Are Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns post-hype sleepers this season? There's certainly an argument to be made for it. Mayfield and the Browns are no less talented on paper than they were a year ago, but now they have an upgraded head coach and offensive line, plus a lot less cockiness.
This offseason was substance over swag and steak over sizzle for Cleveland. The addition of two new tackles (Jack Conklin via free agency and Jedrick Wills Jr. via the draft) will be a tremendous boost to Mayfield and the Browns offense.
What do the oddsmakers think? Here's where FanDuel Sportsbook has set the over/under for Mayfield's passing yards in 2020:
The posted total is just 72.5 more yards than what Mayfield threw for last season. That is a bit surprising to see given the offensive improvements made this offseason.
Pros for betting OVER; Cons for betting UNDER
Aside from the upgrades along the offensive line, one has to imagine the star players in Cleveland were humbled a bit by last season. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry (when healthy) return to a Browns offense ready to prove a point instead of asking teams to "come get" them. Mayfield has already invited receivers to work out at his Texas home. Oh, and they signed stud receiving tight end Austin Hooper this offseason as well.
Mayfield has averaged 34.4 attempts and 253.5 passing yards per game in his 29 career starts. The latter prorates out to 4,056 yards over 16 games.
So all Mayfield has to do is what he's been averaging in his career with an improved OL, returning Beckham and Landry and the addition of Hooper? Seems like easy money, right?
Pros for betting UNDER; Cons for betting OVER
New head coach Kevin Stefanski may lean heavily on the combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt like he did with Dalvin Cook and Co. in Minnesota. Given talent like that in the backfield, he probably should have that gameplan. While that could prove to be very fruitful to the Browns, it will stunt Mayfield's numbers a bit.
In 18 games with Stefanski as his offensive coordinator, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins averaged 29.2 passing attempts and 233.5 passing yards per game. Keep in mind, Cousins was averaging 40.3 passing attempts and 284.5 passing yards per game in his first 13 games in Minnesota prior to Stefanski taking over the offense.
Those aforementioned numbers represent about a 4.2 attempts per game drop compared to what Mayfield averaged last season. At Mayfield's career averages, that sort of reduction works out to only 215.4 passing yards per game, or a 16-game total of 3,446 yards. The 233.5 passing yards average Cousins had under Stefanski equals 3,736 yards over 16 games.
It's very possible Mayfield experiences similar results to Cousins, even as the Browns become more successful record-wise.
I'll likely stay away from this bet because there are equally good arguments on both sides. If I have to lean one way, it'll be toward the under. Running the ball effectively will be the key to the Browns making a postseason run, and we already have a blueprint of how the offense could look under Stefanski. If it looks like Minnesota's, Mayfield won't reach 3,900 passing yards.
The Play: UNDER 3,899.5 yards (-112)