No one knows how to define what “it” is, but it’s already very evident that C.J. Stroud has “it.”
The second overall pick just turned in arguably the best performance by a rookie quarterback in NFL history, throwing for an NFL rookie-record 470 yards and five touchdowns, including the game-winning score to Tank Dell with seconds remaining to lift the Texans over the Buccaneers in a 39-37 shootout.
Who's your fantasy football team MVP in Week 9?
For me, it's C.J. Stroud. He's saved me on one team where I've had suboptimal quarterback play. pic.twitter.com/VHoP7Xxv3P
— Moody (@EricNMoody) November 6, 2023
C.J. STROUD AND TANK DELL HAVE A DAY 🔥 pic.twitter.com/JPESL2jJn9
— NFL Fantasy Football (@NFLFantasy) November 5, 2023
The win puts Houston at 4-4 at the halfway point of the season- a season in which no one expected them to click so quickly, nor did anyone see this coming from this tremendous rookie.
Stroud isn’t just playing well for a first-year player, he is already playing like one of the game’s best signal-callers. The Ohio State product is currently seventh in the league in EPA/play, third in yards/attempt, seventh in yards, and sixth in touchdowns.
And it’s not just that he’s putting up numbers like this, it’s that he is doing it with a cast of characters that we all largely wrote off. Nico Collins came into the year off a career-high 37 receptions in 2022- he has 36 catches already this season. Fellow rookie Tank Dell was a very explosive receiver at the University of Houston, but many worried about his size and how he would translate to the next level- he has 28 catches and four touchdowns in seven games. We always talk about how the best quarterbacks make the players around them better- Stroud is doing that.
Right now, the brilliant young quarterback is on pace for 4,540 yards, which would be a new rookie record. He is also on pace for 28 touchdown passes- that would be the second most in history for a rookie behind only Justin Herbert’s 31 in 2020. And if he replicates his touchdowns and interceptions in the second half of the season, that would give him a 28-2 ratio which would be the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history for single-season.
Individual numbers aside, the Texans are also in the thick of the AFC Wildcard hunt. At 4-4, they are only a game behind the current No. 7 seed Cincinnati Bengals (whom they play in Week 10), and they have a tiebreaker over the current No. 5 seed Pittsburgh Steelers after beating them 30-6 this season. The Texans aren’t just a darling rebuilding team that everyone is rooting for, a la the 2021-22 Detroit Lions.
This team is competing, and they are beating the hell out of teams in the process. The Jaguars lead the division at 6-2- one of those losses was a 20-point beating at the hands of Houston. The aforementioned Steelers game, as well, where they just outclassed Pittsburgh for three hours- this is a good football team who went from the dark cloud of the Deshaun Watson situation, to two years of Davis Mills, to now having their unquestioned face of the franchise for the foreseeable future.
Stroud isn’t just playing extremely well, he’s helping lift a franchise back to relevancy as a beacon of hope. Houston is his Gotham. And for the Texans, they have found their caped crusader.