Carolina (2-0) at Houston (1-1)
When: Thursday, September 23rd, 2021
Where: NRG Stadium,
Time: 8:20 ET | TV: NFLN
Opening Odds: Carolina -3.5/44.5
It’s not the most intriguing Thursday night matchup of the season, but that’s what we get every once in a while because all teams get at least one prime time game. This will be the only one for both the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans as they battle at NRG Stadium to kick off Week 3 action. The Panthers are one of just seven remaining 2-0 teams to start the season and will come into this game as 8-point favorites against the 1-1 Texans. Carolina has wins over the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints and they have yet to surrender a first half point. The Panthers also lead the NFL with 10 sacks which should make Houston quarterback Davis Mills a little worried. Mills, a rookie, has been named the starter after Tyrod Taylor injured his rib last week in the win over New Orleans.
Houston started off Week 1 with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and hung around with the Cleveland Browns last week, eventually falling 31-21. The Texans have covered the spread in both of their games, while both have gone way over the total. Franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson will be inactive for the third game in a row as Houston weighs trade offers and remains connected to an ongoing investigation into more than 20 legal claims for sexual assault or misconduct. These are two of the newer franchises in the NFL so they have played just five regular-season games. Carolina leads 3-2 and has won each of the past three. The underdog is 4-1 ATS in those five.
Carolina traded for Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in the offseason and so far its paid off. Darnold is completing 68.5 percent of his passes for 584 yards, three scores and one interception. That’s good for a career-best rating of 100.5 at this point. Darnold is clearly more comfortable with his new team and it’s showing in his play. Against the Saints, Darnold passed for 305 yards and two touchdowns on 26-of-38 passing. The Panthers defense has been a bigger story through two weeks. They lead the NFL in points allowed per game (10.5), yards allowed per game (190.0), sacks (10) and defensive third-down percentage (25.0). Free-agent signing Haason Reddick has three sacks and end Brian Burns has two. The Panthers are 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 games overall including 2-0 this season.
Mills was 8-for-18 for 102 yards with a touchdown and interception in relief of Taylor last week. Practice squad QB Jeff Driskel will serve as his backup this week with Watson still inactive. Rookie receiver Nico Collins, who had a good preseason and started in Week 2, will miss 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury. Fellow wideout and veteran Danny Amendola is questionable with a thigh injury. The Texans might have to rely more on their ground game against a touch Carolina defense. The trio of Mark Ingram, David Johnson, and Philip Lindsay have all played each of the first two weeks with Ingram leading the way with 126 yards on 40 attempts. The Texans are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games on the road.
Our staff is tasked to make picks in every NFL game and this one is no exception. I will post the Panthers, because I think their defense will be too much for the rookie quarterback. Turnovers will be the key to this game. How am I going to bet this game? Tune into Thursday’s podcast to find out.
Pick: Panthers -8
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