For many teams, Week 18 of the NFL season is mostly useless. In the AFC, seven teams have been eliminated from playoff contention while another four have locked in their spots. The NFC is a little more wide open with five teams eliminated and five teams clinching the playoffs.
For the Cleveland Browns, the 2023 regular season is, basically, over as they prepare for the playoffs and whichever AFC South team wins the division. Sure the Browns will face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 18 but the game doesn’t matter for either team.
In games that they cared about, 16 of them, this Cleveland team, with injuries piled on top of injuries, won 11 games and lost five. A great record any year is even more impressive with the injuries to key players and the great Joe Flacco coming-off-the-couch story to go along with it.
The Browns won with great strategy, Amari Cooper and David Njoku on offense to go along with quite a few great players and strategy on defense.
According to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, that roster is only good enough for one All-Pro player and it isn’t Defensive Player of the Year front-runner Myles Garrett. Garrett is listed as second-team behind TJ Watt and Micah Parsons.
Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and kicker Dustin Hopkins also received second-team recognition.
CB Denzel Ward was the lone first-team recognition Cleveland received:
This season, he has been locked in and seemed to make plays every week. With Ward sticking on the left side of the defense, the Browns have allowed a 46.4 QBR on throws to the right side of the offense, the best mark for any team.
According to the numbers at Pro Football Reference, Ward has turned opposing quarterbacks into sub-replacement passers when they throw in his direction. He has allowed a 44.3% completion percentage in coverage, the best mark among regular starters this season. He ranks fourth among corners in passer rating allowed; the guys ahead of him are Jalen Ramsey (who would be on this list if he hadn’t missed half the season), Martin Emerson (Ward’s excellent teammate) and Jaylon Johnson, who just narrowly ended up on my second team.
While Ward’s recognition is nice, as is the note about Emerson, it is interesting that Barnwell says “seemed to make plays every week” despite the corner missing four games this season.
No mention of Cooper or Njoku anywhere in the piece.
What do you think about Ward as the only first-teamer with three others on the second-team? Browns roster properly represented or is it underrated on the list?