The Browns had a huge game in Pittsburgh last week and it went about as well as every big game for this franchise in the last 30 years: the Steelers won 38-7 and Baker Mayfield had statistically the worst game of his career. Mayfield was rattled early, threw a pick-six, finished with a 5.5 QBR, and he was pulled early after doing further damage to his rib injury.
Mayfield is expected to start on Sunday, and the good news is he had a 98.4 QBR in the Week 2 win against the Bengals, a mediocre pass defense. Still, this injury clearly hindered Mayfield on Sunday and it’s a cause for concern for this offense’s production.
Cleveland still insists it can compete with the Ravens and Steelers in the AFC North, but the results this year say otherwise. The Browns were outscored 76-13 in losses to those teams while going 4-0 and averaging 37.5 points per game against lesser competition.
So this is the right kind of opponent for the Browns to look good against. If Mayfield isn’t in great shape, then he can still lean on Kareem Hunt, who has done a good job while Nick Chubb has been injured. The Bengals allow over 5.1 yards per carry this season so the rush defense has been an issue. We also know Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry can adjust to poorly-thrown balls, but chances are this will have to look different than the 35-30 shootout in Week 2 if the Browns are going to win with an injured quarterback.
Burrow is leading the league in pass attempts as the run game has been stagnant with a poor offensive line not creating much for Joe Mixon. Burrow hasn’t been throwing interceptions like Manning did to start his career, but he’s taking a lot of sacks and struggling to get the big plays down the field. Those sacks could be an issue against Cleveland with Myles Garrett (7.0 sacks) on the other end. Garrett has a sack in five straight games.
But outside of the Baltimore game, Burrow has played well enough to give the Bengals a chance each week. The Bengals have blown three fourth-quarter leads and missed two clutch field goals so far this season. A.J. Green has been a big disappointment in his return season as a 32-year-old wideout. He had one of the worst games of his career in Week 2 against the Browns when he caught 3-of-13 targets for 29 yards. He at least had a season-high 96 yards on Sunday against the Colts, but the defense blew a 21-0 lead in that game.
Burrow doesn’t have the gaudy efficiency numbers of Justin Herbert or other past great seasons from rookie quarterbacks, but you have to like that he finds a way to give the Bengals (4-2 ATS) a chance most weeks. He isn’t a turnover machine and he’s had four 300-yard passing games already.
He just needs a little more help right now.