This is one of the tougher calls of the week for me. Even without Deshaun Watson, I have the Browns three points better than the Panthers in my roster rankings, possessing one of the league’s best rosters around the quarterback and a capable high end backup quarterback in Jacoby Brissett. On the road in Carolina, that suggests the Browns should be favored by about a point or two and this line is even, so we’re getting some line value with Cleveland, but a pretty insignificant amount.
On top of that, this is a big revenge game situation for Baker Mayfield in his first game in Carolina after being traded by the Browns this off-season, despite winning the franchise’s first playoff game since their return to the league and playing through injury for much of the subsequent 2021 season. Mayfield was a much better quarterback in 2020 when healthy and should prove that in his new home in Carolina, even if it doesn’t lead to a playoff berth, with a questionable roster around him. I’m still taking the Browns, but we’re hardly getting value with them and there’s a good chance the Panthers get a better than average performance from Baker Mayfield, who has likely had this game circled since being traded.
Update: Right tackle Jack Conklin and his backup Chris Hubbard are out for this game, so I’m flipping this pick, but still for a no confidence pick.
Carolina Panthers 24 Cleveland Browns 23
Pick against the spread: Carolina PK