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Panthers vs. Texans Predictions: A low scoring close game in store

Christian McCaffrey can be a difference maker on Thursday night in Houston
Christian McCaffrey can be a difference maker on Thursday night in Houston
By Neil Monnery

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Week 3 of the NFL season kicks-off in Houston where the 1-1 Texans host the 2-0 Panthers. It wasn't set to be a great year down in south Texas but a surprise win in Week 1 emboldened some fans into thinking they might not be terrible. They go into this one however with their starting QB unlikely to play. Carolina roll up as 7.5pt favorites despite no-one believing in Sam Darnold. Neil Monnery takes a look at the game for us...

A couple of weeks ago I was pretty darn sure the Houston Texans would be the doormat of the NFL. Well after shellacking the Jags in what was a mediocre at best debut for Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence, David Culley’s men went on the road to Cleveland and gave them a game despite coming away on the wrong side of a 31-21 scoreline. So maybe they won't be as bad as initially feared.

Tyrod Taylor looks like a serviceable NFL Quarterback. Thursday night’s matchup with Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers will be a good marker for how good he actually is should he be available following leaving Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Before he left the game, Taylor was 10 of 11 for 1265 yards and a score. David Mills stepped in at the half and went eight for 18 for 120 yards, a score and a pick. The early expectation is that Taylor will not be available so this is something to watch over the coming days.

It is clear that Houston does not possess a single star player on offense. Mark Ingram Jr., David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay are all solid, reliable, backup Running Back’s but none of them can be the top guy. Brandin Cooks is a decent enough receiver but no defensive coordinator is scheming with him in mind.

On the other side we see Carolina come into this one as a 2-0 team, something that may come as a surprise to anyone who has ever watched Sam Darnold play a snap in the NFL. Just getting out of dodge (well New York) is addition by subtraction but 26/38 for 305 yards is a good outing. Remember the Saints were coming off the back of completely taking the Packers apart and blunting Aaron Rodgers. It should be noted that the visitors had big Covid issues regarding their coaching staff but that alone can’t explain the 26-7 scoreline. Maybe dare we say it but the Panthers are pretty decent?

Getting Christian McCaffrey back will of course help any team. 137 total yards from scrimmage with a score coupled with an eight-catch day out of DJ Moore shows that they are nicely balanced on offense. If Darnold can play like he’s done the first two weeks of the season then my primary thought is sorrow for what the Jets might do to Zach Wilson but also I think it may lead to a surprise wildcard run for Matt Rhule’s side.

The initial line has been set at Carolina -7.5 and that seems a better bet with Taylor missing out. I’m not sold on Carolina just yet and for them to be handicapped by over a touchdown away from home seems tight but are the Texans any good? Beating the Jags is nothing to crow about and David Mills is not a QB I want to hang my hat on when it comes to betting a game. Yet giving a team a touchdown lead at home on a short week is really tough to ignore - even if the backup QB is going to be starting. It isn't like Sam Darnold is Peyton Manning or Tom Brady...

Spread:

That 0.5pt hook is going to get me. I like the Panthers to win but I’ve got 23-16 as my scoreline with a bunch of Field Goals (so load up on the Panthers/Texans kickers in fantasy). Take Houston+7.5

Straight-up/Moneyline:

Carolina are -350 and I think they win but that isn’t a value play here.

Over/Under Points Totals:

43 points is low but I don’t trust either offense to put up big points. I have 23-16 so that is 39 and under

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