Browns COVID Update: Denzel Ward Among Cleveland’s Missing Starters
Jason Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Denzel Ward
Denzel Ward is among the key players the Browns will be without Sunday due to the COVID/reserve list.
It’s the Browns first playoff game since 2002, but they’re already starting behind with numerous losses before kick.
Ward and fellow corner Kevin Johnson won’t be activated from the COVID list before the game. Neither will Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio or receiver KhaDarel Hodge.
The biggest loss might be head coach Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski tested positive and will not be coaching the team Sunday. Special teams coach Mike Priefer will serve as the head coach.
Other players are still questionable, such as offensive lineman Jack Conklin (illness). Myles Garrett and Sheldon Richardson are listed as questionable but are expected to play.
Cleveland practiced just once this week — Friday — but met virtually the rest of the week.
As a result, the betting line moved from 3.5 to 6.5 favoring the Steelers (real-time odds).
It’s not all bad news for the Browns. Cleveland did activate starting safety Ronnie Harrison, tight end Harrison Bryant and linebackers Malcolm Smith and Montrel Meander from the COVID list.
With the Browns dealing with a COVID spread throughout their team for the last two weeks, there’s no ruling out the possibility of surprise positive tests on Sunday morning.
What Denzel Ward Means to the Spread
The Pro Bowl corner has two interceptions on the season, tied for the most on the team. According to our Director of Predictive Analytics Sean Koerner’s player ratings, Ward is the Browns’ seventh-most valuable player. He’s worth 0.34 points on the spread.
But joining Ward on the sidelines for this game is defensive end Olivier Vernon, who is out for the year with a torn Achilles. Vernon is the second-most valuable defender behind only Garrett, according to Koerner’s ratings. He’s worth another 0.47 points to the spread.
The other notable loss for Cleveland on the field is Bitonio, who is worth 0.33 points to the spread.