Baker Mayfield vs. Browns creates shifting odds

Baker Mayfield. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
Baker Mayfield. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images) /

So, are you buying the narrative that an amped-up Baker Mayfield will get his revenge on Sunday?

A dose of reality may be settling in as the Cleveland Browns now find themselves rated as pick ‘em versus the Carolina Panthers after being underdogs ever since Mayfield was traded to the Panthers back in July.

As of Friday morning, Wynnbet listed the two teams as rated even. This may have to do with a weather forecast for a wet sloppy field, which might put a damper on the aerial show eager Mayfield fans are expecting.

The national sporting press narrative, which is also held by the pessimistic portion of the Cleveland fan base, up to this point has been that Mayfield will be supremely motivated to get revenge on his former team; that he always plays better under pressure; that Carolina is a much different team with Christian McCaffrey in the lineup; Carolina has the home field advantage, and the Browns have Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and he has not provided us any decent quotes all year.

Add it up, and the result is a massive Carolina win. Ergo, the Browns, who had been -3 point favorites for much of the summer, have found themselves in the role of underdogs ever since trading Mayfield for a day three draft choice.

Bakermania, Carolina style, might be a bit overrated. First of all, if you look up the projected win totals for the two teams, Carolina is a 6.5-win team, and the Browns are projected at around 9.0 wins. The Browns had a top-five defense last year in terms of yards allowed, and a top-five running game. Why should they be anything but decent even with a backup quarterback under center?

As for the “extra motivation” narrative, in reality, everyone wants to win. Jacoby Brissett has as much to prove as Mayfield, he just doesn’t entertain us by running his mouth quite as much. Both Mayfield and Brissett are in their first year with a new team and new offense. They may not be in midseason form, and it wouldn’t be a total shock if they are occasionally out of sync with their receivers.

A wet, slippery ball in rainy conditions might not help the passing game all that much. In case you are wondering, Mayfield’s hand size measured 9 1/4-inch at the combine; Brissett’s measured 9 3/4-inch.

Mayfield is a very good quarterback, but he’s not the world’s greatest motivational psychologist. If pessimistic fans didn’t believe in it when he was in Cleveland, why believe in it now that he’s in Carolina?

Sam Darnold got off to a great start early last season when he was paired with a healthy McCaffrey, so might Mayfield benefit in the same way? CMC is a great player, to be sure, and posted 4.5 yards per carry last season. However, the Browns have four players on the roster who posted 4.9 yards per carry or more.

The Panthers were also helped by playing the New York Jets and Houston Texans in Week 1 and Week 3, respectively. Carolina put together a tremendous defensive effort in game two versus the Saints in Week 2. Give McCaffrey and Darnold their share of credit for Carolina’s good start last season, but there may be a difference between opening against the Browns instead of the Jets.

Mayfield is going up against a coach who is all too familiar with his weaknesses and a defense that practiced against all of his tricks for four years. Who has the advantage in the teacher vs. pupil matchup? If it’s Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick, go with the student; otherwise, it’s usually the teacher who wins.

Carolina does have the home-field advantage. But so do the Detroit Lions (also a 6.5 projected over/under win total team), going up against the Philadelphia Eagles, who are projected at 9.5 wins. That is only 0.5 wins better than the Browns, but Philly is playing in a weaker division with Washington and the Giants).

So why are the Lions +4.0 point underdogs, according to Wynnbet? What’s the difference between Browns vs. Carolina compared to Philly vs. Detroit?

These are things that make you go: “Hmm.” However, gamblers drive bigger cars and live in fancier homes than sportswriters. They’re smarter than we are.

So please don’t use this article to make decisions about betting. Nevertheless, while not challenging the superior understanding of pros at Wynnbet or BetSided, it’s surprising that the experts expect Carolina to perform so well (or conversely, the Browns to perform so poorly).