CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The final four teams in the AFC features the league’s four young star quarterbacks – Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield.
Allen and Jackson are 24 years old, Mahomes and Mayfield are 25 but Mayfield, who turns 26 in April, is the eldest of the 4.
“My mother-in-law sent me something the other day and told me I was the old guy,” Mayfield said with a laugh Wednesday. “It is because I took my victory lap loud and proud at Oklahoma. Somebody sent me just how close everybody is an age. It is pretty crazy to see between Josh [Allen], Lamar [Jackson] and obviously Pat [Patrick Mahomes].”
The four are quickly making their mark on the league and for their respective teams.
Allen helped the Bills win their first playoff game in 25 years last weekend. Jackson won the NFL MVP last year and his first playoff game last weekend. Mahomes was league MVP in 2018 and Super Bowl MVP last year. Mayfield just ended the Browns 18-year playoff drought and won the team’s first playoff game since 1994.
“Pat has the most experience out of all of us because he was three-and-done at Texas Tech,” Mayfield said. “It is fun to see these guys who I am familiar with and have been following for a little bit and to see them competing at such a high level.”
Mayfield will square off against Mahomes for the second time in his career – in the NFL – Sunday after the two combined for one of the most memorable games in college football history that saw both QBs account for 7 touchdowns each as Mayfield’s Oklahoma Sooners bested Mahomes and Texas tech 66-59.
“We had to score every single drive in the second half just to win because Pat threw the ball 80-something times and had 800 yards all-purpose by himself,” Mayfield said. “It was an unbelievable game and unbelievable atmosphere. Just the back and forth is something that I will not forget.”
Mahomes got him back in 2018, a 37-21 Chiefs win over the Browns that saw Mahomes complete 23 of 32 passes for 375 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception. Mayfield finished 29 of 42 for 297 yards, a pair of TDs and an interception.
“It is always fun to play friendly competition and playing against people you are familiar with,” Mayfield said. “He has gotten me so far in the league so I have to see what I can do.”
Containing Kelce – Browns linebackers are going to have their hands full trying to contain perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce Sunday.
“Just have to contest and compete. Contest and compete,” linebacker B.J. Goodson, who plans to play Sunday despite suffering a shoulder injury against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, said. “A lot of guys get caught not necessarily being too relaxed or too much of a cushion, but when I say compete and contest throws, I mean just kind of getting tighter on him and stuff like that.”
The Cleveland native set career highs with 105 catches for 1,416 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
So how do you slow down one of the most prolific playmakers in the game?
“You just have to defend him the best that you can,” Goodson said. “I think the important thing is just being in position to compete and contest.”
Circled on the schedule – There may be no Brown more excited and anxious to face the Chiefs Sunday than running back Kareem Hunt.
“Kareem talked about this game all year like he knew it was going to happen,” running back Nick Chubb said. “He is excited for it. I am excited for him. I am excited to watch him go out there and play. He is ready for it.”
Hunt was cut by the Chiefs in Nov. 2018 following the publishing of security footage that showed him shoving and pushing a woman outside a downtown Cleveland apartment 8 months earlier. Former Browns general manager John Dorsey, who selected him in the third round of the 2017 draft as Kansas City’s GM, signed him in February 2019 to play for his hometown team and he’s not disappointed.
Since serving an 8-game suspension for his off-field behavior, Hunt has stayed mostly out of trouble and accounted for 1,609 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“Ever since I met Kareem, he has been a great person and a great guy who is definitely one of my best friends on the team,” Chubb said. “He is fun to be around also. We are always cutting up and laughing together through the week, and on Sundays, we are running the ball together. He is definitely a person that enjoy being around.”
Quote of the day – “The ground is undefeated.” Goodson describing how he suffered a shoulder injury Sunday night.
Injury report – DNP: RT Jack Conklin (hamstring), LB B.J. Goodson (shoulder) and TE David Njoku (hamstring); LIMITED: DE Myles Garrett (shoulder), DT Sheldon Richardson (neck), RG Wyatt Teller (ankle), C JC Tretter (knee); FULL: RB D’Ernest Johnson (finger), WR Jarvis Landry (hip), LB Malcolm Smith (ankle)