Monday of the first week of the NFL regular season always bring a special energy. It's Labor Day, sure, but you know teams are completely ignoring the holiday when it's also the first day of the week for their first game of the season. The buzz and excitement is also picking up for fans.
But fans in Cleveland start the week on something of a disappointing note. Cornerback Denzel Ward is still in the concussion protocol and is not practicing to open the season.
Browns News: Denzel Ward Injury Update
Denzel Ward is not practicing on Monday, remaining in the concussion protocol, where he has been since August 26.
Ward entered the protocol in the Browns' preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the team has been very quiet about his progress, There's still a chance he can work his way back in time for Sunday's season-opener, but that's certainly not looking overly likely at this point.
The Browns aren’t especially deep at corner, and Ward’s absence on the outside would likely mean that Mike Ford steps into the starting lineup with Martin Emerson on the other side and Greg Newsome starting in the slot. The only other replacement options currently on the active roster would be rookies Cameron Mitchell (who mostly played in the slot in the preseason) or Kahlef Hailassie (who has only been in Cleveland a few days after being claimed off waivers).
A Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals is a tough time to be missing a cornerback too. The Begnals have one of the best passing attacks in the NFL, and they were also the league's fifth-most pass-heavy team in 2022.
The Browns are still only slight underdogs playing at home against Cincy though, which really highlights just how much promise this team has in 2023. Even at risk of missing a key piece of the secondary, the Browns are underdogs by less than a field goal to open the year.
Not everyone's buying the hype, but this Browns team is feeling mighty different than we've seen in years past, even if we're starting Week 1 off on a sour note.
Whether you believe in the Browns or not doesn't change how easy it is to claim a bonus $250 though. Caesars Sportsbook's new-user offer (available at the exclusive Factory of Sadness link below) pays out in full whether your first bet wins or loses, so optimists and pessimists alike can cash in all the same. The offer expires soon though, so cash in now before you miss out!
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.