Several certain Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks are approaching the end of their NFL careers. Which younger arms are ready to take over and lead the league into the next decade?
Two strong possibilities will be on the field Monday night when the Cleveland Browns visit the San Francisco 49ers (ESPN, 8:20 p.m. ET).
Baker Mayfield (only 24, in his second season as an NFL starter), and Jimmy Garoppolo (who will turn 28 in November) are on the short list of potential superstars:
Mayfield is a playmaker who isn’t afraid of a leadership role around older teammates. Granted, too much moxie can cause trouble in this league because it leads to ill-advised decisions. Mayfield had a true breakout game last week in a 40-25 upset at Baltimore. His passing line of 20-30-342 may have been a huge step toward stardom. It was a monster performance in a road divisional rivalry game with short preparation off of a Sunday night battle.
Garoppolo served a three-year apprenticeship under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady with the New England Patriots. He has been productive when healthy with both the Pats and Niners. And it’s not unheard of for a pro quarterback to start a successful career this late. But Garoppolo must learn to avoid sacks (23 in his 12 San Francisco starts).
It’s interesting that Mayfield’s 2018 statistics in Cleveland are similar to Garoppolo’s career stats:
Baker in 2018: 3725 passing yards, 27 TD’, 14 INTs, 93.7 rating
Garoppolo career: 3707 passing yards, 22 TDs, 12 INTs, 97.1 rating
On paper, essentially the same quarterback. But that comparison is actually a big endorsement for the much younger Mayfield. He’s still learning, which suggests a much higher ceiling through his career. Maybe he popped through some plaster in Baltimore last week.
Betting markets are showing respect for both teams, but aren’t ready to confidently classify either as “playoff caliber” just yet. Neither is yet priced on futures boards as a serious threat to win their conference this season.
Bettors and fans will get a better read on the Browns the next two weeks. After Monday’s test, Cleveland hosts Seattle and visits New England. What would you make those lines now? San Francisco has several tough challenges ahead. Two games left with both the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, plus one apiece with Green Bay, Baltimore and New Orleans.
Right now, markets see the Browns and Niners as close to even. San Francisco has been laying just above the standard value for home-field advantage all week. But some of that is because it enjoyed a bye while the Browns were at peak intensity.
Cleveland-San Francisco is a must-watch game even if you don’t bet. Once the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger have moved to broadcast booths or studio seats, Mayfield and/or Garoppolo could move a lot of money.