1. BAKER'S BID TO MISS SPEED BUMP

As his second year with the Browns begins, Baker Mayfield aims to avoid the kind of opener that sullied his second season as starter for the Oklahoma Sooners.

On Sept. 3, 2016, at NRG Stadium in Houston, Mayfield trailed 33-17 after three quarters en route to a 33-23 loss to the Houston Cougars. Houston coach Tom Herman would lose to Navy, SMU and Memphis, but beating Mayfield's team got him hired as coach at Texas.

Mayfield's most recent action in an opener (in that Tyrod Taylor went the distance for the Browns in last year's 21-21 tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers) was less stressful. He went 19-of-20 for 329 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 282.7 rating in a 52-7 conquest of Texas-El Paso. The Miners went on to an 0-12 season. Mayfield's first start on an NFL opening day presents an actual challenge.

Mayfield, 24, will oppose 25-year-old Marcus Mariota. The ex-Oregon Duck looked like the next big thing in his first NFL opener, arriving in Tennessee in 2015 as a No. 2 overall pick and beating No. 1 pick Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 42-14 at Tampa.

Mariota's stock has never taken off. He lost his subsequent three season openers, 25-16 to the Minnesota Vikings in 2016, 26-16 to the Oakland Raiders in 2017, and 27-20 at Miami last Sept. 9.

2. ONE REASON BEATING TITANS WOULD BE HUGE

The Titans aren't great, but they were 9-7 in 2018. They think they can be better than that in 2019.

So, if one views the Titans as a winning team (dare you to look Mike Vrabel in the eye and say they aren't), this gives the Browns something to prove.

Although last year's 7-8-1 finish was refreshing, given the alternatives to which Browns fans have been subjected, it included only one victory over a team that went on to a winning record (12-9 over the Baltimore Ravens in overtime).

From 2015-17, the Browns' only wins (final record of opponent listed) were over the Titans (3-13), Ravens (5-11), San Francisco 49ers (5-11) and San Diego Chargers (5-11).

Beating the Titans might not be like beating the New England Patriots. But then, the Titans were 9-7 last year, and THEY whipped the Patriots 34-10.

3. ANOTHER REASON ...

The expansion era has been bad. Opening day has been worse.

The last time the Browns won an opener, LeBron James was a 20-year-old Cavalier entering his second NBA season. They beat the Ravens 20-3 behind quarterback Jeff Garcia, who will turn 50 a few weeks after the next Super Bowl.

Aside from that 2004 opener, they have not won a season kickoff since 1994, when Bill Belichick's Browns won 28-20 at Cincinnati.

One might say Belichick's 17-14 loss at New England to open the 1995 season set a dark precedent. The team moved to Baltimore after the season and, since coming back in 1999, has lost openers to the Steelers (four times), Cincinnati Bengals (twice), Philadelphia Eagles (twice), Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Vikings, Buccaneers, Dolphins and New York Jets.

This year's Browns are supposed to be different. An opening-day win would be have-a-parade different.

4. IRON MIKE vs. FUNNY FREDDIE

Browns-Titans offers a tremendously fun head coaching matchup.

Freddie Kitchens brings a unique personality to his debut as Browns coach. He has skillfully put the kibosh on great expectations, coining the term "whoopty-hell." The offense during his eight games as coordinator last year showed a flair seldom seen since Bernie Kosar's heyday.

Vrabel can seem so serious that Kitchens might be among the few people able to make him laugh in public. But Vrabel is an ornery cuss behind the scenes, with his own sense of humor. If it's a joke to suppose he has any chance to migrate toward Belichickian results, why did Belichick invite him to do intrasquad practices last month?

— Steve Doerschuk