Trevor Lawrence entered the 2023 campaign as the clear top quarterback in the AFC South. It might not be such an obvious argument moving forward.
C.J. Stroud has been a sensation in Houston, again displaying masterful pocket manipulation and accuracy Sunday against Jacksonville. Lawrence and the Jaguars made enough plays to escape with a 24-21 win, but if Week 12 was any indication, we could see an array of entertaining games from the two clubs in the future.
Asked about a potential long-term rivalry, Lawrence quipped that he'd rather his division opponents stink.
"I want teams in our division to be as bad as possible," he said, chuckling, via the team's official website. "That's how I see it. The way they're playing, it's exciting, yes. There's gonna be some, I'm sure, great matchups down the road. And C.J. is playing lights out. He's doing a great job. To be a rookie and to play how he is, I've got a lot of respect for him. I know how hard it is. I've been in that position. He's doing a great job and it's going to be fun for years to come, hopefully. But no, I wouldn't prefer that. I'd prefer if the guys in our division didn't have good quarterbacks. It would be better for us."
Lawrence is not wrong. Facing less resistance each year to reach the postseason multiplies the chances of holding a Lombardi at the end of the year. New England benefited from playing a moribund AFC East for years during their dynasty.
Unfortunately for Jacksonville, it appears their window of facing less-than QBs is already slammed shut. Stroud has been sensational, and his best attributes -- pocket presence, accuracy, intelligence -- indicate he's not succeeding on rookie luck. The performances are duplicatable.
It's not just Stroud the Jags might have to deal with in the division. Anthony Richardson flashed extreme upside in limited action in Indianapolis this season and would be a force if he remains healthy. In Tennessee, Will Levis showed promise with a big arm and willingness to stand under pressure.
The good news for Jacksonville is that while the rest of the division is still figuring out what they have in rookie QBs, the Jags know they have a good one in Lawrence. Coming off a season-high 364 passing yards from Lawrence in the win, Jacksonville has the talent to compete deep into January if they can get more consistent play on both sides of the ball down the stretch.