Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals came out of nowhere to take the AFC North divisional crown last season. After years of being the underdog looking up at the other teams in the division, it will be the Bengals to which everyone will be giving their best shots. Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns have gone through major changes, including the guarantee that Mayfield will be on his way out of town at some point in the near future.
It was not long ago that the Cleveland Browns were expected to be in that spot. After defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round and giving the Kansas City Chiefs all they could handle in the Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2021, Cleveland fell flat last regular season.
The Browns went 8-9, missing the postseason. Baker Mayfield’s injury certainly played a part in that as he was not nearly as effective during the 2021 regular season as he was in 2020. As a result, Cleveland went out and got what they consider to be an upgrade in Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.
Bengals star quarterback Joe Burrow was asked about the move that his division rival made at the quarterback position. He spoke candidly about it during an appearance on the Full Send Podcast.
“When you have a guy like Deshaun, you have to take a chance at that because he’s such a great player,” Burrow said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “But Baker is a really good player, he’ll land on his feet.”
Mayfield is in a tough spot with Cleveland. The relationship between the two sides seems beyond repair and a trade destination isn’t clear at this time. It was handled poorly by both sides, but Burrow has to be happy he likely won’t be facing off with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Browns under Mayfield have owned the Bengals since Burrow entered the league. Mayfield is 6-1 against Cincinnati and 3-0 when matched up against the No. 1 overall pick from the 2020 NFL Draft.
“He was hurt all last year and every time we play him, he balls,” Burrow said. “The first time we play him, week two of my rookie year, we lost like [35–30] or something, and the next time we play him, I throw 400 yards, he goes like [22-28] with five touchdowns. Goes on a two-minute drive, touchdown, won the game. I haven’t beat the Browns yet.”
The AFC North rivals are set to face off in Week 8 and Week 14 this season, with the first matchup in Cleveland and the second in Cincinnati. Who will be under center for the Browns in those games is anyone’s guess right now, as Watson sorts out his off-the-field legal troubles.
What we do know is that it likely won’t be Mayfield under center in those games. Jacoby Brissett was signed by Cleveland to be the backup to Watson, but he could be thrust into the lineup should Watson be suspended by the league.