Quarterback C.J. Stroud is having a fantastic rookie year. If the Houston Texans end up making the playoffs in 2023, which is a real possibility, he'll be a big reason why. The Jacksonville Jaguars know firsthand how good Stroud is, having lost to him and the Texans earlier this season. They'll have another shot at taking him down in Week 12. Just recently, head coach Doug Pederson talked about how challenging it will be to contain the first-year passer.
"Very impressed for a rookie quarterback to come in and perform at this level, the way he's thrown the ball, I admire his poise, quite frankly," Pederson told the local media Monday. "He's putting the ball where he wants to put it, meaning it's very accurate throws, he's got the ability to escape and move, and still keep his eyes down the field."
"That's a unique trait for a young quarterback to be able to do, and they're shooting the ball downfield. They're making big plays downfield and it's what you see, gaining confidence each week in him and his team," Pederson said.
The Texans were in the market for a quarterback in the offseason and went with Stroud one pick after the Carolina Panthers drafted Bryce Young first overall. Instead of letting Stroud learn behind Davis Mills, they installed him as the starter from the get-go. The decision paid off, as Stroud is having the best rookie campaign by a quarterback since Andrew Luck in 2012. So far, he's completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 2,9621 yards with 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions (three of them in Week 11).
On top of that, Stroud's averaging 8.3 yards per attempt, showing a willingness to take deep shots. But as good as he's been in 2023, Pederson points out that he isn't the only player the Jaguars will have to worry about when they face the Texans in Week 12.
"We have all that film on him, and yet, it seems like he's still putting up really good numbers. They're scoring on offense. Defensively, they're obviously better, so you see the improvement each week with this group. We understand what happened here not too long ago. C.J. performed well in a game. That and the ability to run the football, which they've been able to do, so they're playing good right now," Pederson said.
The Jaguars have a tough test when they face CJ Stroud and the Texans
Before the Texans beat the Jaguars in Week 3, they were 0-2. You could argue that game was the turning point of their season. Since then, they've won five more games and lost just two. Moreover, they're closing in on Jacksonville in the race for the No. 1 spot in the AFC South.
Since Houston already beat the Jaguars earlier this season, a win in Week 12 would give them the division lead. For this reason, this game could have big ramifications. Right now, the AFC playoff is as blurry as it can be. The only team who's got a spot in the position pretty much locked up is the Kansas City Chiefs. The Baltimore Ravens, at 8-3, are right behind the Chiefs
But after the Chiefs and Baltimore, things become murkier. The Cleveland Browns have a stout defense but they lost Deshaun Watson for the season. They just brought in Joe Flacco but he's probably not the answer to their quarterback woes. The Miami Dolphins, for their part, cannot beat good teams, while the Buffalo Bills have struggled in recent weeks. This uncertainty could make it possible for both the Jaguars and Houston to qualify for the postseason.
That said, the Jacksonville Jaguars cannot afford to take any chances. At 7-3, they still remain in control of the AFC South. They would surely want to keep it that way when they face off against the Houston Texans in Week 12.