The Carolina Panthers visit the Houston Texans at the NRG Stadium in the first game of Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season on Thursday night.
Carolina heads to this game as one of the seven unbeaten teams after week 2 and they are tied for the early lead in the NFC South division. The Panthers are also 2-0 ATS this season but both games were played at home. In their last game, Carolina wallopped the New Orleans Saints 26-7 as three-point betting underdogs.
Houston is 1-1 on the season after upsetting the Jacksonville Jaguars are 3.5 point underdogs in Week 1. However, the Texans were beaten by the Cleveland Browns 31-21 last weekend and they didn’t just lose that game, they also lost their starting quarterback due to a hamstring injury.
The Panthers lead their all-time series 3-2 including victories in each of their last three meetings. Carolina won 16-10 on the road the last time these teams played way back on September 29, 2019.
The Panthers improved to 2-0 with a big win over the Saints the last time out. Carolina picked up a total of 383 offensive yards while allowing New Orleans only 128 yards in the game. The Panthers picked up a total of 28 first downs while allowing just 6 and controlling the possession time from 38:32 to 21:38. Their defense forced two turnovers while committing just one and they held down Alvin Kamara to only five rushing yards on eight attempts.
Sam Darnold has completed 50-73 passes for a total of 584 passing yards with three touchdowns and one interception while getting sacked four times. Christian McCaffrey is making a strong case for Comeback Player of the Year with 170 rushing yards on 45 carries with one rushing touchdown. McCaffrey has also caught 14 passes for 154 receiving yards in two games.
The Texans’ quarterback woes continue this season. After being forced to play minus Deshaun Stevenson, the Texans have lost Tyrod Taylor to a hamstring injury during their last game against the Browns. Houston got off to a good start in that game, leading 14-7 midway through the second quarter before allowing the Browns to score 17 unanswered points. They fought back and got to within 3 points early in the 4th period but then gave up a touchdown that gave the Browns the lead and the final score of 31-21.
With Taylor out, rookie Davis Mills will start for the Texans. Mills got some snaps last weekend with Taylor hurt and he finished with 102 yards with one touchdown and one interception on 8-18 passing. Mark Ingram has rushed for 126 yards on 40 carries with one score while Brandin Cooks has 14 catches for 210 receiving yards and one TD pass caught.
Carolina is 4-9 SU in their last 13 games played. The Panthers are 3-7 SU in their last 10 games played on the road and 9-1 SU in their last 10 games against the AFC South. Houston is 1-6 SU in their last seven games played. The Texans are 4-8 SU in their last 12 games played at home. Head to head the Panthers have won each of the last three meetings between these two teams.
Davis Mills will be getting the start for the Texans after it was announced that Tyrod Taylor will be a no-go due to an injury he suffered during their loss to the Browns the last time out. Not only is the rookie unproven at this level, but the Texans will also have little time to prepare with this game being played on the Thursday schedule.
The Panthers’ defense has been outstanding after two weeks and while it remains to be seen if they hold against the top teams in the league, Houston is certainly not one of those teams. Sam Darnold has looked good with a better team and I expect him to continue with his redemption tour here.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers -400
The Panthers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games played. Carolina is 7-0 ATS in their last seven road games, 6-1 ATS in their last seven games on field turf, 5-2 ATS in their last seven games after a straight up win, 5-2 ATS in their last seven September games, 4-1 ATS in their last five games after accumulating less than 90 rushing yards in their previous game, and 4-1 ATS in their last five games after a straight up win by a margin of at least 14 points.
The Texans are 4-1 ATS in their last five games played overall. Houston is 4-0 ATS in their last four games after allowing more than 150 rushing yards in their previous game, and 4-0 ATS in their last four games as betting underdogs. The Texans are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 week 3 games, 4-11-1 ATS in their last 16 games after an ATS win, 3-9 ATS in their last 12 Thursday games, and 1-8 ATS in their last nine games after accumulating less than 90 rushing yards in their previous game.
Head to head, Carolina has covered the betting spread in each of the last three meetings between these two teams.
Many real money NFL sportsbooks predicted that the Texans would be one of the last teams to pick up a win this season but that has not been the case. They are already in the win column after just two games.
The main problem with them in this game has been their problem since the offseason – the quarterback position. Just as it seemed that they had a band-aid solution in Tyrod Taylor, he is out of this game with a hamstring injury and in his absence, rookie Davis Mills will get the start.
That’s putting the rook in a tough spot because the Panthers defense is leading the NFL in scoring defense and they have held their opponents to 25% success on third downs. Carolina has also forced 10 sacks in two games played and that could be a problem for Mills.
It’s a no-no to lay more than a touchdown when playing on the road. But given Houston’s quarterback issues, even a double-digit spread would have been reasonable enough to take a gamble on.
Prediction: Panthers -7.5
The total has gone under in each of the last five games played by the Panthers. The under is 4-0 in Carolina’s last five games after an ATS win, 7-1 in their last eight games after a straight up victory, 5-1 as the road betting favorite, 4-1 after a win of 14 or more points, and 4-1 after racking up 350 or more offensive yards in their previous outing.
The total has gone over in four out of the last five games played by the Texans. The over is also 4-1 in their last five September games, 5-2 in their last seven games after an ATS win, and 7-3 in their last 10 Thursday games. However, the under is 4-1 in their last five games against an opponent with a winning record, and 7-3 in their last 10 games against the NFC South division.
Head to head the total has gone under in four out of the last five games between these two teams.
While the Panthers are 2-0 this season, they haven’t put up a lot of points on the board as they’ve scored 19 and 26 points in their first two games of the year. With their stifling defense, the score for both games has fallen short of the total at 33 each.
Meanwhile, Houston has been in high scoring games this season with both their games eclipsing the 50-point mark and averaging at 55 points. However, these scores were produced against poor defensive teams in Jacksonville and Cleveland.
Not only do the Panthers have a defense that the Texans have yet to see this year, but we’re also going to see them start rookie Davis Mills at quarterback with Tyrod Taylor hurt. I think that Darnold will give the Panthers enough scoring chances to build a decent lead before they milk the clock in the second half. It’s not going to be pretty. But the Panthers should do just enough to cover the spread and win the game.
Prediction: Under 43
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