Over the course of the first three weeks of the NFL season, fans and media members alike have been critical of Baker Mayfield’s seemingly lack-luster performances. Although his numbers rank near the top half in the league among other quarterbacks, his numbers have been lower than most expected.
The truth is, what Mayfield has done so far this season is already a significant improvement from last season.
He’s seeing the field better, trusting his reads, and making plays outside the pocket. Almost looks like his rookie season.
As the Browns are set to take on the Dallas Cowboys and their high-powered offense, the matchup is also favorable for the Browns offense, which so far this season, has been exactly what was expected from a Kevin Stefanski-type offense.
However, although the run game has been the Browns’ strong suit so far, this may be the “breakout” game fans have looked for out of Baker Mayfield. Here are some things to look out for on Sunday:
The Dallas Cowboys defense ranks 30th overall in total defense and 31st in passing touchdowns this season. Against the run, the Cowboys rank among the top ten in rushing touchdowns.
Although the Browns’ defensive rankings aren’t much higher, they did come off a win against the Washington Football Team, where they were able to force three interceptions and two fumbles. They’ve improved more each week, whereas the Cowboys have seemingly gotten worse on defense.
If the Browns want the chance to improve to 3-1 on the season, they may have to air the ball out more than they have the last two games.
Protecting the Rock
Going into the game last week against Washington, Mayfield was riding an eight-game streak of throwing at least one interception in a game.
That’s not a streak you want to be riding as a starting quarterback.
Taking care of the ball is a must in the NFL, especially in a game that could potentially be a shootout against the Cowboys. If Mayfield can protect the rock and make good decisions in the passing game, he could very well have his first 300-yard game this season.
The Swagger is Back
Fans and media members scratched their heads a lot last season, wondering just where the confidence and swag Mayfield had during his rookie year went. Well, it looks like it’s back and that doesn’t bode well for a team who’s struggling on defense.
Russell Wilson put up a monstrous game last week, throwing for five touchdowns and over 300 yards. He could have had another touchdown had DK Metcalf not coughed up an easy touchdown earlier in the game.
Although Mayfield is no Russell Wilson, he has a chance to put up bigger numbers this week and if he’s going to do it, why not let it be this week?
The Difference Maker
The real test will come from the Browns defense and how well they can match up with Dallas’ offense, which is among the NFL’s best so far this season. If they can keep the score tight, the Browns can continue to run the ball and do what they do best.
That being said; this could be a legit offensive shootout.
Look for Mayfield to get things going early and often and attack the weak points of this Dallas defense. If they can do that successfully throughout the game, there’s no reason the Browns can’t go on to win this game and make a statement to the rest of the league.