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Broncos vs Texans 5 questions: Why has C.J. Stroud had success so quickly?

The Texans are in the AFC playoff hunt with a rookie QB who is playing great football. How are fans feeling?

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Houston Texans are in the hunt for the AFC playoffs.

With a rookie quarterback and first-year head coach, the Texans are one of the big surprises of the NFL season.

Now Houston hosts the Denver Broncos in a pseudo-playoff game. Both teams enter Sunday at 6-5, and the winner gets a massive leg up over the other.

DraftKings Sportsbook seems to think Denver’s win streak ends in Houston. The Broncos are a +3.5-point underdog to the Texans. This number is a little surprising and is undervaluing Denver. The total sits at 47.5. Of the recent games, the over might be the play for this game.

To preview Sunday’s game, we go behind enemy lines to get a feel for the Texans with Scott Barzilla (Vballretired) from Battle Red Blog.

MHR: How are Texans fans feeling heading into Week 13? Along those lines, what has been the biggest surprise this season?

Scott: The Broncos are clearly the hottest team in the NFL and they come in with the same record as the Texans, This will be one heck of a game as most of the games have been close this season. The biggest surprise is obviously C.J. Stroud. No one could have dreamed of how good he has been and how fast he has learned on the fly. It just happened to be a perfect quarterback/coach match. As we just saw in Carolina, that is a lot harder than it sounds.

MHR: How much of a surprise is the play of C.J. Stroud? Why has he had success so quickly?

Scott: I think the biggest key to Stroud’s success is that they have done a terrific job of managing how much they have given him. It has been a near-perfect balance of controlling him and letting him go. There have been times as fans that we wished he would be let loose, but as he showed in the Cardinals game, he still has some growing to do. The offense seems to be well designed around his talents and abilities and he has done the work to prepare each week.

I think the work ethic between Monday and Saturday has been the biggest key. He plays more on schedule (except for this past week) than any rookie I have ever seen. Others have been more athletic and had better improvisation skills, but he runs the offense the way it was designed to be run. He is a lot like Brock Purdy in that regard except he has a better arm and he is more athletic.

MHR: What is the plan of attack for the Texans on Sunday, offensively and defensively? How does Houston get the win?

Scott: The Denver defense will be tough. My guess is that the pass continues to set up the running game. At least that is what I hope they will do. Denver can get pressure on the quarterback, so Stroud will have to continue to make good decisions on the fly. Defensively, the Texans aim to shut down the running game and make teams one-dimensional. Russell Wilson has been good this year in the red zone, but getting scoring opportunities has been hard. If they can get pressure on him and force him into a mistake or two they could win the game.

MHR: What is your best bet for Sunday’s game at DraftKings Sportsbook? And what are your thoughts on the current spread?

Scott: I am actually surprised that the Texans are favored in this game, but as the home team they have a built-in advantage. I’d probably bet on the Broncos if I were a disinterested gambler because it is hard to argue with five consecutive wins. The game could fall within the margins, but that would still go to benefit the Texans. The Texans have not won by my more than a score in several weeks and have only done it a couple of times this season. This will be a close game, so take the points.

MHR: What are your expectations and predictions for Sunday’s game?

Scott: This is a tough defensive team that likes to keep scores low against a team that likes to play uptempo and score. It may be a cop out but whichever team controls the tempo likely wins the game. I’d go under at this point as the Broncos seem pretty adept at playing low-scoring and tight games. I’ll go 20-17 Broncos. Nico Collins has been a beast at home, so if you want an easy over on Sunday then over the receiving yards for him might be a good bet.