In the ever-evolving landscape of the NFL, one team is rewriting the narrative with each pass from their rookie sensation, another might be wishing they had a different passer. Meanwhile, in the NFC three different teams solidified their status as Super Bowl contenders.
Yeah, it was a wild Week 10 across the league.
Here are the biggest takeaways and awards from one of the more consequential weeks to date of the 2023 campaign.
First Down: C.J. Stroud Out-Duels Joe Burrow, Plays Texans Into AFC Race
The Houston Texans have arrived, and thanks to C.J. Stroud, suddenly belong in the conversation among the AFC's best.
There's no denying either of those statements after what we have seen from the No. 2 overall pick over the past two weeks.
Sunday afternoon against the Bengals, Stroud outplayed Joe Burrow while passing for 325 yards with one touchdown, one interception, including orchestrating a six-play and 55-yard drive capped by the game-winning 38-yard field goal to lift the Texans past the Bengals 30-27.
"He's the definition of being confident and poised," a rival AFC Scouting Director told FanBuzz, of Stroud, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about another team.
Stroud's Week 9 heroics marked the second consecutive fourth quarter comeback and chipped away at the Jacksonville Jaguars' lead in the AFC South. Houston now trails the Jaguars by just one game in the division, with a Week 3 victory over Jacksonville tucked away safely for tiebreaker purposes.
As CBS Sports points out, Stroud is the only rookie quarterback in the past 40 years to complete a game-winning drive in the final two minutes of regulation in two consecutive weeks, underscoring his rapid ascent among the top players at the position across the league.
"The thing about C.J. is that he's using all of his playmakers," the scouting director said. "Seven different receivers were featured today. A negative during the evaluation process when it comes to quarterbacks can sometimes be that you have way more talent around you in college than you do the pros. But, C.J. is showing that you can turn that into a positive, because you have to learn to feed everyone."
Stroud is doing exactly that.
Against the Saints, rookie wide receiver Tank Dell's electrifying rookie season continued, as the third-round rookie caught six passes for 56 yards with a touchdown, as Stroud keeps elevating the young playmakers around him on offense.
Houston has gone from a feel-good story boasting a young roster with plenty of upside, to a legitimate playoff contender. If the regular season ended today, Stroud and the Texans would be the No. 7 seed with an AFC Wild Card berth. Quite a turnaround from a 3-13-1 finish in 2022 that locked Houston into the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, and the chance to choose Stroud immediately after the Panthers plucked Bryce Young No. 1 overall.
Head coach DeMeco Ryans has inspired belief from his team, Stroud has delivered the results to embolden the Texans' confidence, which can be a potent combination in the midst of a playoff chase.
Second Down: Vikings Winning With Move Jets Should Have Made
When two NFL teams saw their starting quarterbacks' season come to an end after torn Achilles injuries, two franchises acted dramatically different to the injuries. One is being rewarded for acting boldly, and quickly, while the other is seemingly floundering to the season's finish line.
A month ago, it was easy to picture the Vikings as the team that could be staring down a sluggish second half with an offseason of change looming. But, instead, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's quick decision to trade for Joshua Dobbs two days after Kirk Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon has thrown lighter fluid on the Vikings' previously flickering postseason flame.
Meanwhile, Dobbs' success in the Twin Cities has to feel like a stick in the eye to Jets general manager Joe Douglas, as New York struggles to stay competitive with Zach Wilson behind center in the aftermath of Aaron Rodgers' season [likely] ending after just four snaps back in September.
Sunday afternoon against the New Orleans Saints, Dobbs was instrumental to the Vikings winning their fifth straight, 27-19 over the Saints.
Dobbs was lights out on Sunday, completing 23-of-34 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown, en-route to a 101.1 passer rating, while rushing for 44 yards with a seven-yard touchdown run.
It is that kind of veteran steadiness that the Vikings desperately needed following Cousins' injury, and Joe Douglas hasn't been able to find in the wake of Rodgers' season ending before it really had the chance to begin.
As Dobbs steadies the Vikings' ship, Wilson entered Sunday night's game against the Las Vegas Raiders having completed just 59 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions with the Jets sitting at .500 through their first eight weeks.
Seeing what Dobbs has done, and given the fact that the Cardinals were happy to ship him off in exchange for a third-round pick, makes it easy to wonder what might have been for the Jets and an offense that includes electrifying running back Breece Hall and dynamic wide receiver Garrett Wilson had Douglas beaten Adofo-Mensah to the punch.
Third Down: John Mara Facing Giants Disaster
Every time it seems the Giants have hit bottom, a faint scraping sound can be heard coming from the barrel.
New York's latest defeat, a systematic 49-17 dismantling — that was never really even that close — to the same Dallas Cowboys team that lambasted the Giants in the opener, 40-0, could raise significant questions about head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen's futures.
"It's definitely tough right now," Giants running back Saquon Barkley told reporters afterward. "Losing like that, getting embarrassed week after week. But you gotta be a man about it. You can be in your feelings for only a short time. You gotta be ready for next week. That's the NFL."
A familiar scene appears to be playing out in the Big Apple.
Less than two years after being hired, Daboll might be toeing perilously close to the line that led to Joe Judge, Pat Shurmur, and Ben McAdoo who were fired by owner John Mara two seasons or less into their tenures at the helm of the Giants.
It wasn't just that the Giants lost to the Cowboys, it was how New York lost, in embarrassing fashion, to a division rival that has made embarrassing Mara's franchise commonplace over the past three seasons.
"Daboll needs to make major changes to his offensive staff, an NFL coach told FanBuzz. "If he's going to survive this."
This Giants offense, be it Daboll or offensive coordinator Mike Kafka has been historically inept.
Through 10 games, New York is averaging 11.8 points, has been shut out once and scored 10 points or fewer in half of their contests. If that holds, it would be the lowest points per game since the 2009 St. Louis Rams finished the season averaging just 10.9.
At this juncture, it's anyone's guess whether Mara would pull the plug on Daboll, and potentially general manager Joe Schoen. There is value in continuity and allowing a staff to build a roster in its image, especially one that inherited a quarterback it did not draft.
However, given Mara's track record of impatience with coaching hires, there's a real possibility that Daboll's return may come with strings attached.
"If your side of the ball is failing," the coach said. "You better be calling plays. Because if it's your side of the ball that's the problem, it's on you to fix it, or it's the quickest way to get fired."
It's likely to get worse for Daboll and the Giants before it gets better. New York still has a pair of games against the division-leading Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and Los Angeles Rams before this nightmare mercifully comes to an end.
If the regular season ended today, the Giants would hold the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Whether Schoen and Daboll get to make that selection suddenly feels like an open question. Stay tuned.
Fourth Down: Race for No. 1 Seed in NFC Suddenly Tightens
The Philadelphia Eagles were idle Sunday, but will return from the bye with a Super Bowl rematch against Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs in Kansas City with only a tenuous hold on the NFC's No. 1 seed.
Sitting at 8-1, in the midst of the most grueling stretch of its schedule, the road to the Super Bowl would go through Philadelphia if the season ended today. But, Sunday's action contracted the top of the conference standings and reduced whatever margin for error the Eagles had entering the season's final eight games.
Detroit's thrilling comeback win over Justin Herbert's Chargers pulled the Lions to within one game of the Eagles, in the kind of victory that underscores why Dan Campbell's team might be Philly's biggest threat in the conference.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys rebounded from last weekend's heartbreak in South Philly by coasting to a victory over the Giants that Dak Prescott finished comfortably as a fourth quarter spectator. And, buoyed by defensive end Chase Young's arrival and Deebo Samuel's return, the 49ers made easy work of the Jaguars, 34-3, after Jacksonville entered in the midst of a four-game winning streak.
We'll learn much about the Eagles, and what the playoff picture will wind up looking like on the NFC side of the bracket between now and when Santa Claus takes flight. After all, between now and Christmas, Philadelphia plays the Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, 49ers, Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks. If Nick Sirianni's team survives that stretch relatively unscathed it will go a long way towards securing the top seed.
However, the Lions, 49ers, and Cowboys are well positioned to pounce on any Philadelphia slip up.
Here's how the NFC bracket would look, should after Week 10:
1. Philadelphia Eagles (8-2)
2. Detroit Lions (7-2)
3. San Francisco 49ers (6-3)
4. New Orleans Saints (5-5)
5. Seattle Seahawks (6-3)
6. Dallas Cowboys (6-3)
7. Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
Week 10 MVP: Jared Goff, QB, Detroit Lions
In a game that more resembled a Pac-12 After Dark clash than a Week 10 game in the NFL, former University of California star Jared Goff was right at home at SoFi Stadium as the Detroit Lions slayed the host Los Angeles Chargers 41-38, in comeback fashion.
Goff was nearly flawless, executing the Lions' offense to near perfection while rifling several throws into tight windows, and ultimately leading a nine-play and 53-yard drive for the game-winning field goal as time expired on the Lions' seventh victory.
Throughout Sunday's game, Goff made several throws into the tightest of windows, completed a pass to seven different receivers, with all seven of his targets logging at least two catches.
"All I know is he's playing at a high level for us," Lions head coach Dan Campbell told reporters after the game. "And, we're winning games because of him. So, he's up there, I'm not sure who that [top] guy would be, but I like our guy.
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again; we've got a quarterback, and thank God that we do."
Detroit's running game proved the perfect complement to Goff and the passing game, as rookie Jahmyr Gibbs and veteran David Montgomery combined for 193 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground while creating space and opportunities over the top.
With Goff leading the charge, the Lions scored on 7-of-10 possessions, only punting once against the Chargers who were fighting to keep pace in the AFC West.
Goff is playing the best football of his career, now having passed for 2,507 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions while playing the Lions into the race for homefield advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.
Week 10 Breakout Star: Trey McBride, TE, Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray's return sparked the Arizona Cardinals' offense, and few players benefited more from the star quarterback's return than second-year tight end Trey McBride.
Not only was McBride Murray's favorite target against the Falcons, catching eight of his nine targets for 131 yards, but 33 of them came on Murray's final completion to set up Matt Prater's game-winning 23-yard field goal to clinch a 25-23 win.
"I told Kyler, I usually don't tell him what to do," McBride told reporters following the game. "I told him, if this guy gets me man-to-man, I've been killing him all game, just give me a chance. He did exactly that."
Not only did McBride put the Cardinals in position to clinch their second victory of the season, but as PHNX Sports points out, the 23-year-old became the first tight end to finish a game with 100 receiving yards since 1989.
Talk about a special day at the office.
A McBride breakout over the second half of the season might be in the offing. The Cardinals' second-round pick in the 2022 draft, McBride has already surpassed his 265 receiving yards as a rookie, with 418 yards through this season's first nine games with 10 more receptions already than he posted last season.
Week 10 Team of The Week: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns rolled into Baltimore and beat the Ravens at their own game.
Baltimore climbed atop the AFC North standings by playing a bludgeoning style of defense, led by a relentless pass rush and opportunistic group that had produced 13 total turnovers and a league-high 35 sacks. However, on Sunday afternoon, it was Myles Garrett and the Browns' defense that took over the game and took a much-needed division victory back home with them to Cleveland.
Garrett finished Sunday with 2.5 sacks, but it was a relentless comeback led both by a dominant defensive performance and one of the most consistent halves of football in DeShaun Watson's career.
Over the final 30 minutes of action, Watson completed all 14 of his passing attempts for 139 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, running back Jerome Ford rushed for 32 of his 107 yards, and Kareem Hunt added a rushing score.
Included in that frenetic second half was Watson leading a 12-play, 58-yard drive to set up the game-winning 40-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal with :03 remaining to complete the comeback.
"We've been in that position in practice plenty of times," Ford said, on CBS Radio's Eye on Football, following Sunday's game. "The vibe is always the same. Everybody do their individual job, put points on the board, whether it's a touchdown or a field goal, we have all those situations all the time in practice, this time it showed up [in a game] and we were able to execute."
Ford believes the Browns have put the rest of the NFL on notice.
"Just Watch out," Ford said on CBS Radio's Eye on Football. "We comin'. We're going to play hard for four quarters every game. And, we ain't playin'."
Suddenly, with the Bengals and Ravens both losing, the 6-3 Browns have played their way into the thick of the AFC North race.
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