There was speculation after the recent NFL Draft that team ownership drove the Houston Texans' selection of C.J. Stroud with the second overall pick. As the story went, that was why the Texans overpaid to go back up and get Will Anderson Jr., the preferred pick of the front office, at No. 3 overall.
Texans owner Cal McNair denied he pushed the Stroud pick, but as it turns out, maybe he should have claimed credit.
If the NFL did the draft over, Stroud would be the first pick and it probably wouldn't be much of a debate. Stroud had another good game and the Texans moved to a surprising 3-3 with a 20-13 win over the New Orleans Saints. The Texans held on in the final minute, with Derek Carr throwing a fourth-down interception.
It wasn't Stroud's best game, but it was good enough for the Texans to beat a Saints team (3-3) that was coming off a 34-0 win over the New England Patriots. Stroud had 199 yards passing and two touchdowns, and looked as steady as he has all season.
It's early in Stroud's career but it seems clear the Texans made a really good pick with him. He didn't throw his first interception of the season until Sunday — and even then, the Texans stripped linebacker Zack Baun of the ball after his interception and recovered the fumble — which is a remarkable streak for a rookie. Stroud set the record for most passing attempts to start a career without throwing an INT.
He looks like a veteran. His explanation this past week of how he told Dalton Schultz to adjust a route, which led to a go-ahead touchdown in Week 5, was uncanny for a rookie. Everything about Stroud is impressive for any player, much less a rookie.
That pick changes the Texans' trajectory. Their season already is a success, no matter their final record, if Stroud continues to play like he has. DeMeco Ryans looks like an excellent hire as a head coach and the roster is slowly improving.
The Texans were bad for a couple seasons without much hope, but that's not the case anymore. That's what one home-run draft pick at quarterback can do.
Stroud looks as good through six games as any rookie quarterback over the past few seasons. Houston is .500 and not many people expected that. The Texans have had many injuries on the offensive line and it hasn't fazed Stroud. Houston is still building around him, and that's an important work in progress. But the most important piece of the Texans' rebuild is in place.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 6 of the NFL season:
New York Jets defense: The Philadelphia Eagles had been mostly just getting by this season, and eventually it was going to come back to cost them.
You can’t go through the motions against the Jets' defense. An enormous interception by Tony Adams late in the fourth quarter, followed by the Eagles seemingly letting the Jets score a go-ahead touchdown led to a stunning 20-14 upset over the Eagles. The Jets were without their top two cornerbacks including star Sauce Gardner, and still flustered Jalen Hurts.
Hurts had three interceptions, including the game-changing one to Adams.
The Jets are 3-3 despite an offense that doesn’t give much support. But the defense will keep them in most games this season.
Kyren Williams: There was a reason the Los Angeles Rams were willing to dump Cam Akers.
The Rams wanted to give Williams his shot as a featured back and he’s doing very well with it. Williams and the Rams had a slow start against the Arizona Cardinals, but Williams got going in the second half and led the way to a 26-9 win over the Cardinals.
Williams finished with 158 yards and a touchdown. Cooper Kupp also came through with seven catches for 148 yards and a score. The Rams' offense will be tough to defend the rest of the season, and Williams is a big reason for that.
Raheem Mostert: The Miami Dolphins will happily welcome rookie De'Von Achane back when he's healthy. But Mostert is making sure the Dolphins won't miss him.
Mostert had another huge day Sunday, rushing for two touchdowns and catching another, as the Dolphins stormed back from an early 14-0 deficit to beat the Carolina Panthers 42-21. Mostert had 115 yards rushing and another 17 receiving.
Mostert has had some big moments as a pro, but injuries have been a part of his story, too. He is healthy and on a track team of an offense that perfectly fits his style. If Mostert can stay healthy he's going to have a monster season, regardless of when Achane returns.
Cincinnati Bengals defense: The Seattle Seahawks' offensive line is banged up, and the Bengals took advantage.
The Bengals continued to crawl out of a hole they dug early in the season, beating the Seahawks 17-13 in a game that Seattle had multiple chances to win. But every time Seattle was close, they forced QB Geno Smith into a mistake.
In the final minute the Seahawks got inside the Bengals' 10-yard line. A questionable run call on second-and-10 put the Seahawks in a bad spot. On fourth-and-8, the Bengals got a pass rush on Smith and hit him before he could throw. That ended the game. Cincinnati sacked Smith four times and hit him several other times.
The Bengals are back to 3-3. They have to feel pretty good about that.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins: It was way too early to talk about the San Francisco 49ers running the table. The 49ers followed up a great blowout win over the Dallas Cowboys with a terrible 19-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns were without Deshaun Watson and started P.J. Walker off the practice squad. And the 49ers still didn't win. The 49ers and Eagles lost on Sunday, and there are no more undefeated teams left this season.
Rookie kicker Jake Moody, the team’s third-round draft pick, missed a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds after a last-minute drive. (Maybe it’s not a great idea to take a kicker with a top-100 pick.)
— NFL (@NFL) October 15, 2023
A massive and controversial unnecessary roughness call on 49ers safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. for a hit over the middle on Browns receiver Elijah Moore — it looked like Gipson hit Moore in the shoulder and it shouldn't have been flagged — kept Cleveland's go-ahead drive going. That call will be debated.
The Browns finished the drive with a go-ahead field goal with 1:40 left. It looked like the 49ers had answered, but then their kicker missed wide right
It was a great win for the Browns and a weird loss for the 49ers (5-1). They looked like the best team in football through five games. San Francisco might still be the best team, but it's not undefeated anymore. It looked for a moment like the Niners might be a threat to go deep into the regular season with an undefeated record, but that didn't even last until Halloween.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Baker Mayfield-led offense: The Buccaneers’ 3-1 start seemed like a mirage, and Sunday seemed to confirm it.
The Buccaneers didn’t pass 200 yards of offense until their final drive, when the Lions were content to keep everything in front of them, protecting a 14-point lead.
Mayfield is practically playing for his career this season, at least as a starting NFL quarterback. The Buccaneers had salary cap issues and Mayfield was willing to play on a one-year, $4 million deal, which is why he had the chance to start this season. Mayfield has been pretty good, but Sunday was a step back for him and the Bucs as a whole.
He suffered a contusion on his left hand (his non-throwing hand) and X-rays were negative.
New England Patriots offense: It’s hard to come up with anything positive to say about the Patriots offense.
Mac Jones was mostly bad again, including a miserable interception in Las Vegas Raiders territory. DeVante Parker dropped a deep pass in the final minutes that might have put the Patriots close to field-goal position and a win. But he dropped it and after that Jones took a safety in the end zone. The Patriots lost 21-17 to the Raiders and fell to 1-5 this season.
Yes, the Patriots are contenders for the top pick and USC quarterback Caleb Williams. They need him, or someone to pump life into the offense. New England’s offense has been hideously bad this season and it’s unlikely to get much better. This season is a waste, but maybe there’s something better coming in the future.
Justin Fields' momentum: Fields had a very good two-game stretch for the Chicago Bears, then had a date against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. It should have been another step forward.
Instead, Fields had a horrible day and got injured on top of it. Fields completed 6 of 10 passes for 83 yards and an interception a few minutes into the third quarter when he injured his hand and left the game. The Vikings went on to win 19-13 in an ugly contest.
The Bears are 1-5 and their season wasn't going anywhere with Fields or not, but now they have to worry about their quarterback's health. After two promising games for Fields, Sunday was rough.
Gardner Minshew II: Minshew might be the best backup quarterback in the NFL, but he's still best suited as a backup.
Minshew was probably exposed too much in the Indianapolis Colts' 37-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even though the Colts have Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss at running back, they had just eight carries by their backs in the first half compared to 25 passes for Minshew. That's not going to work out well in most games.
Minshew lost a fumble and threw an interception in the first half as the Jaguars built a 21-3 lead. Then he started the second half with a terrible interception. He threw one in the fourth quarter too on a fourth down.
The Colts might be without Anthony Richardson for the rest of the season if he decides on shoulder surgery. At very least he'll be out for a few more weeks. The Colts need Minshew to play better, but that probably means using him a lot less.
Desmond Ridder and his job security: Fire up the Taylor Heinicke talk again.
The Atlanta Falcons had a quarterback controversy for a moment due to Ridder's struggles, but Ridder ended that talk with a nice game in Week 5. People will probably go back to clamoring for Heinicke to start after Ridder had a bad game Sunday in a 24-16 loss to the Washington Commanders.
The key moment of the game came when Ridder threw a terrible interception into the end zone with the Falcons trailing by eight points, which led to a classic reaction from Falcons head coach Arthur Smith.
Arthur Smith after Benjamin St-Juste’s pick in the end zone. pic.twitter.com/Qb8Dj5c5p0
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) October 15, 2023
Atlanta had one more chance to win in the final minutes but Ridder threw another interception. He threw three of them Sunday.
The Falcons still have a very soft schedule ahead and will be a playoff contender because of it. But if their quarterback gives away games, the Falcons probably won't be too patient.
Tennessee Titans trade prospects: The Titans are going to have to make a decision and soon. Are they willing to punt the season and start trading away veterans.
It looks like a more viable option after a 24-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Titans were down 18-3 at halftime and while they rallied to come back and make it interesting in the second half, they were clearly outclassed by the Ravens. The Titans are 2-4 and it's unlikely to get much better, especially if Ryan Tannehill's ankle injury keeps him out awhile.
Derrick Henry had a good game with 97 yards and a touchdown and he could help a lot of teams. The Titans have other veterans who would have a market if they're being shopped for a trade. It's up to the Titans if they want to start moving some of them.