Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns have had a nightmare start to the season. That has to change Sunday against Brandon Allen and the Denver Broncos.
The Cleveland Browns weren’t expected to beat the New England Patriots this past Sunday. Yet no one expected the team to turn it over on three straight plays to go into an early and insurmountable 17-0 hole.
The play of Baker Mayfield has been at the forefront of Browns conversations in Cleveland. Local talk radio is flooded with Mayfield haters and those who defend his honor.
Regardless of the noise, it is fair to say that Mayfield has struggled so far in 2019. He has already thrown 12 interceptions compared to only six touchdowns. That is right, he has thrown six touchdowns in seven games with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry as his top two receivers.
A ton of blame for the 2-5 start rightfully falls on the shoulders of first-year coach Freddie Kitchens. He has struggled to manage games and his play-calling has been inconsistent every single week.
Yet fans are still waiting for Mayfield to have a huge game and look like the player he was in 2018.
His next chance comes this Sunday in Denver against a 2-6 Broncos team that will be without Joe Flacco. In steps Brandon Allen, making his first NFL start after being a sixth-round pick in 2016.
On paper, the Browns should be easy favorites in the game. The defense should shut down Allen all game and it should be similar to when the Browns made poor Luke Falk look like garbage back in an easy Week 2 victory over the New York Jets.
The problem is the unreliable offense. This is a unit that turned the ball over on three consecutive plays against the Patriots. That included a shovel pass from Mayfield straight to a defender.
The Broncos own the fourth-best defense in terms of yards per game and allow just under 19 points per game. That unit is fresh off allowing only 15 points to an Indianapolis Colts team that is among the best teams in the AFC.
Even if the Browns defense shuts down Allen, which it should, turnovers by the offense could make this game much closer than it should be. Add in the weather and altitude in Denver and this is no longer an easy win for the Browns.
It is impossible to make predictions for this team in 2019. A Week 1 disaster has defined the season and the 40-25 win over the Baltimore Ravens looks like an anomaly. The only point of hope for fans in Cleveland is that the Browns are taking on some bad teams over the final nine weeks of the year.
But what if the Browns are indeed one of those bad teams?
Nick Chubb had two killer fumbles on Sunday, but he is normally sure-handed. One of the fumbles was a fluke play in which a falling lineman kicked the ball out of his arms. Chubb should be back to normal in Denver.
The focal point of the game will be the play of Mayfield and whether he can play mistake-free football for the first time all season. His interceptions are a main reason why the Browns are sitting with a -9 turnover differential.
I hate to say this but Brandon Allen is going to have a horrible day on Sunday. He is just not prepared to take on this defense in his first NFL start. But if the running game does well and the Browns turn the ball over, this game may come down to a kick.
The Browns have not shown any ability to close games late and a close game in Denver could lead the Browns to a 2-6 record that all but ends any hope of a playoff berth, regardless of how “easy” the schedule gets.
Browns fans wanted Mayfield to have a career game in New England and that did not happen. Everyone is now hoping for baby steps and a solid game in Denver that features more touchdowns than turnovers and most importantly a Browns win.