Draft C.J. Stroud onto a losing NFL team. Give him a makeshift offensive line, ordinary running backs. Pair him with a pedestrian receiver group, and then take the top receiver away.
I don't think any of it matters. At this point, I'd follow C.J. Stroud into a burning building.
Stroud's comeback magic was the NFL story for the second straight week, as he piloted the Texans to a 30-27 victory at Cincinnati on Sunday. Stroud threw for 356 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score. And when the Texans needed a drive inside the final 1:33 to steal the win, Stroud marched his offense 55 yards in five plays.
Nico Collins wasn't available Sunday and Tank Dell was oddly inefficient on 14 targets (6-56-1), but Stroud found ways to move the offense. Noah Brown continued to sizzle, catching 7-of-8 opportunities for 172 yards; he was finding plenty of separation downfield. Dalton Schultz (4-71-0, six targets) is part of a league-wide rally at the tight end position. And even running back Devin Singletary offered support, rushing 30 times for 150 yards and a score.
The Texans are now 5-4, very much alive in the playoff hunt. Stroud was already an overwhelming favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year — could he be an MVP candidate as well? He's sitting on 15 touchdowns against just two picks on the season.
Stroud's second pick came in this game, a poor throw, but otherwise, the highlight tape is delightful to watch. Stroud is poised and accurate, athletic and smart. He makes plays in structure and out of structure. He's mobile enough to extend plays but usually does so with an eye towards downfield connections. Houston should be quarterback-set for the next decade. And just imagine what Stroud might do if the receiver room is upgraded.
Stroud will finish inside the QB1 cutline (that is, the top dozen) for the sixth time this year. He was the top quarterback last week. The 2023 Texans have become must-see TV. And you have to figure they'll make it rain next week against Arizona.
The Bengals offense wasn't perfect Sunday — Joe Mixon only had 45 total yards and Joe Burrow threw a couple of puzzling interceptions. But Burrow also threw for 347 yards and two scores, and although Ja'Marr Chase was limited and only saw six targets, he still paid off for fantasy (5-124-1). Tyler Boyd stepped up with Tee Higgins out, posting a monster 8-117-0 line on 12 looks. Unfortunately, Boyd also had a late drop in the end zone, a play that would have likely secured the game for Cincinnati.
Maybe the Bengals were due for an off performance after four straight wins. At least Burrow looks healthy and is back to proactively scrambling. The schedule doesn't get easier though, with a trip to Baltimore coming Thursday, and then a home date with the Steelers. Fantasy managers do like Cincinnati's playoff schedule, which bookends the Vikings and Chiefs around a rematch with Pittsburgh.
Jacksonville searching for answers
It's now game on in the AFC South, as the Jaguars fell to 6-3 with an embarrassing 34-3 loss to San Francisco. Losing to the Niners is excusable, but not by this margin. Both teams came into the game off their bye week, which sets up the always-interesting reveal game. But all the Jaguars gave us were questions, not answers.
Trevor Lawrence has taken a shocking step backward. He had three turnovers Sunday and took five sacks, throwing for just 185 yards despite trailing from the jump. The Jaguars can't seem to get Calvin Ridley going (2-20-0, three targets), though Ridley did draw multiple defensive penalties. Unfortunately, that doesn't help your fantasy count. Ridley hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 4.
Christian Kirk is established as the No. 1 target for the moment, and a 6-104-0 line is playable, though he did lose a fumble. Travis Etienne was ineffective and hardly used, finishing with 44 yards on 11 touches. He'll probably have trouble running on the Titans next week, but at least that's a plus matchup for Lawrence and the passing game.
If you dare to use those guys, of course. Lawrence still hasn't made it to 20 fantasy points in a game this season.
• Kyler Murray played a lot better than I expected, and was probably a little bit unlucky with his fantasy score. He still has his quickness, and unlike the last time we saw him play, he was eager to run. Tight end Trey McBride is ready to spread his wings.
• Bijan Robinson finally got the workload everyone's been begging for, and the offense should be better when Desmond Ridder returns to starting — he's a quarterback with limitations, but he gives the Falcons a better chance than Taylor Heinicke does.
• Jameis Winston was back throwing his YOLO balls, two of which turned into highlight-film catches. He also locked in on Chris Olave, something Derek Carr was reluctant to do. The Saints would probably be more fun with Winston, even if Carr's conservative ways might make the coaches happy. Alas, the Saints have a bye next week, so Carr should be back for Week 12.
• DK Metcalf had a playable final line, but I always feel like he leaves 1-2 big plays on the field. Kenneth Walker III had the surprising long touchdown catch, but when the Seahawks are in hurry-up, Zach Charbonnet is their guy. Charbo needs to be rostered in anything past a very shallow league.
• The Washington receivers were a disappointment, as the target tree was wider than expected. But Sam Howell continued to control the sack problem — we can live with three sacks against 44 pass attempts — and Brian Robinson Jr. was surprisingly involved as a pass catcher. The Commanders endure as a carnival — the offense can move the ball, the pass-heavy script lengthens games and the Washington defense can't stop a nosebleed. These are all good things.
• I wouldn't say Rico Dowdle looks electric, but he's been more efficient than Tony Pollard, and it's mid-November — we can't shrug this off. And the Cowboys are also throwing far more proactively these days, letting CeeDee Lamb be the featured part of the offense. All of Jake Ferguson's early signal has turned into fantasy goodness the last few weeks. Pollard is the worst kind of fantasy player — someone too good to bench, too hard to trade, too good to cut. He's also the type of player likely to go off the week your team is eliminated from playoff contention.
• Rachaad White's metrics are never going to look like much, but he's the only back in Tampa Bay who gets projectable volume, and he's always involved in the passing game. The Buccaneers' usage is a dream for fantasy, to be honest. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, White, sometimes Cade Otton. That's the list.
• For the most part the Jets are steering the ball to their two best players, Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, but one reason New York lost at Las Vegas was the reluctance to involve Hall in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was hired in part to woo Aaron Rodgers to the Jets, but he's shown little inspiration in how to make the Zach Wilson offense creative and productive.
• The Raiders have done a nice job hiding Aidan O'Connell, while still keeping Davante Adams engaged. The offense can't be that conservative in the next two weeks, though, with Miami and Kansas City waiting.
• The Chargers lost a close, high-scoring game, the kind of game this franchise consistently loses, but Justin Herbert to Keenan Allen was magic. Allen only has one top-10 season on his fantasy resume, in part because of a touchdown deficit, but he's going to finish in the top five this year. Herbert doesn't really trust anyone else downfield, and the chemistry can't be denied.
• For one week, the Lions flipped the roles — David Montgomery scored the long touchdown, Jahmyr Gibbs punched in the short ones. This offense can support both backs, with no third runner to worry about. Jared Goff has never been a scrambler. Amon-Ra St. Brown was an all-time draft steal, and Sam LaPorta does something every week. Sunday wasn't his blowup spot, but it's telling that they went to him on the biggest play of the game.
• The Steelers keep their miracle working, somehow managing a 6-3 record despite being outgained every week. This formula is bad news for Diontae Johnson and George Pickens, who are no longer automatic starters even in three-receiver leagues. Pittsburgh feels capped at one touchdown pass per week, and some weeks they don't throw any. Kenny Pickett is obviously someone who needs to be managed.
• Baltimore's usage with Keaton Mitchell didn't make any sense. He generated two early splash plays but ended the day with a paltry three runs and two targets (one reception). Baltimore is a franchise where we can generally apply rational coaching going forward, and it helps that the Ravens lost this game —teams are more incentivized to change things up after a loss.