NFL Betting Notebook: Is Baker Mayfield Bound for Carolina?

Starting QBs will sink or save your franchise — and go a long way to deciding the results on Sundays — so it's only sensible to fold them into strength of schedule. We do just that, and more, in this week's NFL betting notebook.

Last Updated: Jun 17, 2022 10:17 AM ET Read Time: 5 min
Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns NFL
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The NFL hustle and bustle of the spring has now given way to a lazy summer slog, as teams ramp up minicamps and plug any roster holes before the preseason in August.

This dead zone is a great time to dive deeper into what makes teams tick and where the NFL betting value could be sleeping during this hibernation period. I try just that with my latest NFL betting notebook, cracking down on quality quarterback play for the upcoming 2022 schedule.

NFL Notebook: June 15

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Quarterback quandary

Like starting pitchers in baseball, quarterback play often defines how good or bad an NFL team is. 

This has become very evident in recent seasons, as teams take to the air more often than not, and a great QB can keep a team competitive — or at least within the oddsmakers’ expectations. And when it comes to NFL betting, no position is worth more to the spread and total than the quarterback.

Leaning into the importance of quarterback play, I wanted to measure each team’s 2022 strength of schedule by the quality of quarterbacks they’ll face. First stop, grading every team’s projected starter under center. I hope you like charts…

A warning to all you stat heads and system guys — set your phasers to stun: This is not a complex formula derived from seasons of data and expected growth over regression. This is a simple but thoughtfully weighted ranking system, from 1 to 5 (one being shit, five being the best) that I dished out among the 32 NFL teams based on the quality of their QB.

Quarterback Team Ranking
Josh Allen Buffalo Bills 5.0
Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs 5.0
Justin Herbert Los Angeles Chargers 5.0
Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers 5.0
Tom Brady Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4.5
Joe Burrow Cincinnati Bengals 4.5
Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens 4.5
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys 4.0
Matthew Stafford Los Angeles Rams 4.0
Deshaun Watson Cleveland Browns 4.0
Russell Wilson Denver Broncos 3.5
Kyler Murray Arizona Cardinals 3.5
Derek Carr Las Vegas Raiders 3.5
Matt Ryan Indianapolis Colts 3.0
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings 3.0
Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans 3.0
Jameis Winston New Orleans Saints 3.0
Jalen Hurts Philadelphia Eagles 2.5
Mac Jones New England Patriots 2.5
Tua Tagovailoa Miami Dolphins 2.5
Jimmy Garoppolo/Trey Lance San Francisco 49ers 2.0
Trevor Lawrence Jacksonville Jaguars 2.0
Justin Fields Chicago Bears 1.5
Zach Wilson New York Jets 1.5
Carson Wentz Washington Commanders 1.5
Jared Goff Detroit Lions 1.0
Davis Mills Houston Texans 1.0
Mitchell Trubisky/Kenny Pickett Pittsburgh Steelers 1.0
Daniel Jones New York Giants 1.0
Marcus Mariota/Desmond Ridder Atlanta Falcons 1.0
Sam Darnold/Matt Corral Carolina Panthers 1.0
Drew Lock/Geno Smith Seattle Seahawks 1.0

Now with that nastiness out of the way, I went through each team’s 2022 slate and added up all those opposing quarterback values. To no surprise, teams from the QB-rich AFC West ranked pretty high in terms of strength of schedule vs. QB due to four solid gunslingers in the division. Groups like the NFC East and NFC North, well… not so much. 

Here’s a look at the Top 10 Toughest SOS vs. QB slates:

SOS vs. QB Rank Team SOS vs. QB Rating Standard SOS Rank
1st Kansas City Chiefs 57.5 T-5th
T-2nd Los Angeles Rams 53.5 1st
T-2nd Denver Broncos 53.5 15th
4th Las Vegas Raiders 53.0 T-7th
T-5th Tennessee Titans 52.5 24th
T-5th New England Patriots 52.5 16th
T-7th Pittsburgh Steelers 52.0 T-12th
T-7th Cincinnati Bengals 52.0 3rd
T-9th Los Angeles Chargers 51.0 10th
T-9th New York Jets 51.0 T-17th
10th Miami Dolphins 50.5 21st

Putting that QB SOS up against the standard SOS has the Titans (win total 9 Under -120), Patriots (8.5 Over -115), and Dolphins (Under 9 -125) standing out like sore thumbs. The QB rankings don’t account for home/away splits but could project a tougher road ahead — at least for those teams’ defenses — with a schedule busting at the seams with solid passers.

On the flip side of this, there were a handful of teams given a stout schedule from the Football Gods but when we crunch the quality of opposing quarterbacks, the 2022 season may be a little easier than you think. The most notable differences come from the Saints and Cardinals. 

New Orleans (Over 8 -135) owns a 2022 calendar sitting T-7th in standard SOS but only 22nd in my QB SOS. Arizona (Under 8.5 -115) is second in SOS but 17th in QB SOS. Other teams lining up against a soft crop of QBs: The 49ers (Under 10 -120) own the T-5th SOS but a QB SOS ranked 13th, and Tampa Bay (Under 11.5 -120) has the 4th-ranked SOS but sits 16th in QB SOS.

In terms of the biggest contrast in quarterback play on a weekly basis, that honor goes to the Packers (Over 11 -110) and Aaron Rodgers. The back-to-back MVP ranked out with top marks at 5.0 and faces counterparts in the average range of 2.5 for the upcoming NFL season, including the “murder’s row” of Kirk Cousins (3.0), Justin Fields (1.5), and Jared Goff (1.0) inside the NFC North.

Panthers on the prowl

According to reports, the Carolina Panthers are kicking the tires on Cleveland Browns’ albatross Baker Mayfield, but Carolina wants Cleveland to pick up the cheque — or at least a good chunk of Mayfield’s $18.8 million salary.

With mandatory minicamps underway, the Panthers are feeling the pressure to make a move at QB or suffer another season under the arm of Sam Darnold… or go all-in on draft steal Matt Corral and hope you don’t break the kid. 

For me, a move from Darnold (also making $18.8 million this year) to Mayfield is a lateral one and might tick our above QB rating on the Panthers’ passers from 1.0 to 1.5. And for what: to finish ahead of the Falcons in the NFC South?   

If Tom Brady hadn’t decided to unretire after 12 minutes away from football, then maybe you make a move to win now. But with Brady back and New Orleans looking better by the day, you’re fighting for third in the division with a projected record of 2-13-1 SU, according to the Panthers’ lookahead lines for the 2022 season.

While bringing in Baker may be a cheaper option at QB if you can get the Browns to take Darnold’s deal and pay for part of Mayfield’s money, you’d have a fifth-year QB playing for his fifth different head coach in as many years with a far less talented roster around him than he had in Cleveland.

I’m sure that NFL futures will bounce around a bit of Carolina trades for Mayfield, as people tend to overreact to overrated players. The Panthers currently have a win total of 6 (Under -125) which is a stretch with or without Mayfield under center.

OBJ back to O-H-I-O?

Odell Beckham Jr. was last seen balling out for the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl before suffering a torn ACL, which left his future with the franchise up in the air. 

But even after giving Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp a king’s ransom this offseason, the Rams are optimistic they’ll find a way to bring OBJ back to L.A. … because the salary cap is a myth.

Not so fast, says the team Beckham battled in Super Bowl LVI. 

The Cincinnati Bengals could be in the mix for the brash WR after Beckham commented on a post from Bengals QB Joe Burrow, calling Burrow “The One”. A receiver’s room featuring Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and potentially OBJ would make most defensive coordinators curl up in a pissy-pants ball.

MaximBet, the preferred sportsbook of Nicki Minaj, had “next team” odds up for Beckham Jr. earlier in the offseason and neither Los Angeles (10/1) or Cincinnati (66/1) were near the top of the board. New Orleans, Baltimore, and Las Vegas were the front runners at the time, but this prop has since come off the board.

The Rams and Bengals are projected to have explosive offensive attacks with or without Beckham Jr., with Los Angeles priced at 11/1 (fifth overall favorite) to lead the NFL in scoring at Cincinnati just behind them at 14/1 (eighth). 

Check out the full NFL schedule, matchups, odds, and more!

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