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What the Browns season looks like as they kickoff against former quarterback Baker Mayfield

Cleveland Browns' helmet
Erik Drost
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Wikimedia Commons
The Browns open the season on Sunday against Baker Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers.

The Cleveland Browns face former quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers to open the season on Sunday. Mayfield was traded after the Browns signed Deshaun Watson in March. Watson has been suspended for the first 11 games following sexual misconduct allegations from massage therapists.

The Browns will pay Carolina $10.5 million of Mayfield's salary as part of the trade deal.

Sports commentator Terry Pluto predicts the Browns will go 9-8 this season with longtime NFL backup Jacoby Brissett starting the first 11 games and Deshaun Watson stepping in after that. When Watson is eligible to play Dec. 4 against his former team, the Houston Texans, it will have been nearly two years since he last stepped on the field during a game.

Pluto says the goal with Brissett will be that he play "safe" football — not turn the ball over — by throwing short passes and relying on the run game.

"Boring and winning can be very exciting. So that's what their goal is," Pluto said.

Pluto says one major asset for the team is its new kicker, Cade York, who they drafted from LSU. York has had an impressive training camp.

"He just maybe will be the guy that finally takes over for the legendary Phil Dawson, who hasn't kicked since 2012," Pluto said.

He also says it's a talented team with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Amari Cooper who can make big plays.

As for Mayfield, Pluto says he, like many fans, want him to do well in Carolina. That's because, he says, Mayfield was the team's best quarterback since the Browns returned to the league in 1999. In 2020, Mayfield was a top-10 QB in several rankings.

"Baker Mayfield is trying to put his career back together. His first step is against his old team," Pluto said.

While Mayfield has a lot to prove this season with his new team, Pluto says Browns coach Kevin Stefanski does, too. This time last year he was the reigning NFL Coach of The Year after leading the Browns to the playoffs in 2020. Pluto says the 2021 season was a disaster, leading the team to part ways with Mayfield.

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.