We have another edition of our Thursday night NFL preview. The Carolina Panthers (2-0) look to stay undefeated when they travel to the Lone Star State to take on the Houston Texans (1-1) for Thursday Night Football to kick off Week 3 of the NFL season.
Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans
Spread: Carolina (-8.5)
The Panthers have been one of the surprising early teams in the NFL. The Panthers throttled the Saints 26-7 as a short three-point underdog. Sam Darnold has had a mini resurgence under the guidance of Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. Darnold has an impressive 68 percent completion percentage while averaging over eight yards per attempt. But the biggest reason for the Panthers jump is the outbreak performance of their defense. The Panthers rank No. 1 overall in defensive DVOA and lead the NFL in sacks (10) and pressures (32). On top of that, the Panthers will get veteran corner AJ Bouye back in the lineup after a brief two-game suspension to begin the season. Expect this Panthers defense to be even more formidable on passing downs.
The Texans will try to get off to a 2-1 start. Houston will start rookie David Mills at quarterback, who will replace the injured Tyrod Taylor in the starting lineup. Taylor was playing good ball, ranking 16th offensive DVOA. However, I can see the Texans having major difficulty moving the football without Taylor’s running ability as a threat. A rookie from Stanford, Mills completed 8 of 18 passes in relief of Taylor on Sunday in a 31-21 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Mills has talent; he was the top-rated pocket-passing QB in the 2017 high school class, according to 247 sports. That potential was the reason he was drafted in the third round. However, Mills doesn’t have a lot of starting experience. He struggled with injuries in college and only had 13 starts in three seasons and finished his Stanford career with just 18 career touchdown passes. Mills will need help from running back David Johnson to take some pressure on him.
With the spread at Panthers (-8), we will stay away from the road favorite. But I don’t have confidence taking the Texans in this spot as well. So the logical pick is to go with the under in this matchup. The Panthers play at a ridiculously slow pace-averaging 28.9 seconds per play in Week 1 and 32.9 seconds per play in Week 2. Houston ranked 13th in pace in week one but ranked in the top of the league in tempo in week two- cause they were down two scores late in the game.
We will ride with one of the league’s top-ranked defenses, going against a Houston team devoid of offensive talent. The Texans should start the game in conservative fashion, using a lot of short passes or early-down runs. Expect the Panthers to grind this game out and win ugly. Under 43 is the play here.
The pick: Under 43