Regardless of how everyone feels about him, Baker Mayfield is ready to kickstart the Carolina Panthers’ resurgence. At least, the Carolina Panthers’ odds make it feel that way. The struggling NFC outfit saw its betting odds across the board shorten. Its regular-season win totals went up by one whole win while its Super Bowl odds also shortened. And to think that one of the biggest off-season moves NFL would only need a conditional fifth-round draft pick.
Mayfield is a definite improvement at quarterback for Carolina but that isn’t saying a lot. The Panthers had the worst quarterback room heading to the 2022 season. Sam Darnold and third-round pick Matt Corral will battle it out for the backup spot behind the former Browns QB.
With Mayfield, Carolina now has two of the top three picks from the 2018 NFL Draft. But unlike Darnold, Mayfield has shown he’s capable of being a starter. His new team has a talented defense and viable weapons on offense. If Mayfield is the answer for this team, the Panthers could continue trending per Carolina Panthers’ odds.
How quickly people forget. Mayfield had a bitter exit in Cleveland, one that was mired with controversies and injuries. But he is still the same quarterback that led the Browns to their most successful era since they returned to the NFL in 1999. Mayfield posted a 95.9 passer rating in 2020 whereas Cleveland finished with an 11-5 record. In the playoffs, this team lit up Pittsburgh prior to bowing out admirably against the Chiefs.
Things came unglued in 2021 thanks to injuries not just to Mayfield but to the Browns. Cleveland’s receiving corps was decimated and the defense regressed. Mayfield toughed it out playing through a torn labrum and a knee contusion. Despite being hobbled, Mayfield still finished the season with an 83.1 passer rating while throwing over 215 yards a game at a 60 percent completion rate.
Now healed and rested, Mayfield already has his eyes set on Cleveland for Week 1. The Carolina Panthers’ odds favor them to beat Cleveland, especially with player Deshaun Watson (Mayfield’s replacement) expected to be suspended. A win will start Mayfield’s reign in Carolina on a positive note.
Mayfield is joining a Panthers squad that upgraded a lot on offense. The team bulked up the offensive line in a big way. The Panthers had one of the worst lines last season, which contribute to Darnold’s horrible play. The team used its sixth overall pick to take Ikem Ekwonu who could be the draft’s best lineman. Carolina also added veterans in Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman. All-in-all, pass protection should not be as damning as it was in 2021.
And if Mayfield lacked options in Cleveland, he won’t have that problem in Carolina. D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson are two of the best one-two options at the position. Just a few seasons ago, both posted 1,000-yard seasons and this was with Teddy Bridgewater throwing the ball. Mayfield is a more dynamic and potentially robust passer than Bridgewater.
While Mayfield remains a longshot to win any personal awards per the NFL betting odds, a return to his 2020 form is highly plausible. We haven’t even discussed All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey yet. He’s played just 10 games in the last two seasons but he raises the team’s offensive upside significantly when he’s on. Together with Mayfield’s offensive creativity, Carolina may just feature a top offense in 2022.
On The Other Side of the Field…
Carolina also boasts one of the best young defenses in the NFL. This team finished in the top 10 in pressure rates. Brent Burns is an emerging force as a pass rusher while the secondary is solid. Jaycee Horn had a short season thanks to an injury but when he returns, he forms a formidable tandem with Donte Jackson. Jeremy Chinn at safety is also improving into a Pro Bowl-caliber defender.
If Carolina’s defense can continue improving, it can relieve some pressure from Mayfield and his crew. Carolina trailed for more than half its games last season partly because of the turnover-prone offense. Should this unit, with Mayfield’s leadership, improve, Carolina could just be this season’s surprise team.Follow us on Twitter