Which Mayfield will bettors see?

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN.com) 

Is Baker Mayfield the next big thing?

Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns visit the Indianapolis Colts Saturday afternoon (NFL Network, 4 p.m. ET) in the second preseason game for both teams. Indy will still be without Andrew Luck, who’s dealing with a lower leg injury.

Analysts who are excited about Mayfield’s future tend to focus in intangibles. He’s enthusiastic. He’s a great leader. He has a fighting spirit that inspires his teammates. And, entering his second season, he’s still low on the learning curve. 

That last point may be the most important. Mayfield clearly showed he was a fast learner in his 14 performances last season. 

Mayfield’s First 7 Games

Baker’s Browns went 2-5 straight up, 3-4 against the spread because the game was just too fast for him. Mayfield was sacked a stunning 22 times (more than three per game), and posted a TD/INT ratio of 10/7. 

To be clear…that’s far from a disaster for a rookie quarterback being thrown in the deep end. Sink or swim. Many more experienced young quarterbacks sunk hard. Mayfield took his hits while learning the ropes. That set a baseline for expectations. 

Mayfield’s Last 7 Games

A huge turnaround…one that caught betting markets flat footed. The Browns went 5-2 straight up and ATS. They went 3-2 straight up and 4-1 ATS as underdogs (upsetting Atlanta 28-16 as a 7-point dog, Carolina 26-20 getting a point, and Denver 17-16 also at plus one).

Was Mayfield the cause of that turnaround? Or, just an innocent bystander? 

Largely a cause. His stats improved dramatically. Mayfield was only sacked three times, total! In the seven-game hunks, that’s a drop from three per game to a grand total of three (0.4 per game). His TD/INT ratio was much better at 17/7. 

If you double the key numbers in those last seven games to approximate a full season for a smarter, sharper Mayfield…and you get 34 touchdown passes, 14 picks, and just six sacks. Of course, he could improve even more. The first seven games were the floor…the next weren’t necessarily the ceiling. 

That’s why sharps were enthusiastic about Cleveland when betting the earliest 2019 futures. A team getting that level of production from a quarterback goes on the short list of playoff contenders, though still behind the likes of favorites New England and Kansas City. 

After weeks of summer betting from both enthusiasts and skeptics helped settle prices, William Hill is showing Cleveland at 6/5 (plus 120) to win the AFC Central, 15/2 to win the AFC (plus 750), and 15/1 to win the Super Bowl ( 1500). 

A “Regular Season Win” prop of nine, with the Over favored at -125, suggests a real chance to reach double digit victories.

Key indicators paint an optimistic picture of Mayfield’s future. For betting purposes, his Browns will only offer value if the market stays behind his learning and production curves. Keep an eye on that when the regular season arrives.  

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