3 Browns X-Factors Against Bengals in Week 1

The Browns need these X-factors to come through to beat the Bengals on Sunday.

Deshaun Watson is one of the Browns' X-factors against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.
Deshaun Watson is one of the Browns' X-factors against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1. / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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1. Za'Darius Smith

The Browns made several offseason changes, but the biggest move of all was signing edge rusher Za'Darius Smith to a three-year deal worth up to $47 million.

After missing the majority of the 2021 season with a back injury, Smith looked like his usual self last year with the Minnesota Vikings. Suiting up in 16 games, he tallied 10.0 sacks, 15 tackles for lost yardage, and five broken-up passes en route to his third Pro Bowl since 2019 while also finishing ninth in Comeback Player of the Year voting.

With 36.0 sacks over his last three seasons, there's no doubt that Smith is the best edge rusher to play with Myles Garrett. Instead of offensive lines needing to focus just on Garrett, there are two elite threats to worry about.

At least, in theory.

If Smith plays on Sunday as he did last year, the Browns' defense will give the Bengals headaches. At the same time, he just turned 31 years old on Friday and while he still has some juice left in the tank, it remains to be seen if he can still play at a Pro Bowl level in Year 9.

Nevertheless, if Smith and Garrett both play as advertised in Week 1, I'd be shocked if the Browns didn't open the new campaign 1-0.

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