Romilly Evans expects an improving Cleveland outfit to have too much for the unraveling New York Jets in this week's Monday Night Football...
"Siemian's pass-the-parcel move to the MetLife Stadium, by way of Minnesota, feels more ticking time-bomb than surprise gift"
Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets
Start-time: Tuesday, 01:15
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
Mayfield to discover green pastures after Week 1 shocker
When my editor dropped this Monday night match-up on my lap this week, the words "hum" and "dinger" weren't exactly marching towards my lips with swift stride. Both sides (Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets) crumbled from promising early beginnings in Week One, largely due to some poor decision-making from their green quarterbacks, and already look set for another season of living down to expectations in front of some increasingly restless fans.
However, it's only Week Two. So, it's far too early to be writing off anyone's post-season chances, as emerging units on either side of the ball can take a few games to gel cohesively. That comment certainly applies to Cleveland, who took the collective eye of many shrewd pre-season pundits with a stonewall D now allied to an offense packing a one-two (ground-aerial) punch between the towering talents of running man Nick Chubb and NY Giants acquisition Odell Beckham Jnr at wideout. Supposedly, with Baker Mayfield under center, all the 24-year-old had to do was relax the reins on a powerful juggernaut.
Well, Mayfield was relaxed to the point of loose against Tennessee, and the wheels soon came flying off. Wilting under pressure with five sacks, coupled to three fourth-quarter interceptions, Mayfield mustered the most miserly of QB ratings. Do the Browns still need him with a Passer Rating of 64?
In short: this is, of course, no time to be doubting the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner. Mayfield took the defeat on the chin and promised to rebound immediately. He's always been a fast learner and can make the corrections and connections late tonight.
In truth, against a banged-up New York Jets defense, Mayfield doesn't need to figure out everything at once. He just needs to minimise the mistakes, hand it off to Chubb at regular intervals and wait for Beckham to find separation and break free. Discretion will prove the better part of valour.
On the other side of the park, young Sam Darnold has been carted off to school sanatorium for several games, leaving Trevor Siemian at the helm of a rudderless ship. Particularly if the all-star Le'Veon Bell, whose status is still listed as questionable, fails to recover from his shoulder niggles.
After a white-hot start back in his Denver days, the suspicion always remained that Trev wouldn't be able to maintain his hot hand for the Broncos, and general manager John Elway evidently agreed. The Denver legend is a shrewd judge of quarterback, and if he saw no merit in keeping Siemian, his pass-the-parcel move to the MetLife Stadium, by way of Minnesota, feels more ticking time-bomb than surprise gift.
More specifically, Mayfield already enjoys some warm and fuzzies around the Jets, after he sprang off the bench in Week Three last term to galvanise the Browns to a 21-17 victory, snapping a 19-game losing streak. From there, the Browns improved with every passing week to register a 7-8-1 record in 2018/19. And OBJ won't lack for motivation either, returning to his former New Jersey stamping ground.
Therefore, it could be wiser to view last week's pipe-opener as a temporary blip from a team that will soon add up to the sum of their combined parts. The Browns will have to, hailing as they do from the perennially competitive AFC North. That said, with Pittsburgh slow to go and Cincinnati positively dropping anchor, Cleveland may only have to worry Baltimore out of contention for their first divisional title since 1989. They certainly have the tools at their disposal to justify that off-season avalanche of money for an unlikely Super Bowl push.
In the final analysis, this all seems pretty clear-cut, with two teams trending in different directions (largely because of illness and injury), even though we're just a fortnight into the current campaign. Take the Browns with confidence across a variety of attractive handicap lines.
Back Cleveland Browns (-6) to win on the Match Handicap @ 19/20 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Cleveland Browns (-3) to win on the First Half Handicap @ 17/20 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Cleveland Browns to win on the First Half / Second Half @ 6/4 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Over 26.5 Away Team Points @ 19/20 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Odell Beckham Jr. to score the 1st TD & Cleveland Browns to win @ 8-1 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Baker Mayfield 300+ Passing Yards & Odell Beckham 100+ Receiving Yards @ 11-2 on the Betfair Sportsbook