NFL appeals Deshaun Watson's six-game suspension; Browns 2022 win total odds remain on hold at sportsbooks

The NFL will appeal the six-game suspension for Deshaun Watson.
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Most of the NFL world was surprised that retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson handed down just a six-game suspension for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for violating the league's personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct. The NFL was hoping for a full season and had until Thursday at 9 a.m. ET to file a written appeal of Robinson's ruling. That appeal already has been filed, which is why various sportsbooks have held off on posting Browns win totals (or make/miss playoff odds) for the 2022 season. The SportsLine Projection Model forecasts Cleveland for 8.7 wins if Watson's suspension sticks at six games.

Via the appeals process, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee "will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute'' per terms of Article 46 in the league's collective bargaining agreement. So, yes, Goodell in theory can hear the NFL's appeal himself. Any additional games added to Watson's suspension will likely result in a lawsuit from the QB's camp.

In relying on precedent, Robinson sought to differentiate between violent and non-violent sexual conduct. She concluded that Watson's conduct "does not fall into the category of violent conduct that would require the minimum 6-game suspension" which the league had established as "by far the most commonly-imposed discipline for domestic or gendered violence and sexual acts." 

Robinson agreed with the NFL's factual assertions – in her report she wrote how "Mr. Watson's pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL" -- but her ruling relied on 32 previous suspensions under the personal conduct policy since 2015. In 21 of those instances, the league suspended the player for six games. The longest suspension was Jarron Jones getting 10 games last year, but that case involved a criminal plea and multiple incidents of domestic violence. Watson was accused of sexual misconduct or assault in 24 lawsuits, only one of which remains unsettled.

Any response to the appeal by the NFL Players' Association must be filed in writing within two business days. Watson can still practice with the team throughout the preseason and play in preseason games. The Browns' first preseason game is Aug. 12 vs. Jacksonville, which opens the 2022 preseason Thursday in the Hall of Fame Game vs. Las Vegas.

Jacoby Brissett will be Cleveland's regular-season starting QB for however long Watson is suspended – and it's not getting shorter than six games on appeal. In his career, Brissett has started 37 games and owns a 14-23 record. He's completed 60.2 percent of his passes during his career and has an 83.0 passer rating.

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