Baker Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers will face off against his former team, the Cleveland Browns, in Week 1 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Mayfield, selected by the Browns with the top pick of the 2018 NFL draft, spent his first four seasons playing for Cleveland, guiding them to the playoffs in 2020 and claiming the franchise’s first postseason win in 18 years.
But after a down 2021 season, Mayfield was traded to Carolina in the offseason after Cleveland acquired Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.
Mayfield was named the Panthers’ starting quarterback on August 22, succeeding 2021 starter Sam Darnold, who threw for just 2,527 yards with a 59.8 completion percentage in 12 starts.
Mayfield and the Panthers should have a fully healthy Christian McCaffrey, who has played just 10 games over the past two seasons, and No. 1 receiver D.J. Moore available for Week 1.
Watson will not be available for Cleveland after being suspended 11 games for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy. Jacoby Brissett is expected to guide Cleveland’s high-flying offense that includes Amari Cooper, who the Browns acquired from the Dallas Cowboys for two draft picks, and the two-headed running back monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Here are the best Cleveland vs Carolina betting tips to consider for Week 1.
Browns vs Panthers Odds
The Panthers are a slight favorite given their home-field advantage and the fact Brissett isn’t at the same caliber as Watson. Each team did not meet expectations in 2021, so there is undoubtedly some penalty paid for that as well.
Browns vs Panthers Implied Score
Panthers 21.75, Browns 20.25
Cleveland averaged about 20 points per game last season with Mayfield starting 14 games. The Panthers averaged about 20 points in the seven games McCaffrey played a year ago and should have a more potent offense with Mayfield playing QB.
Browns vs Panthers Pick of the Day
Read more on this Browns vs Panthers bet below.
Browns vs Panthers Matchup
The Browns were 8-9 in 2021 after going 11-5 the year before. Cleveland should have high expectations given its extremely talented roster, although Brissett, who has just 7,742 yards in 37 career starts, is a huge question mark.
If Brissett can keep the Browns offense afloat until Watson comes back this has all the looks of a playoff team, even in the loaded AFC North.
It’s easy to forget Carolina started last season 3-0, given the fact its season was torpedoed by the disappointing ankle injury McCaffrey sustained in Week 3 against the Houston Texans. The Panthers also lost six games by eight points or fewer as coach Matt Rhule‘s highly-touted offense finished just 29th in the NFL in points scored.
Browns vs Panthers Prediction
Panthers 28, Browns 24
There’s a possibility the game-wrecking pass rush duo of Jadaveon Clowney and Myles Garrett makes life difficult on Mayfield. But given the fact Mayfield has a lot to play for, and will have the safety valve of a healthy McCaffrey, there is huge potential for Carolina to roll over Mayfield’s former club, especially with Moore and deep threat Robbie Anderson serving as his main receiving weapons.
This pick would be substantially different if Watson were suiting up for Cleveland, but Brissett is an efficient but unspectacular quarterback. Carolina, which allowed the 13th-fewest rushing yards in 2021, should be hellbent on stopping the running game and forcing Brissett to make plays with his arm.
Mayfield may be the higher risk-reward quarterback, and it’s possible that he could lose the game by trying too hard to force the issue, but when in doubt, I’m taking Carolina’s playmakers over Cleveland’s.
Browns vs Panthers Bet Tips
The Browns have not won their season-opening game since 2004 and are 0-16-1 in their first game since their last 1-0 start. Cleveland is 5-5 against the spread in its past 10 season-opening games dating back to 2012.
Carolina will open its season at home for the fifth straight season. The Panthers are 2-2 in the previous four and have the same record against the spread in that span. Carolina went 4-3 in games McCaffrey played in 2021 and is 5-5 ATS in games in which he’s suited up dating back to 2020.
Browns vs Panthers Best Bets
Panthers -1.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook
As stated above, we think Mayfield is poised for a big, breakout-style game to show the Browns exactly what they’re missing. Rhule and new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo will undoubtedly draw up a scheme for Mayfield to find McCaffrey out of the backfield and Moore on intermediate routes.
The question is whether or not Carolina’s defense up to the challenge, especially defending the run against Chubb and Hunt. Still, the Panthers should be able to defend their home turf and win a close-ish game.
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Over 41.5 Total Points (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook
The Panthers and Browns were two offensively moribund clubs in 2021. But with dynamic athletes suiting up for both sides, especially McCaffrey who is a bona fide game-breaker when healthy, there should be points scored.
I know defenses typically are ahead of offenses in the season’s early going — and continuity might be hard to come by, especially for Cleveland, since Watson has taken the bulk of first-team reps during the preseason — but both sides should be able to put up points.
Browns vs Panthers Props
D.J. Moore: Anytime Touchdown Scorer (+160)
Moore’s production was essentially a microcosm of the 2021 Panthers season. He scored three of his four touchdowns in the first four weeks of the year, but his productivity cratered as Darnold struggled without McCaffrey in the lineup.
But with a new and seemingly more productive quarterback, Moore should be able to flourish, especially given the prospect of a not-quite-up-to-speed Denzel Ward covering him. Cleveland’s lockdown corner spent most of the preseason on the Browns’ physically unable to perform list and did not play in a preseason game. Plus, Rhule will surely dream up schemes to get his lead receiver away from Ward’s blanket coverage.
Betting a McCaffrey touchdown is also almost a sure bet. But the odds on that are (-170), which only makes sense as a parlay leg. Moore scoring is a far more lucrative option.
Kareem Hunt: Anytime Touchdown Scorer (+215)
Hunt had a tumultuous offseason where he requested a trade then was not dealt. The best way for him to boost his trade value is to perform, and given the odds and the likelihood of him seeing red-zone snaps, this is a strong prop to consider.
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Browns vs Panthers Parlays
Best Same-Game Parlay (+275) at FanDuel Sportsbook
- Panthers Moneyline
- Alternate Total: Over 37.5 Points
- Christian McCaffrey Anytime Touchdown
As stated above, we love the Baker Mayfield revenge game. We love the Over, given the prospect of a bona fide gunslinger like Mayfield chucking the ball around to guys like McCaffrey, Moore, and Anderson while also using his legs to make plays. But teasing down the total by four points mitigates any potential offensive deficiencies the Browns have with Brissett under center.
McCaffrey only scored one touchdown a year ago due to the injury woes. But he should be able to find the end zone. If he does, this parlay should be good.