TALK ABOUT A DOWNWARD TRAJECTORY...

Before a Monday night meeting back in Week 5, VSiN noted that Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield had career stats comparable to San Francisco 49ers slinger Jimmy Garoppolo.

Mayfield and the Browns haven’t covered a point spread since. They were humiliated 31-3 by the Niners as 5-point underdogs, then lost to Seattle, New England and Denver in games that missed the mark by 5, 4.5 and 9 points. Last week they were a push as 3-point favorites over Buffalo in an ugly 19-16 victory.

Heading into his next prime-time appearance Thursday vs. Pittsburgh (8:20 p.m., FOX/NFL Network), Mayfield now looks worse statistically than Steelers stopgap Mason Rudolph. He went from being a younger version of Garoppolo to losing same-age comparisons to a player taken 75 spots later in the 2018 draft. (Mayfield went No. 1 overall, Rudolph in the third round at No. 76.)

TD/INT ratio: On a short leash, Rudolph is at 7 with 11 touchdown passes and four interceptions. A more manic Mayfield is -3 with only nine touchdown passes and 12 picks. Mayfield has thrown 106 more passes, which helps excuse some of the extra interceptions but makes the lower TD production even worse.

Sacks: Rudolph has been taken down only nine times — Mayfield 25! That’s much worse even if you adjust for the number of dropbacks.

Passer rating: The conservative Rudolph clocks in at 93.0, middle of the pack for starters in

this traditional quarterback measure. Mayfield is near the bottom of the league at 75.2.

While it’s true that Rudolph would likely struggle if asked to play more aggressively in his unexpectedly early run as a starter — and Mayfield would cut down on mistakes if forced to hand off 10 more times per game — it’s clear the league has adjusted to Mayfield’s tendencies and skill set. Nobody’s afraid of him.

Have markets adjusted enough? Cleveland will likely close at -2.5 or -3 at home vs. Pittsburgh. That suggests the teams are even on a Power Ratings scale. Home-field advantage is typically worth three points in the NFL. Some sharps use

2.5 points in divisional games because of visitors’ familiarity with stadium conditions. Yet …

Pittsburgh is 4-1-1 straight up in regulation in

Rudolph’s last six starts (an overtime loss to Baltimore isn’t a strike against anyone) and 5-1 against the spread. The non-cover was by a point, laying 14 to Miami. The Steelers are in the AFC wild-card chase, probably registering on the fringe of “playoff caliber” in true overall quality.

Cleveland is 3-6 straight up this season, 2-6-1 vs. the number. The Browns are clearly a non-contender, with a head coach who seems in way over his head asking too much of a mistake-prone quarterback.

Bettors must decide Thursday if market equilibrium has been reached or if Mayfield’s trajectory will continue to tailspin. Was drafting him No. 1 another mistake by the lake?

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