During the drudgery of the last three seasons of Houston Texans football, the one thing you could always count on them to do was defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars. Outside of a home loss late in the season in 2022, the Texans have defeated the Jaguars every time the two teams have met since 2017. So even amid wretched Texans football in 2020, 2021, and 2022, beating the Jags was a virtual given.
Admittedly, Sunday's 37-17 Texans win in Jacksonville was likely the most surprising of all the recent victories over the Jaguars. The Texans were an underdog of more than a touchdown, and the Jaguars are the favorite to win the AFC South. So perhaps that's why a win over the Jags has spawned something that none of the wins in the past three seasons have — HOPE.
The Texans hired DeMeco Ryans for a reason, several actually, but a big one was to go inspire his team to win games like this. The Texans drafted C.J. Stroud for a reason, several actually, but a big one was so they could boast the superior quarterback in most of their matchups and, yes, go win games like this, Simply put, the combination of Ryans and Stroud feels different. Different than Bill O'Brien and Deshaun Watson, different than Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub, and in a different universe than anything this team has trotted out the last two seasons.
As a result, hope abounds, and it should. Stroud is doing things that few, if any, rookie quarterbacks have done in their first three games — most notably, he is the first QB in NFL history to throw for over 900 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions in his first three starts. Thus, the calculus and trajectory on this season have changed in the last few days.
Here is my hypothesis — I submit that, if the first three games in totality are indicative of what Stroud is as an NFL QB, then the Texans have a decided advantage at the sport's most important position in at least eight of the remaining 14 games.
Here is how the schedule shakes out right now, with likely opposing starting quarterbacks, barring injury. I would definitively rate Stroud ahead off al the quarterbacks in BOLD
WEEK 4: Kenny Pickett, PIT
WEEK 5: Desmond Ridder, ATL
WEEK 6: Derek Carr, NOLA
WEEK 7: BYE
WEEK 8: Bryce Young, CAR
WEEK 9: Baker Mayfield, TB
WEEK 10: Joe Burrow, CIN
WEEK 11: Joshua Dobbs, ARZ
WEEK 12: Trevor Lawrence, JAC
WEEK 13: Russell Wilson, DEN
WEEK 14: Zach Wilson, NYJ
WEEK 15: Ryan Tannehill, TEN
WEEK 16: Deshaun Watson, CLV
WEEK 17: Ryan Tannehill, TEN
WEEK 18: Anthony RIchardson, IND
So that leaves six games where Stroud is either the inferior quarterback, or there is enough of a debate to where I can't say definitively he is better. Here's the thing, though — even in the remaining six games, the games with the higher caliber quarterbacks, you can easily make an argument that Stroud will hang in just fine, or maybe even win the QB matchup:
Argument against DEREK CARR, NOLA
Carr suffered a sprain of the AC joint in his throwing shoulder in the Saints' loss to the Green Bay Packers, and he's had trouble scoring points with the Saints, even when healthy.
Argument against JOE BURROW, CIN
Burrow has struggled with a calf strain all season thus far, and those tend to be injuries that are tough to shake. Can he shake it by Week 10?
Argument against TREVOR LAWRENCE, JAC
Duh, Stroud has already beaten him once! So, perhaps you're wondering why Lawrence's name isn't in bold font above. I still think Lawrence is one of the better quarterbacks in the league, so I'm not ready to say Stroud is superior after just three games of Stroud. The other guys in bold above? Three games of Stroud is enough for me.
Argument against RYAN TANNEHILL, TEN (twice)
Tannehill barely makes the cut, but I'm willing to give a guy who's made multiple recent playoff appearances some leeway. That said, the Titans are bad enough as a team to where they might be starting Malik Willis or Will Levis by Weeks 15 and 17.
Argument against DESHAUN WATSON, CLV
In nine starts, Watson has had ONE good game for the Browns. That said, Watson has nearly all season to finally get acclimated to Kevin Stefanski's offense, before facing the Texans in late December. But what if he doesn't get acclimated?
Man, it's fun to have a young quarterback to get excited about. For what it's worth, Stroud currently sits atop the odds board for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year at +250.
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