Baker Mayfield is back, and he's ready to go "off the leash" against his former team in Week 1. The former Browns quarterback will kick off the Panthers' 2022 season Sunday as Carolina's new signal-caller, and he'll do it against the franchise that four years ago drafted him No. 1 overall. Suffice to say, Charlotte's cross-conference clash is already chock-full of drama.

Mayfield will have a healthy Christian McCaffrey by his side, along with No. 1 receiver D.J. Moore, but will be up against a Cleveland defense featuring some of the best talents at their respective positions, from Myles Garrett off the edge and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at linebacker to Denzel Ward at cornerback. The Browns, meanwhile, will be relying on veteran backup Jacoby Brissett to man the QB duties, with Deshaun Watson suspended for the first 11 games.

Does Baker have enough moxie to down his former squad? Or is Cleveland's all-around talent too tough to top? Either way, this one figures to be a feisty one. Here's how to tune in:

How to watch

  • When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
  • Where: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)
  • TV: CBS
  • Online streaming: Paramount+
  • Follow: CBS Sports App

Key players

  • Christian McCaffrey (Panthers): Obvious, but we're probably not talking enough about how much McCaffrey can help Mayfield rebuild confidence as a regular starter, thanks to his value as a pass-catching safety valve. If he can win in space against Cleveland's linebackers, Carolina should be able to control the ball.
  • Ikem Ekwonu (Panthers): The rookie left tackle will be charged with protecting Mayfield's blind side, which may well be the X factor of the entire game. Baker has had a tendency to get sloppy with his footwork and pocket movement when things fall apart up front, and the Browns have quite the pass-rushing tandem in Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
  • Jadeveon Clowney (Browns): The veteran edge rusher is battling an illness, but he should be starting opposite Garrett up front, lined up against the rookie Ekwonu. He's been a bit of a streaky sack artist over the course of his career, but if he starts hot, he might be able to throw Mayfield off his rhythm for the rest of the day.


Latest Odds: Carolina Panthers -1.5

Nothing fuels an NFL game quite like spite, especially at the QB position, and Mayfield would like nothing more than to stick it to the team that traded him for a polarizing superstar. The Browns should be able to keep it close thanks to their formidable defense, but in the end, we trust Mayfield and his weapons just a little more than Brissett and his. The latter may be experienced, but he's never been particularly efficient, and Amari Cooper is the only proven threat out wide.

Pick: Panthers 23, Browns 20