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Badgers in the NFL: Week 18

How did former Badgers do in the NFL during Week 18?

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It was a really solid year for our NFL Badgers, but save for a lucky few, that season is over.

So, here is my final installment for the 2023 season, with a few notable season summary stats added, as warranted. Now it’s time for me to go figure out how to handle Jake Ferguson playing the Packers this weekend.

Pittsburgh Steelers (Wisconsin of the NFL)

T.J. Watt: An awesome, then terrible, day for T.J. A few plays after sealing up the NFL sacks title, he was injured in a freak collision with a teammate, likely ending his season with a Grade 2 MCL sprain. Good thoughts to Watt, who finishes up another All-Pro campaign with 19 sacks, 19 QB hits, 47 hurries, 6 batted balls, and 48 tackles.

Keeanu Benton: 3 tackles and a QB hurry on the day. Benton ends his season with 1 sack, 7 QB hits, 14 hurries, and 33 tackles, and should be an unquestioned starter at defensive tackle for the Steelers in 2024.

Nick Herbig: Had a single QB hurry on 13 snaps. Overall, a solid but up-and-down year for the rookie, featuring 3 sacks and 14 total tackles.

Isaiahh Loudermilk: 1 tackle on only 3 snaps. It will be interesting to see where (or if) IL fits in on the Steelers next fall, as his usage dropped from last season.

Dallas Cowboys

Jake Ferguson: As he prepares to face his Grandpa’s favorite team this Sunday, Jake can feel good about another great game: 6 catches for 69 nice yards and an 80.6 PFF grade. Jake’s season totals of 71 catches for 761 yards and 5 TDs are just hinting at his very high ceiling.

Tyler Biadasz: Another outstanding regular season wraps for Tyler, with a 65-snap clean sheet (no sacks, hits, or hurries). He’s simply one of the best centers in the game right now.

Chicago Bears

TJ Edwards: While I must admit that I was happy to see TJ Edwards (and his 11 tackles) lose to the Packers on Sunday, I’m also obligated to recognize how good a season he had. Edwards ends his campaign as No. 7 in the NFL in tackles with an impressive 155.

Jack Sanborn: Although his snap count (12) and tackle totals (1) were very modest, Sanborn did lead the Bears defense with a 73.0 PFF grade, which is somewhat faint praise. His season closes with 57 tackles and a sack, and he is probably wondering where he fits into the Bears’ future plans.

Denver Broncos

Russell Wilson: Was a DNP after being benched the week before because the Broncos must like losing. Russ had an up-and-down season, but it’s hard to argue that his play didn’t bounce back from a rough 2022, ending up with 3,075 passing yards, 26 TDs, and 8 INTs, with an additional 341 yards and 3 TDs on the ground. It’s very easy to see Russ starting for an NFL team in 2024, but it sure as hell won’t be Denver.

Matt Henningsen: 0 tackles on 8 snaps for the smartest player in the NFL.

Miami Dolphins

Alec Ingold: No catches or totes, but as it has been all season, Ingold’s value doesn’t show up in the stat sheet. He had another solid year and was the Fins’ NFL Man of the Year nominee.

Andrew Van Ginkel: It was a very tough day at the office for The Notorious AVG, who suffered a season-ending foot injury vs the Bills. While his fantastic 2023 run is over, it’s hard to imagine that AVG hasn’t secured himself a solid, multi-season new deal with an NFL team after an outstanding year: 62 tackles, 8 sacks, 32 hurries, 13 QB hits, and a bonkers 91.1 PFF grade.

Indianapolis Colts

Jonathan Taylor: He gutted it out through pain in this game as he has much of the season to the tune of 188 yards rushing and a TD (with 2 grabs for 8 yards). But the Colts’ coaching staff shelving JT for a former practice squad player on 4th down will be the thing Indy fans remember. Taylor’s injury-plagued season ends with 741 yards and 7 TDs, along with a preposterously low 19 catches for 153 yards and a single TD, suggesting the issue in Indy is more than JT’s health.

New Orleans Saints

Zack Baun: In a contract season, it remains to be seen if Baun has done enough for a solid new deal. But, his last several games were encouraging after being allowed to rush the passer more. He finishes with 26 tackles, 11 hurries, and 2 sacks, all career highs by a wide margin.

Ryan Ramsczyk: Did not play due to a knee injury and his NFL future beyond 2023 appears clouded. I hope that he can bounce back in 2024 if it’s in his best interest to keep playing.

New York Jets

Joe Tippmann: He was lost to injury in the Jets’ last game, but had a very encouraging rookie season and will line up as the Week 1 starter in 2024.

Los Angeles Rams

Rob Havenstein: Played 41 clean snaps for the Rams in a meaningless game vs the Niners. Ends his regular season with an outstanding 81.8 PFF grade.

Houston Texans

Michael Deiter: Although he allowed a sack on C.J. Stroud this past week, MD’s renaissance season will include the playoffs and it’s hard not to root for him after he resurrected things in Houston this fall.

Dare Ugunbowale: No stats this week for Dare, who ends the regular season with 35 yards rushing, 18 yards receiving, and one amazing FG.

Los Angeles Chargers

Alex Erickson: 2 catches for 29 yards this week and, more importantly, a real role for the Chargers late in a contract season. His final totals were modest, but he probably showed enough to land a deal somewhere in 2024.

Kansas City Chiefs

Leo Chenal: 3 tackles on 26 snaps in a big Chiefs win. Ends the year with 58 tackles, 9 hurries, 4 hits, and 2 sacks, and it’s easy to see him being a big part of the Chiefs’ future.

Baltimore Ravens

Kevin Zeitler: Missed the game with knee and quad injuries. Had a pretty decent 2023 season, highlighted by an 82.5 PFF pass-blocking grade.

Melvin Gordon: 7 carries for 18 yards and a lost fumble. Although he’s gotten some spot duty for the Ravens late in 2023, it wouldn’t be surprising if this was the end of the line for the all-time Badger great, who could go out with back-to-back Super Bowl wins.

Buffalo Bills

David Edwards: 9 clean snaps for Edwards, who had a solid 2023 as a reserve offensive lineman for the Bills.