By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
Quarterback Baker Mayfield is on a roll.
He’ll bring his 25 touchdowns with his 10-4 Cleveland Browns back to MetLife Sunday afternoon in the Jets’ home finale, a week after his dissected the Giants’ secondary there in a 20-6 victory last Sunday night.
The former No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft will face No. 3 pick Sam Darnold in what can be a vision of the present and the future. It should be an interesting showdown between the two of the league’s possible future quarterback staples.
With Pittsburgh’s recent slide, Mayfeld can help his team take another step toward their first playoff berth in 18 years as well as a shot at the AFC North title with a win against the Jets (1-15).
Mayfield can appreciate Darnold’s struggles with his current situation. The Browns gunslinger had a horrid 2019 campaign trying to get his offensive aligned with former head coach Freddie Kitchens, who wasn’t the right fit.
This season, Mayfield has played the way many experts believed he could under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, who has orchestrated Mayfield and his other high-profile teammates to one of the league’s biggest surprises this season from a miserable 6-10 season last year.
Mayfield has a stable of talent with running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Bell with wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. (before he was injured) and a core of young receivers.
He also has benefitted from a strengthened offensive line that handcuffed the Giants’ pass rush.
How can Darnold find the same fortune?
For starters, let’s assume he’ll be back next year.
There still is roughly a 30 percent chance the Jets could land Trevor Lawrence, but it is hard to see Jacksonville winning one or both of their final games. Their only real hope is if Indianapolis has clinched a playoff spot heading into their final game, and the Colts pull their starters like Buffalo did in their finale against the Jets last season.
Darnold still has to impress his final two games, and he’ll have a tall task against the Browns’ defense.
With the second overall pick, the Jets likely won’t pick a quarterback despite the recent raves about Justin Fields and Zack Wilson.
GM Joe Douglas has five picks in the first three rounds and nine overall as well as an abundance of free agent money to build around Darnold in addition to Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, Mekhi Becton, and La’Mical Perine.
Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson, Patriots’ guard Joe Thuney, and Bucs’ edge rusher Shaquil Barrett will be at the top of their free-agent list, but they will be in demand.
The overall key will be the new coach. Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt have been the medicine men for Mayfield. Jets’ head coach Adam Gase wasn’t the quarterback whisperer.
This will be a monumental hire for the Jets and paramount to Darnold’s development. He is only 23 and has shown potential to be a steady starter for many seasons. As for whom it will be, that’ll be up for much discussion in the next few months.
This Sunday’s game looks like a lopsided matchup, and it will be hard for the Jets to play another near flawless three-plus quarters like they did against the Rams last week. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who was playing at an All-Pro level the past two months, is out for the rest of the season.
Instead, watch Mayfield’s performance and the Browns’ new-found confidence and chemistry.
There is a chance it could happen for Darnold and his new-look Jets next fall.