Browns are sinking in their attempt to keep season afloat before Deshaun Watson's return

The clock is ticking on the Cleveland Browns' season. They had one goal to complete this year while Deshaun Watson served his 11-game suspension: survive. Just long enough for him to get back and potentially lead a run to the playoffs.

With a 23-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, the Browns are running out of daylight and it may be too late to get their season back on the rails before Watson's return, which is expected to be Dec. 4 at the Houston Texans.

Jacoby Brissett is a fine option to start at quarterback for a few games, but at this point in his career starting him for 11 games was always going to be dicey. That's the risk that the Browns accepted when they shipped off three first-round picks to Houston for a quarterback facing the volume of civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and misconduct that Watson was. Now, they've found themselves in a hole that'll be hard to dig out of.

In theory, this Browns team was designed to be able to play games without a starting quarterback. They have a rock-solid offensive line, two of the best running backs in the league and a talented defense on paper. Nick Chubb has done his part to try and secure some wins for the Browns, but they haven’t been able to put together enough complete performances to get across the finish line.

Now, they sit at 2-5 with the Ravens and Bengals each moving to 4-3 this week. If the Ravens and Bengals can play up to their talent level and keep stacking wins, it’s going to be even tougher for the Browns to get back into the playoff race.

They've had some close losses, particularly in this game against the Ravens and in losses against the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons. Perhaps the presence of Watson would have been enough to get them wins in a couple of those games, but that’s just not the reality that the Browns are facing.

This team is in win-now mode. That's the commitment that was made in acquiring Watson. Even with Brissett in the game, the Browns should be expecting more out of the players that they have on the field — particularly on defense. They did hold Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to 23 points this week, but for the most part they've been struggling on that side of the ball. An expensive secondary with a lot of money and picks spent on it has underachieved.

This scenario for the Browns wasn’t totally unforeseen, but it’s still arguably the worst case that they could have foreseen for themselves. They’re just another loss or two away from having an insurmountable hole to make it to the playoffs.

As things stand right now, they’ll be forking over a top-five pick to the Texans for their troubles this season. That stings, because this Browns team clearly has issues that Watson won’t be able to fix by himself.

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