Learn as you go with your hair on fire.
That’s how Minnesota quarterback JOSHUA DOBBS described his experience after entering last week’s game in the second quarter, just five days after the Vikings acquired him in a trade-deadline deal.

“You’re taking AP Spanish on Tuesday and someone told you that you have an AP French exam on Sunday,” said Dobbs, who’d taken zero practice reps leading up to his Vikings debut. “You’ve got to go execute, and someone’s going to talk to you in Spanish, and then translate it into the French.”

In any language, Vikings coaches and players turned in a phenomenal effort to earn their fourth straight win last week, helping Dobbs throw two touchdown passes, including the game-winning score with 22 seconds remaining. Dobbs, who also ran for a touchdown in Minnesota’s 31-28 comeback win, became the first player in NFL history to combine for three passing and rushing touchdowns in consecutive weeks with different teams. Now, along with learning his new teammates’ names, Dobbs will become the Vikings’ third starting quarterback in as many weeks when MINNESOTA (5-4) hosts NEW ORLEANS (5-4) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX).

Dobbs isn’t alone. With nine chapters completed and nine remaining in the 2023 NFL season, the stellar play of several quarterbacks has stood out in the first half.

C.J. STROUD, who engineered a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the final minute to lead the Texans to a 39-37 win last week, passed for 470 yards – a single-game NFL rookie record – and five touchdowns. Stroud (22 years, 33 days old) became the youngest player ever to pass for 450 yards, surpassing JACKY LEE (22 years, 94 days) of the Houston Oilers, Oct. 13, 1961. This week, HOUSTON (4-4) travels to CINCINNATI (5-3) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

TUA TAGOVAILOA, whose Dolphins are on a bye this week, leads the NFL in passing yards (2,609), touchdown passes (19) and passer rating (106.4). Only four players since the 1970 league merger have finished a season leading the league in those three categories: TOM BRADY (2007), JOHN BRODIE (1970) and Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (1984) and KURT WARNER (2001).

Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s JALEN HURTS (8-1), Baltimore’s LAMAR JACKSON (7-2) and Kansas City’s PATRICK MAHOMES (7-2) – quarterbacks who are, respectively, 25, 26 and 28 years old – have led their teams to the NFL’s top three records through the first half.

No question, for both the second half of the 2023 season and the second half of this decade, the NFL’s future is radiantly bright. That future starts with Week 10 on Thursday.

The Starting 11 entering Week 10

1.   ON STROUD NINE: Last week, Houston’s C.J. STROUD became the second rookie in NFL history with 400 passing yards and five touchdown passes in a game, joining MATTHEW STAFFORD (422 passing yards, five touchdown passes, Nov. 22, 2009). What’s more, among all players, he became only the sixth ever to reach 450 passing yards and five touchdown passes with no interceptions in a game, joining JARED GOFF (Sept. 27, 2018), Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (Sept. 5, 2013), DONOVAN MCNABB (Dec. 5, 2004), BEN ROETHLISBERGER (Oct. 26, 2014) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Y.A. TITTLE (Oct. 28, 1962).

  • HOUSTON (4-4), which squares off with CINCINNATI (5-3) on Sunday at Paycor Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS), has an NFL-low five giveaways this year – and Stroud has an NFL-low one interception, two fewer than any other qualifying passer. Earlier this season, Stroud recorded 191 pass attempts prior to his first interception, the most to begin a career in NFL history and the second-longest such streak by a rookie at any point all-time, trailing only KYLER MURRAY (211 attempts in 2019). Stroud enters this week having thrown 279 passes prior to his second interception, also the longest stretch ever.

    • Cincinnati’s JOE BURROW will be in the corner opposite Stroud this week. Burrow has guided the Bengals to four straight wins as Cincinnati is bidding to become the first team in league history to begin 0-2 in consecutive seasons and reach the playoffs each year. Burrow has 10 touchdown passes during the four-game winning streak.

    • Cincinnati is averaging 4.63 penalties per game, fewest in the NFL this season, and is tied with the Chargers for the league lead with a plus-nine turnover margin.

2.   NUMBER OF THE WEEK – 722: Passing yards registered by the Commanders’ SAM HOWELL since the beginning of Week 8, first in the NFL. Howell, who leads WASHINGTON (4-5) into the state of Washington to meet SEATTLE (5-3) on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX), also ranks second in the league this season with 2,471 passing yards. In franchise history, only KIRK COUSINS (2,716 in 2016 and 2,474 in 2017) has passed for more yards through Washington’s first nine games of a season.

3.   TOP DEFENSES COLLIDE IN CHARM CITY: Sunday’s AFC North clash between CLEVELAND (5-3) and BALTIMORE (7-2) at M&T Bank Stadium (1 p.m. ET, FOX) features the NFL’s top two defenses. The Browns are allowing a league-best 234.8 yards per game, while the Ravens are giving up 262.6 per contest, second in the league. Baltimore (13.8 points allowed per game) also leads the NFL in scoring defense while Cleveland (17.4) is third. Cleveland (145.0 passing yards allowed per game) is first in passing defense while Baltimore (170.7) is second. The Ravens pace the league with 35 sacks.

  • The Ravens have matched their best start in franchise history (also 7-2 in 2006, 2012 and 2019; the team also advanced to 8-2 in each of those seasons).

    • Baltimore leads the NFL with 115 net points (239 points scored, 124 points allowed), 35 more net points than the next-closest team, Buffalo (80).

4.   SPOTLIGHT – INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: Saints cornerback PAULSON ADEBO and first-place NEW ORLEANS (5-4) face a key interconference test at MINNESOTA (5-4) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX). Adebo, who ranks tied for second in the NFL with four interceptions and third with 11 passes defensed, figures to draw Vikings rookie wide receiver JORDAN ADDISON this week. Addison leads all rookies and is tied for second in the NFL with seven receiving touchdowns.

  • Vikings linebacker DANIELLE HUNTER, who leads the NFL with 10 sacks, has a sack in six consecutive home games.

    • Minnesota owns the NFC’s longest winning streak, four games. The Vikings have used three quarterbacks in the streak, KIRK COUSINSJAREN HALL and JOSHUA DOBBS, who’s expected to start this week. Minnesota is also 5-2 in the conference, a key playoff tiebreaker. Only the Eagles (6-0 in NFC) and Chiefs (5-1 in AFC) have better conference records.

    • New Orleans, meanwhile, leads the NFL with 12 interceptions. The Saints also are tied for the league lead with 18 takeaways.

    • Quarterback TAYSOM HILL last week became the second player ever with 25 rushing touchdowns, 10 touchdown passes and 10 receiving touchdowns, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer FRANK GIFFORD.

    • Saints wide receiver RASHID SHAHEED leads qualifying NFL players with 19.3 yards per reception.

5.   SPOTLIGHT – TEAM MATCHUPDALLAS (5-3) looks to make up ground this week against the NEW YORK GIANTS (2-7) on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX). The Giants own the NFL’s third-best defense on third down (33.9 percent, 39-for-115) while the Cowboys enter the game with the league’s third-best offense on third down (46.9 percent, 53-for-113).

  • Dallas has not lost at AT&T Stadium since the first game of the 2022 season, having won 11 consecutive home games. No other NFL team owns a longer active home winning streak.

    • Cowboys wide receiver CEEDEE LAMB needs 10 catches and 150 receiving yards to become the first player in NFL history to reach those marks in three consecutive games.

    • The Giants’ TOMMY DEVITO could become the NFL’s 10th rookie to start a game at quarterback this year. Excluding the 1987 strike season and since at least 1950, the NFL has never had 10 rookies start at quarterback over a full season.

6.   STREAK SPEAK: NFL teams wearing throwback uniforms have won five consecutive games (victories by the Giants and Eagles in Week 7, as well as the Dolphins, Seahawks and Titans in Week 8). This week, PITTSBURGH (5-3) will don classic uniforms when the Steelers host GREEN BAY (3-5) at Acrisure Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Next week, the Packers will break out their classic uniforms.

7.   DID YOU KNOW?: In Week 8, Lions running back JAHMYR GIBBS posted a career-best 189 scrimmage yards (152 rushing, 37 receiving) and became the fourth rookie in Detroit franchise history to rush for 150 yards and a touchdown, joining KEVIN JONES (2004), Pro Football Hall of Famer BARRY SANDERS (1989) and BILLY SIMS (1980). Both Sanders and Sims earned AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in those respective seasons.

  • This week, DETROIT (6-2) heads west to meet the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (4-4) on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Lions wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN, who this week enters his 41st career game with 253 catches, is the fourth player in history to reach 250 receptions in his first 40 contests. ODELL BECKHAM JR.ANQUAN BOLDIN and MICHAEL THOMAS are the only other players to accomplish the feat.
    • Since Week 9 of the 2022 season, Detroit quarterback JARED GOFF is 14-4 (.778). That’s the fourth-highest winning percentage among starting quarterbacks behind JALEN HURTS (15-2, .882), PATRICK MAHOMES (16-3, .842) and JOE BURROW (13-3, .813), with a minimum of two starts. Also in that span, Goff owns the NFL’s best touchdown-interception ratio (4.8, 29 touchdown passes, six interceptions) among quarterbacks who’ve started games in both 2022 and 2023.
    • Detroit’s SAM LAPORTA has 43 receptions, third all-time among rookie tight ends through their first eight NFL games. Only KEITH JACKSON (48 in 1988) and JORDAN REED (44 in 2013) have more.
    • In the Chargers’ Week 9 win, wide receiver KEENAN ALLEN had eight catches for 77 yards and eclipsed 10,000 career receiving yards. Allen reached the milestone in his 134th NFL game, fourth-fastest among active players behind JULIO JONES (104 games), DEANDRE HOPKINS (126) and MIKE EVANS (132).
    • Chargers quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT has 34 games with two-or-more touchdown passes, tied for second in NFL history for the most such games in a player’s first four seasons. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (43) has more.
    • Los Angeles is tied with Cincinnati for the NFL lead with a plus-nine turnover margin. The Chargers’ defense is also tied for second in the league with 31 sacks.  

8.   UNDER-THE-RADAR STORYLINE: Sunday’s matchup between INDIANAPOLIS (4-5) and NEW ENGLAND (2-7) at Frankfurt Stadium in Germany (9:30 a.m. ET, NFLN) marks the final international game on the 2023 NFL schedule. It’s the league’s 50th regular-season game played outside the United States and 109th overall. The Colts this season are 3-1 away from home while New England can become the first NFL team to win each of its first four international games.

9.   TREND TIME: Only three coaches in NFL history have been named Sean, and all three are active in 2023. Two of those, Denver’s SEAN PAYTON and Buffalo’s SEAN MCDERMOTT, will square off on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC). The Rams’ SEAN MCVAY, on a bye week, is the third. A fourth Sean, Philadelphia defensive coordinator SEAN DESAI, is a candidate to earn a future head-coaching role.

  • Denver, fresh off its bye week after a win over Kansas City in Week 8, has won two straight games and three of its last five. Broncos quarterback RUSSELL WILSON has not thrown an interception in four of those five games. Overall this season, Wilson ranks fifth in the NFL with a 101.7 passer rating, the best mark through eight games by a Denver quarterback since Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING opened 2014 with a 112.0 rating.
    • Since 2021, the Broncos are 6-4 in games when JUSTIN SIMMONS records an interception. Since the safety entered the league in 2016, he and XAVIEN HOWARD are tied for the NFL lead with 29 interceptions.
    • Since Week 5, the Broncos’ defense leads the NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage (18.8 percent; 16 opponent possessions, three touchdowns allowed).
    • Highmark Stadium is the NFL’s toughest road trip since the beginning of the 2020 season. In that span, quarterback JOSH ALLEN and the Bills are 23-5 (.821) on their home field in Orchard Park, N.Y. Allen has passed for 7,062 yards and 64 touchdowns in those 28 games.

10. NEXT GEN STAT OF THE WEEKCHASE YOUNG and NICK BOSA are expected to play on the same defensive line for the first time since 2018 at Ohio State when SAN FRANCISCO (5-3) meets JACKSONVILLE (6-2) on Sunday at EverBank Stadium (1 p.m. ET, FOX). The acquisition of Young (40 quarterback pressures) combined with Bosa (41) gives the reunited teammates 81 combined pressures this season. Had they played together all season, that total would rank second among NFL teammates behind the 92 compiled by the Philadelphia tandem of JOSH SWEAT (49) and HAASON REDDICK (43).

  • Since Nov. 1, 2022, only Kansas City (16-3, .842) owns a better record than the 49ers (14-3, .824).
    • Led by head coach DOUG PEDERSON, who is 2-0 in his career against San Francisco and 2-0 this season against the NFC, Jacksonville enters with the NFL’s longest active winning streak, five. It’s the team’s second five-game winning streak since Pederson took the reins of the team last season. Prior to 2022, Jacksonville had not won five consecutive games in the same season since 2005. This week, the team can extend the streak to six and reach the franchise’s longest in a season since the Jaguars won 11 straight in 1999.
    • Jacksonville running back TRAVIS ETIENNE ranks tied for third in the league with seven rushing touchdowns and tied for third with eight scrimmage touchdowns this season. The Jaguars have won each of the last seven games in which Etienne has reached the end zone.
    • In Week 8, Jaguars tight end EVAN ENGRAM – who has 51 catches for 434 yards – joined JEREMY SHOCKEY as the only tight ends with at least 40 receptions and 400 receiving yards in each of their first seven seasons in NFL history.
    • San Francisco quarterback BROCK PURDY, the last overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, is expected to start against a former No. 1-overall quarterback for the third time in his career and second straight game. Purdy defeated MATTHEW STAFFORD (No. 1 overall in 2009) and the Rams in Week 2 before a setback against JOE BURROW (2020) and the Bengals in his last game. This week, Purdy faces TREVOR LAWRENCE (2021).
    • Dating back to Week 13 of the 2022 season and including the postseason, San Francisco running back CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY has scored a touchdown in 17 straight games. This week, he can break a tie with Pro Football Hall of Famer LENNY MOORE (17 consecutive games from 1963-64) for the longest streak of scoring touchdowns of any kind, including the postseason, in the 104-year history of the National Football League. McCaffrey leads the NFL with 598 rushing yards this season. He’s also tied for the league lead with 13 scrimmage touchdowns and ranks second with nine rushing touchdowns.

11. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Titans quarterback WILL LEVIS is expected to make his third career start when TENNESSEE (3-5) visits TAMPA BAY (3-5) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). This season, Levis has passed for 500 yards and four touchdowns with one interception over his first 68 NFL passes. With 225 passing yards on Sunday, Levis will become the first player in franchise history to reach that mark in each of his first three games.

  • His counterpart on Sunday, the Buccaneers’ BAKER MAYFIELD, owns the NFC’s top passer rating in the fourth quarter (96.9) and the NFL’s second-best passer rating on third down (112.3).​​