Entering the weekend, the Cleveland Browns still had an outside shot of winning the AFC North but that hope was lost when the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the Miami Dolphins. The Cincinnati Bengals also had their sights set on a potential push to the postseason but a loss to Kansas City means they're out.
So now, the Browns are set as the No. 5 seed and the Bengals are looking forward to 2024. A game that could have been vital to playoff positioning is now essentially meaningless for each franchise. With that being the case, the Browns are expected to rest several starters in Week 18.
That's good for a team that has been dealing with countless injuries throughout the season. Even now, they're waiting for Elijah Moore, Dustin Hopkins, and Corey Bojorquez to all return to health. While those players will surely be out, we look at three more that should rest — while also naming two players who need to take advantage of the potential snaps.
Browns should rest: Za'Darius Smith, EDGE
In each of the past two wins, the Browns had a scare near the end of the game when Za'Darius Smith went down to the turf and was slow to get up. He's still listed as a limited participant due to a pectoral injury and this feels like the perfect time to allow him a week to rest and heal up.
Smith was added to bring pressure off the edge across from Myles Garrett and he's done that all year. He has 5.5 sacks but he's been constantly harassing opposing quarterbacks and is solid against the run. Having him at 100 percent will help the entire defense play better, making him someone who needs to treat this week like a bye.