Opinion: C.J. Stroud’s impressive roll screeches to halt against Falcons

NFL: OCT 01 Steelers at Texans

C.J. Stroud has been one of the biggest surprises of the NFL season, and he’ll have a chance to get the Texans over .500 this Sunday against the Falcons.

The former Ohio State superstar led Houston to back-to-back wins while earning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month honors and is coming off the best performance of his young career.

Stroud threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Texans 30-6 over the Steelers. His 1,212 yards are more than any other player in their first four games not named Cam Newton, who threw for 1,386 in 2011 for the Panthers.

What’s most impressive about Stroud, which Falcons fans have learned the hard way with Desmond Ridder, is his ability to protect the football. He joined Brock Purdy and Joshua Dobbs as the only signal callers to start all four games and not throw an interception this season.

Moreover, Stroud has established himself among the greats, throwing for 1,200+ yards with no interceptions through the first four games of a season, joining Aaron Rodgers (2020), Patrick Mahomes (2018 and ’19), Drew Brees (2018), Tom Brady (2015 and ’17) and Peyton Manning (2013).

With that being said, all of that ends this Sunday in Atlanta against one of the best defenses in football.

Ryan Nielsen coordinates one of the stingiest groups in the league, which features eight new starters from Week 1 of 2022. I expected that side of the ball to slowly come together given there were so many new pieces that needed to gel in a new system. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This Falcons defense is already a top 10 unit. Nielsen’s group ranks 10th in points per game (19.3), 5th in red zone percentage (40% of trips ending in a touchdown), 7th in yards per game (290.8), 9th in completion percentage (62.7%), 5th in explosive plays allowed (16), 4th in pressure rate (29.5%), and 9th in third down conversion rate (33.3%).

It’s why I believe C.J. Stroud’s impressive roll screeches to a halt this weekend. He’s actually close to breaking a record. Stroud is 25 completions away from tying the NFL record held by Dak Prescott for passes completed bye a rookie without an interception. That streak ends Sunday.

Despite putting up 30+ points in each of the past two games, Stroud and the Texans’ offense are running into a buzzsaw. The Falcons defense wins the team this game, thanks to a turnover or two.

The Falcons pressure opposing quarterbacks at a rate that few can match, and the backend is as solid as any of the top defenses with Jessie Bates III and A.J. Terrell. C.J. Stroud is in for a rude awakening.

Photographer: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sports


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