much everyone loves Deshaun Watson, even in Houston, where they should hate him.
So, let’s focus on football then. Watson sucked. He was total ass. Deshaun was so exceptionally lucky to be carried by a good defense, and only then were the Browns able to make it past the worst team in the NFL by 13 points. Looks, it’s early, I get it — and there was bound to be a lot of rust returning to the league after a two year absence.
Watson finished the day 12-for-22, 131 yards and an interception. His passer rating was a 53.4, which is lower than Brissett’s worst game of the season against the Patriots on 10/16. There’s really no sugar coating how bad Watson was in his first game back.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think this will last. What I saw on Sunday wasn’t a Russell Wilson-like absence of football acumen, and more akin to a player coming back from injury. It’ll take time, and on the field the Browns will be fine. I leave that caveat open because this team still sold its soul and this remains the most gross, reprehensible chapter in recent NFL history. The only saving grace is that Cleveland isn’t good enough to make a playoff push this season, so we’ll be spared the full onslaught of “Watson the redeemed” until 2023, when this team likely will be good enough to make the postseason, unless Watson stays as bad as he looked on Sunday, in which case this will eclipse the Broncos dealing for Russell Wilson as the new worst trade in NFL history.
More than anything this whole situation was just so damn disappointing. I thought we might actually make it through one NFL suspension return without some insider feeling the need to carry water for an agent, but shame of me for being shocked, I guess.
Winner: Geno Smith
The Seahawks have to extend Geno Smith as quickly as their contract signing hands can handle.
Trading away Russell Wilson didn’t just give Seattle a war chest of picks for the future, it allowed the team to realize the gem it had in house. It’s not like Smith was a desperation signing — he’s been in Seattle since 2019 and put in some solid performances, but as we all know at this point the career resurgence Geno has had in 2022 is nothing like anything we’ve seen from him in the past.
Beating the Rams without Matthew Stafford isn’t exactly a difficult task, especially with how bad L.A. has been this season, but Smith’s performance was an extension of everything he’s done this season. He’s been happy to not be the focal point of the Seahawks’ offense, but when the game has required him to take over, Smith has taken over the game.
Geno made plenty of plays on Sunday, but there was ice water in his veins on the game-winning throw to D.K. Metcalf, which he made look easy, but this was a really difficult throw to make.
Geno Smith. Clutch.— Sami Jarjour (@SamiOnTap) December 5, 2022
DK Metcalf. Clutch.
Seahawks. Clutch. pic.twitter.com/kfAnlBGDYo
The Seahawks have been one of the NFL’s best surprises this season. Smith tied Russell Wilson’s franchise record for his sixth game straight with a passer rating of 100+, and now it’s just on Seattle to get the best player available in the draft, lock up Geno long-term, and soar again.
What an incredible story.
Loser: Jeff Saturday
Another week, another loss — and this was unquestionably his most embarassing. The Colts gave up 33 points in the fourth quarter alone, and Indianapolis quit on the game. It turns out maybe having some coaching experience was a good thing.
The Colts are now 1-3 with Saturday at the helm, and getting worse with each passing week.
Winner: The Vikings’ confidence
Minnesota may not have wrapped up the NFC North on Sunday, but this feels like it’s decided. The Lions and Packers have a weird outside chance of still winning it, but it requires a complete collapse from the Vikings — and they this team is playing well enough that it doesn’t seem like a possibility.
On Sunday the Vikings faced a serious challege from the Jets, one that tested this team’s ability to handle adversity. For much of the year Minnesota has been used to rolling on offense, and hoping their defense would hold. On Sunday the script was flipped, because Sauce Gardner ate Justin Jefferson’s lunch for much of the afternoon, and the team still found a way to win regardless.
The Vikings are such an odd team. Everything about them shows them among the NFL’s elite, but there’s just this prevailing feeling I can’t shake about them that they’re a major step behind the other top teams. I don’t think this is necessarily fair, but I’d love to be more convinced as we approach the playoffs — but this is about as good as it gets, I suppose.
Tie-ers: The Giants and Commanders
I love so much that a lot of the discussion leading up to Sunday was how the Giants and Commanders needed a win to solidify themselves in the NFC Playoff picture, and then they both decided to tie and throw it all to hell.
Honestly, it shows just how razor thin the margins in the NFC East are, even with the two worst teams — who are still better than anything the NFC South has to offer. Watch this as we approach playoff time, because man, with big markets like this there’s going to be a lot of angst as Tampa Bay walks in with a losing record and either the Giants or Commanders are on the outside looking in.
Winner: Jared Goff
I really don’t know what to make of Goff moving forward, but I do know he’s having the quietest season a potential 4,000 yard QB has had in recent memory. The assumption for the Lions is that they’d be desperately trying to find a new quarterback in the draft or through free agency — but now I’m not so sure.
The way Goff is playing it doesn’t really feel like getting a QB should be Detroit’s biggest priority, and at this point the team is playing high-caliber football because of Goff. I still don’t think he’s a player who can bring a team a Super Bowl, but this isn’t near the drop off people expected when the Lions traded away Matthew Stafford.
Goff is still on a pretty team-friendly deal for another two seasons, and he’s young enough that there’s no reason to rush this. Much like Seattle the Lions are in a really good spot, and Dan Campbell is showing that his team is ready to compete.
I’m watching for 2023, because that’s when Detroit’s window will really open.