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Houston Texans Quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) passes during the NFL football game between the Houston Texans and the Cincinnati Bengals on November 12, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire)
November 20th, 2023
Could C.J. Stroud become the second rookie to win the NFL MVP award? Following his Week 11 performance, the No. 2 overall selection of the 2023 NFL Draft is a top five choice to receive the coveted honor.
The Houston Texans quarterback was hardly on the MVP radar after the start of Week 1, when he sat at +17500 on the odds board as Houston dropped its opener in a 25-9 road loss to Baltimore. But after his 21-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 19, in which Stroud threw for 336 yards and a pair of touchdown passes, the former Ohio State signal caller is a +1800 dark horse to win NFL MVP, behind Jalen Hurts (+280), Lamar Jackson (+330), Patrick Mahomes (+330), and Tua Tagovailoa (+500).
As the quarterback of the team projected to finish with the worst record in the NFL in 2023, Stroud has defied early expectations, leading the Texans to a 6-3 record through nine games and a second-place standing in the AFC South.
In the process, he has set or tied a number of NFL records. In Week 3, he joined Cam Newton and Justin Herbert as the only players in NFL history to accumulate at least 900 passing yards in their first three games.
In a Week 10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, he also joined Newton as well as Andrew Luck as the only rookie quarterbacks to record three games with 350 or more passing yards.
Stroud set an NFL record in Week 5, when he broke Dak Prescott's streak of passes without an interception (176) to start a career. Stroud was intercepted for the first time in Week 6, on his 192nd pass attempt in a 20-13 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Stroud doesn't have a single interception through his first 177 career pass attempts 🤯 pic.twitter.com/puZ4XDbU3b— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 8, 2023
Stroud doesn't have a single interception through his first 177 career pass attempts 🤯 pic.twitter.com/puZ4XDbU3b
He also set the single-game passing yard record for a rookie in Week 9, when he threw for 470 yards in a 39-37 victory over Tampa Bay. His five touchdown passes in the matchup tied a single-game rookie record as well, and Stroud's performance marked the third time that any quarterback threw for at least that many yards and touchdowns without an interception. Y.A. Tittle and Ben Roethlisberger are the other two quarterbacks.
In addition to those records, Stroud currently ranks first in passing yards per game (296.2) among quarterbacks for the 2023 season, second in passing yards (2,962), ninth in touchdown passes (17), and has only thrown five interceptions, three of which came against Arizona in Week 11.
CJ Stroud today:— Broke rookie pass yards record— Tied rookie pass touchdown record— Game-winning drive and TD pass— Didn’t throw an interceptionGreatest single rookie performance ever? pic.twitter.com/YoE5750joZ— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 5, 2023
CJ Stroud today:— Broke rookie pass yards record— Tied rookie pass touchdown record— Game-winning drive and TD pass— Didn’t throw an interceptionGreatest single rookie performance ever? pic.twitter.com/YoE5750joZ
Should Stroud carry the Texans all the way to the postseason and win a game or two, he certainly would merit heavy consideration for NFL MVP, but history is far from on his side. The only rookie to earn the MVP award was Jim Brown, who ran for 942 yards and nine touchdowns on 202 carries while he caught 16 passes for 55 yards and a score. He also returned six kicks for 136 yards as the Browns went on to a 9-2-1 record and reached the NFL Championship Game, where they lost to the Detroit Lions.
Looking ahead to the remainder of the Texans' NFL schedule, Stroud has two winnable games against division rival Tennessee, who is playing behind another rookie, backup Will Levis. Stroud will also confront the AFC South-leading Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 12 and already beat Trevor Lawrence and Co. 37-17 on the road in Week 3.
Denver and Cleveland will visit Houston in December, while the Texans get the 4-6 New York Jets on the road and Indianapolis, who defeated Houston 31-20 way back in Week 2.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Texans would own the No. 6 seed in the AFC and would square off with division foe Jacksonville — certainly a matchup that could result in Houston winning a playoff game for the first time since 2019.
It's not out of the question the cards could unfold perfectly for the rookie to make even more history with an end-of-the-year honor. But it's much more likely — and virtually locked up — that that end-of-the-year honor will be Offensive Rookie of the Year.
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