When the Cleveland Browns take on the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, all eyes will be on Baker Mayfield.
Will he get his revenge against the Browns?
Let’s take a look at our writer’s bold predictions for this Sunday’s matchup.
Writer: Wendi Oliveros
After months of headline-grabbing shuffling of the roster, the Cleveland Browns finally kick off the 2022 NFL season on the road Sunday afternoon September 11, 2022, in Charlotte, North Carolina against the Carolina Panthers.
The Browns have a well-documented 18-year season-opening losing streak, and their former first-round pick quarterback Baker Mayfield is now their opponent in Week 1.
The NFL does love drama and knows just how to stir it up.
Kareem Hunt had the best response to the endless questioning the Browns players endured about Mayfield in the weeks leading up to this game.
“I wish him the best, but wish us better.”
I really liked this line from Kareem Hunt today on facing Baker:
I wish him the best, but wish us better.
— Matt Fontana (@MattFontana83) September 9, 2022
Though Mayfield is a big storyline in the frenzy leading up to this game and his jersey in both Cleveland and Carolina colors will be worn by many fans at the game, this game is really about Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey is an outstanding player who can do special things on the football field when he is healthy.
The only chance the Panthers have is if McCaffrey baffles the Browns’ defense which I think is unlikely.
Mayfield will play well, but it will not be enough to lead his new team to a win over his former team.
In the twisted irony that is only the NFL, he will be involved in the Browns turning around their horrendous losing streak in season openers.
This could be a close game, but in the end, the Browns will prevail with a 21-17 final score.
The Browns will escape Charlotte 1-0, relieved to have the win and this game with the Mayfield storyline behind them.
My Prediction: Browns 21, Panthers 17
Writer Pat Opperman
Week 1 of the NFL season is always one of the most difficult to predict.
Season openers tend to get more out of the home team than expected.
Coaches spent weeks preparing for this specific game versus the few days they have for the rest.
Some starters who didn’t play in the preseason look like they could have used a preseason game.
And when you have a narrative like that Panthers’ quarterback trying to save his coach’s job…
Who am I kidding?
That quarterback is trying to earn a big contract for himself- whether in Carolina or elsewhere next season.
And to hear the press and fans talk about it, every single Browns player wants to sack or pick off that quarterback.
Even the offensive guys!
Hopefully, this Baker Mayfield nonsense is massively overblown.
NFL players always look for an edge, and building up a revenge narrative is one way to get yourself hyped, I guess.
But the Browns better be careful about the real offensive star in Carolina.
Ignoring Christian McCaffrey won’t make beating the Panthers an easy task.
And they better pay more attention to wide receiver DJ Moore than they do to Rashard Higgins or Robbie Anderson.
Moore is the only player among the top 10 yardage receivers in each of the last 4 seasons- even with Sam Darnold!
Carolina also has one of the best pass defenses again this season, and they bolstered their interior line.
For all the hype about Mayfield and the Browns’ running game, this could be a decidedly defensive affair.
Cleveland is also fighting history and the ghosts of 17 consecutive winless season openers.
It just adds to the pressure of Jacoby Brissett’s 11-game bid to rebuild his reputation.
And despite the odds, I think they do it.
My Prediction: Browns 17, Panthers 16
Writer: Ben Donahue
It wasn’t that long ago that a game between the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns would have been a near guarantee for Cleveland.
However, with former Brown Baker Mayfield now in Carolina, and Deshaun Watson’s suspension, the outcome is in doubt.
Sprinkle in a healthy dose of injuries to various Cleveland players in the preseason, and a backup quarterback starting for the Browns, and a Week 1 loss seems to be imminent.
Jacoby Brissett doesn’t have to carry the day, though.
In fact, Cleveland has Nick Chubb, who can literally help carry the Browns to a victory.
In 2021, Chubb averaged 5.5 yards per carry on his way to 1,259 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
Then, there’s Kareem Hunt, who averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 386 rushing yards and five scores in 2021.
The Browns’ offensive line lost a great player in J.C. Tretter in the off-season and it remains to be seen if the center position will be a weakness this year.
Thankfully, the line still has veterans Jack Conklin, Wyatt Teller, Jedrick Wills, and Joel Bitonio to push people around.
Word around the league among most pro football pundits has the Browns losing to the Panthers, primarily due to running back Christian McCaffrey’s depth of skills and a “motivated’ Mayfield.
It doesn’t help that the game is in Carolina as well.
If the Browns running game can pile up yards, Myles Garrett and friends unmotivate Mayfield, and Brissett can do just enough to keep Carolina’s defense on their toes, Cleveland may escape with a win.
My Prediction: Browns 24, Panthers 21