What Deshaun Watson suspension means for the Panthers in Week 1

(Jeff Lange/Akron Beacon Journal via IMAGN Content Services) Deshaun Watson
(Jeff Lange/Akron Beacon Journal via IMAGN Content Services) Deshaun Watson /

What does the extended suspension for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson mean for the Carolina Panthers in Week 1?

The Carolina Panthers are slated to open the season against the Cleveland Browns with the obvious question looming of who would be lining up under center for both of these teams. We almost have all the answers.

Baker Mayfield is reportedly close to being named as the Panthers QB1 after a smooth transition to the organization this offseason, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic. Gaining instant revenge on the team that cast him aside will be at the forefront of his mind, but playing the game and not the occasion will be crucial to the player’s chances against a fierce Browns defensive front led by stud edge rusher Myles Garrett.

While the initial six-game suspension for Deshaun Watson would have kept him out of the game against the Panthers regardless, there were questions about who would be under center for Cleveland.

If Watson appealed the decision was there a path to him taking the field in Week 1? If the NFL’s appeal took the former Clemson stud out for the entire season, would the Browns chase after someone like Jimmy Garoppolo to provide them with a better alternative to Jacoby Brissett in 2022?

Carolina Panthers will fancy their chances against the Browns in Week 1

Carolina now has a much clearer picture with the league and NFL Players Association agreeing to an 11-game suspension that will likely see the Browns stick with Brissett to start the season.

Now that we know how long Watson will be out, it seems the Browns won’t bring in another veteran quarterback. This leaves them leaning on Brissett, Joshua Dobbs, or Josh Rosen to get the job done until their $230 million man returns.

From Carolina’s perspective, this sets the team up to not only steal a win on opening day but help Mayfield get revenge against his former team in his competitive debut with the Panthers.

It certainly is a headline-grabbing matchup that favors Carolina at the quarterback position. Something that wasn’t necessarily the case until Watson finally faced the music for his sexual misconduct allegations.

Brissett is serviceable, but he isn’t a playmaker who is going to go out and win games by putting the team on his back. The veteran is considered more of a placeholder who isn’t going to hurt the team and efficiently run the offense that is called.

A win to kick off the regular season would set Carolina up for a hot start considering they will have a very winnable game at the New York Giants in Week 2. Brissett starting for the Browns is good news for the Panthers and one that can build early momentum ahead of what will be a tough schedule in a make-or-break year for head coach Matt Rhule.

Couple this with Mayfield beginning his new chapter against his former employers with the biggest chip imaginable on his shoulder, and it’s not hard to see why this could go in the Panthers’ favor.

Cleveland should not be taken lightly by any stretch of the imagination. But there wouldn’t be many around the league that would take Brissett over Mayfield based on their career production.

And that, above all else, could be the spark that ignites Carolina in 2022.

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