NFL betting: Just how much does Baker Mayfield move the needle for Carolina?

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On Wednesday afternoon, the Carolina Panthers acquired former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns for a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2024. After the Browns acquired Deshaun Watson in March, Mayfield's time in Ohio had run its course. It took a while, but the former Heisman Trophy winner now has a new home in the NFL.

The trade has been met with mixed reactions. In a vacuum, it's a solid move for the Panthers. Mayfield is certainly an upgrade over Sam Darnold. It's been a roller coaster of a start to the career of Mayfield, as he helped turn the Browns from a team that went 1-31 in the two years before he arrived into a team that competed on a weekly basis and even won a road playoff game during his tenure. He's had stretches such as the second half of his rookie year and the second half of 2020 where he's played at a top-10 level. He's also had abysmal stretches, such as his sophomore season under Freddie Kitchens and last year's injury-riddled deterioration. Four coaches in four seasons in Cleveland certainly didn't help Mayfield, but a lot of people around the NFL world also feel like he held back a very talented roster.

The conventional wisdom is that Mayfield improves the Panthers for 2022, but the question becomes just how much? Even during the best stretches of Mayfield's career, he's been above average, but not elite. Oddsmakers seem to agree that Mayfield makes the Panthers slightly better, but the odds still suggest Carolina will be one of the worst teams in the league.

Mayfield moved Carolina's odds slightly

No position in sports impacts a team more than a quarterback impacts an NFL team. Therefore, any time a starting quarterback changes teams, we can expect the NFL futures odds to react quickly. The Panthers situation was no different after they acquired Baker Mayfield.

The Panthers were 150-to-1 to win the Super Bowl on Wednesday morning. After acquiring Mayfield, the Panthers are now down to 125-to-1 to win the Super Bowl. Originally, they were tied for the third-worst odds with the Seattle Seahawks. Now, they're tied for the fourth-worst odds with the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions. While better, it's certainly not the company you'd like to keep.

The odds for the Panthers to win the NFC South also improved slightly. Entering the day, they were 12-to-1 to win the division. After the trade, they moved down to 10-to-1. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are -300 favorites to win the division while the New Orleans Saints have the second best odds at +375. The Atlanta Falcons bring up the rear at 20-to-1.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - AUGUST 22: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns watches from the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 22, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Giants 17-13.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Baker Mayfield is now a Carolina Panther. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

If you were wondering how many wins oddsmakers think Baker Mayfield is worth compared to Sam Darnold, the answer is one. Carolina opened with a win total of 5.5, but that moved to 6.5 after the trade. Carolina is an intriguing over bet. Remember, it opened the 2021 season 3-0 before Christian McCaffrey got hurt and Sam Darnold subsequently turned into a pumpkin. A healthier McCaffrey, better quarterback play from Mayfield and other improvements such as Ikem Ekwonu on the offensive line could lead to a surprisingly competitive season from the Panthers.

Will the Panthers make the playoffs? Oddsmakers don't think so, but they do think Carolina has a better chance with Mayfield than it did without. Carolina was +500 to make the playoffs before the trade. Those odds moved down to +450 once the Panthers acquired Mayfield. According to the odds, there's just over an 18% chance we see Baker Mayfield and the Panthers in the postseason next year.

Mayfield's award odds shift as well

For the majority of the offseason, it was unclear where Baker Mayfield would play this upcoming season. There was even concern that the quarterback carousel had filled up and he'd be left without a starting job all together. Well, now that we know he has a home and a very clear path to a starting job, it's no surprise that his odds have moved in the awards markets.

Mayfield opened at 100-to-1 to win NFL MVP in 2022. At that price, he was in the same tier as quarterbacks Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill. After the trade, Mayfield moved to 80-to-1 to win NFL MVP. Those are the same odds as Carson Wentz, Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence. An MVP-caliber season for Mayfield is certainly unlikely, but he's a quarterback so he has a fighting chance.

While Mayfield winning MVP would take a miracle, there is an award where Mayfield has a legitimate chance of making some noise. Mayfield opened at 16-to-1 to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year. After the trade, he moved down to 10-to-1 odds. Those are currently the fifth-best odds, tied with new teammate Christian McCaffrey. Derrick Henry is a +350 favorite to win the award.

Mayfield played most of the 2021 season hurt, and his on-field play suffered to say the least. He required offseason surgery to fix a torn labrum in his shoulder. Mayfield has also been the butt of a lot of jokes this offseason, mainly having to do with Odell Beckham Jr.'s resurgence in Los Angeles after he left Mayfield and the Browns. If Mayfield has a healthy 2022 season, plays at a level similar to the one he played at in 2020 and makes the Panthers competitive, he'll be in the mix for Comeback Player of the Year.

Week 1 revenge spot

Sometimes, it feels like the NFL might just be scripted reality television.

With Baker Mayfield now a member of the Carolina Panthers, a first look at his new team's schedule should excite NFL fans across the league. Carolina's Week 1 opponent? The Cleveland Browns.

There might not be a player in the league who has a bigger chip on their shoulder than Baker Mayfield. He walked on at Texas Tech, left there and again walked on at Oklahoma in college. He then won a Heisman Trophy and finished as a finalist another time. We know all about his antics in college, whether it's planting a flag at Ohio State or crotch-grabbing against Kansas. Mayfield has a distinct edge and it's the main reason the Browns took him with the No. 1 overall pick.

Some players will try to downplay the "revenge spot" angle and treat it like any other game. Anyone that has followed Baker Mayfield's career since college knows that is not his style. Maybe he won't get into it publicly, but internally, you know he'll be motivated to make a statement against his old team.

When the Week 1 odds were originally posted in April, the Browns opened as 4.5-point road favorites against the Panthers. Over the course of the offseason, that number has been dropping as a Deshaun Watson suspension looks increasingly likely. On Wednesday morning, the Browns were just 2.5-point favorites against the Panthers.

With Mayfield now expected to start for the Panthers and no longer an option for the Browns in Week 1, the line for the Week 1 matchup has moved again. While the game is still off the board at BetMGM, across the industry the Browns are now just 1-point favorites against Carolina. It's a 3.5-point move since the opening number, the largest of any Week 1 game.

With Jacoby Brissett against an amped-up Baker Mayfield as the likely quarterback matchup, the Panthers might be an appealing bet to a lot of people in Week 1 as a short home underdog. Either way, NFL fans will be looking forward to this one.

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