The Cleveland Browns' 2023 NFL campaign begins with a massive rivalry matchup when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The AFC North rivals split last season's series, leaving time to tell if Kevin Stefanski's squad can turn the rivalry back in their favor with a victory.
The Browns will live and die by certain players' performances in Week 1. While winning football games requires a team effort, success can't be achieved unless specific individuals deliver on a weekly basis.
If those players can't pull through against Cincinnati, Cleveland could be in trouble.
With that in mind, here are the Browns' three X-factor players heading into the Week 1 tilt against the Bengals.
3 Browns X-Factors vs. Bengals in Week 1
3. Deshaun Watson
The Browns will have a tough time beating the Bengals if Deshaun Watson can't out-duel Joe Burrow this weekend.
I understand complimenting rival players is tough, but credit must be given where it's due. Burrow is a top-five quarterback today who's thrown for over 9,000 yards with 69 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Burrow is capable of taking over a game at any time and while Watson proved he could do that in the past, it didn't look that way last season.
After serving an 11-game suspension to begin the 2022 campaign, Watson left much to be desired when he finally made his Browns debut. He started in the final six games down the stretch, completing just 58.2% of passes for 1,102 yards, seven TDs, and five interceptions while leading Cleveland to a 3-3 record.
That's nothing short of horrific for someone on a five-year, $230 million contract.
If Sunday comes and Watson shows that he isn't better than what we saw last year, the Browns will have a tough time winning throughout the season, let alone in Week 1.