NFL Stock Watch: C.J. Stroud’s star turn; Eagles team to beat in NFC; Dolphins fall flat

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Time flies when you’re having fun and this NFL season has been so enjoyable that we’ve barely noticed the halfway point of the season is already upon us. After the ninth weekend of NFL action, who made my stock up and down report?

STOCK UP

C.J. Stroud

The way to properly judge the season of a rookie is by grading them on the quarter system. The first four games, the next four, the following four and the final five are their own quarter, and you want to see a rookie improve in each quarter. It’s not about grading them play-by-play or game-by-game. But rather by these four or five week game groupings. 

Stroud played well in his first quarter of professional ball but it’s clear he’s improved as his second quarter is coming to an end. Stroud engineered the first come-from-behind victory of his short career after the Houston Texans moved 75 yards in 39 seconds to score a go-ahead touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win, 39-37. Stroud completed 30 of his 42 passes for 470 yards (which set the single-game record for passing yards by a rookie) and five touchdowns (becoming the fifth rookie to achieve the feat), plus added a handful of yards on the ground. He was calm and confident as the Texans offense had to match the Bucs’ scoring. Stroud looks easily like the best quarterback in this draft class.

Super Bowl rematch 

The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl LVII, and after nine weeks of the NFL season, the Chiefs and Eagles both sit atop the standings in their respective conferences. The Eagles are 8-1 after beating the Dallas Cowboys in a thrilling game late Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys had plenty of opportunities to win that game but came up just a few inches short multiple times. The Chiefs defeated the Miami Dolphins 21-14 in Germany on Sunday morning, moving to 7-2 entering their bye week. While both of these teams look poised to see each other again in Super Bowl LVIII, both have their warts. 

The Chiefs offense, long their calling card, is not playing up to expectation. The Chiefs are still in the top 5 for DVOA but it hardly feels that way watching them play. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a hard time finding open receivers and doesn’t have trust in them yet. However, the Chiefs defense is fantastic, and easily the best unit they’ve had since Mahomes took over as the starter in 2018.

The Eagles are winning but it has not looked exactly like last season. Jalen Hurts has a banged up knee and the offense just isn’t the same as last season with a new offensive coordinator. That being said, the Eagles still win with brute force in the trenches and a physical running game. Defensively the Eagles can still get after the passer, as we saw when it mattered most on Sunday against the Cowboys. The Eagles have a bye, then travel to Kansas City, host Buffalo and San Francisco, and head to Dallas and Seattle before the schedule gets lighter in the final three weeks of the season. 

Eagles hold off Cowboys near goal line as time expires

Eagles hold off Cowboys near goal line as time expires

Cincinnati Bengals 

I’m going to keep this one simple. The Bengals are all the way back. This is the third season in a row the Bengals have started slow but by November they appear to be one of the better teams in the AFC once again. The Bengals are 5-3 with wins in back-to-back games against the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. Joe Burrow is moving in the pocket again like his calf injury is a thing of the past. The defense has stiffened up, and I think it’s easy to make the case no one wants to play them now. I give head coach Zac Taylor praise for keeping this team together through the Burrow calf injury. 

STOCK DOWN

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are 6-0 against the Chargers, Patriots, Broncos, Giants and Panthers. None of those teams have a winning record and outside the Chargers, none will have a chance to finish over.500.  They have outscored five opponents 234-125 over the six games and have looked like the best team in football during that time. 

The Dolphins are 0-3 against the Bills, Eagles and Chiefs, being outscored 100-51 and outside of the first half against the Bills and the final few minutes against the Chiefs they have not been as competitive against those teams at the top of the league as when they play lower-tier NFL teams. This is an issue for Miami and there’s no easy answer. The Dolphins with a healthy offensive line would fare better in these matchups against more physical defenses but it’s clear that if you can pressure Tua Tagovailoa a bit plus stop his first option on a pass concept, he’s not the same quarterback. The Dolphins defense is serviceable against the bad teams because they get up early and are allowed to rush the passer with ease. When they are playing more straight up, the pass rush is less apparent and the run defense isn’t good. Until the Dolphins beat a team with a winning record we cannot consider them an option to win the AFC.

New York Giants

There are years when the injury bug hits your team and there’s nothing you can do about it. There are years when nothing goes right, mistakes keep being made and you lose close games because of the mess. Well, the Giants are an example of when both of these seasons combine into one hellish season. The Giants entered 2023 with high hopes after a surprising playoff appearance last season. Since the first snap of the year, everything has gone wrong. They were outscored 60-0 in their first six quarters, have seen multiple impact players on offense — including quarterback, running back and both tackles — miss extended periods of time. Their backup quarterback is even on injured reserve. The Giants have been healthier on defense but have not played as well as expected. The Giants have had poor situational awareness in losses and have not been able to close out games like last season. It’s just been a crappy season all around for the Giants and they will have to make some decisions this offseason about where to go next season — it’s looking more likely they should absolutely draft a quarterback of the future.

Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kugler break down Raiders’ offensive success in 30-6 victory over Giants

Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kugler break down Raiders' offensive success in 30-6 victory over Giants

Consistent officiating

I need to start every discussion about the officials with this disclaimer: The officials are far better at their job than we give them credit for. The game is played at a speed you will never experience unless you’ve watched a game on the field. Being armchair quarterbacks from the comfort of our couches as we get to watch super slow motion replays magnified 100x is not exactly how the officials see the plays at full speed. With that being said … I think all we ask for as fans of the sport is consistency. I understand officiating crews will differ on how they see the game but if you’re going to lay off the flags, then lay off the flags. If you’re a crew who is going to call more flags, then be consistent. That is all we ask for. In the end, these are judgment calls and will not be perfect, and despite what you think, the officials do a better job than you give them credit for. 

Geoff Schwartz is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.



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