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C.J. Stroud Thinks AFC North is the Best Division



Steelers Texans QB C.J. Stroud

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons had a humorous debate arguing which division is the best in the NFL on Bleacher Report’s 2024 NFL Draft Live Show. Parsons thinks the NFC East is the best, while Stroud said the AFC North was by far the best division in the NFL.

“On paper last year, we were arguably the best division in football,” Parsons said. “Everyone was a playoff team.”

Stroud replied, “No sir, AFC North was the best division in football. Washington wasn’t nothing. Bro, what are you talking about? No one in the planet except for Micah Parsons thought the NFC East was better than the AFC North.”

Parsons’ argument was based solely off heading into the 2023 season, as the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants all made the playoffs in 2022.

“You thought Washington was gonna to be good? There is not a weak team in the AFC North. What are you talking about? Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland …” Stroud said, who left out the Steelers by name.

“On paper, Washington was supposed to be a really great team,” Parsons replied.

“Washington is not better than any of those four teams. I guarantee you,” Stroud said.

All four AFC North teams finished above . 500 in 2023, becoming the first division since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to have all four of its teams finish with a winning record. With that stat, it’s hard to argue Stroud’s point. The Cowboys and Eagles made the playoffs in 2023, but both suffered first-round playoff losses. The New York Giants were 6-11, while  Washington finished 4-11.

Stroud had an historic rookie season in 2023, throwing for 4,108 yards and 23 touchdowns against only five interceptions. He completed 63.9% of his passes and averaged 273.9 passing yards per game, becoming the first rookie to lead the league in that category in 84 years.

In addition, Stroud became just the fifth rookie to pass for 4,000 yards in a season and the first Ohio State quarterback to be named to a Pro Bowl. He was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year by a landslide.

So when did Stroud realize in his rookie year that he could be an elite NFL quarterback? It was in the Texans’ Week 4 blowout win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Stroud revealed this on the Cold As Balls show with actor/comedian Kevin Hart last month. Yeah, that was the actual name of the show. Stroud and Hart were each in a cold tub in front of a live audience in Las Vegas during the interview.

“It was about Week 4. We played the Steelers at home. it was the first time with a packed crowd at home. We went crazy, scored 30 points on one of the top defenses in the league-that was the moment I was like, ‘Man I can really play in this league and I don’t think nobody can mess with me,” Stroud said.

Stroud completed 16 of 30 passes (53.3%) for 306 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans’ 30-6 win over the Steelers at NRG Stadium on Oct. 2. Stroud posted an impressive 111.2 passer rating in the rout.

Stroud’s performance put him at 1,212 yards for the season, surpassing Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Andrew Luck for the second-most yards through four starts to begin a career. He trails only Cam Newton’s 1,386 yards.

Stroud also had the third-most passing attempts (151) by a rookie without an interception to start his career, behind Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (176) and Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa (152). Stroud had a 6-0 touchdown-interception ratio to start the season.

Stroud had a make shift offensive line blocking for him in the Week 4 contest, and he still managed to shred the Steelers defense. Stroud’s performance really put the Steelers and the rest of the league on notice that he’s going to be a problem in the league for years to come.

Stroud and the Texans should be even better in 2024 with the acquisition of All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs earlier this month. The Buffalo Bills traded Diggs to the Texans for a 2025 second-round pick. In addition, the Texans are getting back 2025 fifth and sixth-round picks. Stroud has a strong receiving corps with Diggs, Tank Dell, Nico Collins and tight end Dalton Schultz.