The Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans usher in Week 3 of the NFL season on Thursday Night Football (8:20 p.m., NFL Network).
Market-making book Circa opened the Panthers (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) as 7.5-point road favorites. Online sportsbooks have followed suit as that number can be found at the likes of DraftKings and Caesars, among others.
The Texans (1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS) have been more competitive than anticipated in the early going, but perceptions remain poor. They have an uphill climb if they’re going to change people’s minds this week.
Cat’s Out Of The Bag
It’s too early to anoint the Panthers as a playoff contender, but they’re starting to garner some national recognition. They could further increase their mainstream profile with another big performance in a primetime spot — even against the Texans.
The Panthers still have some kinks to iron out offensively, but they’ve shown signs of becoming a dangerous attack. In the meantime, their defense has made a stellar impression.
Limiting the New York Jets to 14 points in Week 1 may not move the needle. And smothering the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 is easy to explain away as “Jameis being Jamies”. Carolina has recorded 10 sacks and three takeaways through two weeks though. Their defense is legitimate and deserves credit for their opponents’ early season struggles.
Hits Keep Coming
The Deshaun Watson saga carries on with no end in sight and that’s of particular significance with Tyrod Taylor hurt.
Taylor left Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns with a hamstring injury, and his status is up in the air. We’ll glean more about his availability when the Texans release practice reports leading up to Thursday night. Even if active, Taylor will likely be at less than 100 percent. That’s bad news for a guy who will need to use his legs against what’s been a ferocious pass rush.
Rookie Davis Mills came on in relief and would be in line to start if Taylor can’t suit up. He finished 8-for-18 for 102 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
- Open — CAR -7.5, O/U 43.5
- Caesars — CAR -340
- Circa — HOU +304
The Panthers are hitting the road for the first time this season and will need to adjust quickly on a short week.
Given Carolina’s early form — not to mention the uncertainty at quarterback for Houston — it’s reasonable to expect the Panthers to prevail for another victory. Those who want to play the side can find the Panthers at -340 at Caesars as of Monday afternoon.
The Panthers may be heavy favorites heading into the matchup, but bettors can be excused if they’re hesitant to lay the points. It doesn’t take a vivid imagination to envision an 8-point Carolina victory, but the Texans have covered the number in their two contests, including at Cleveland last week.
The prospect of betting the spread becomes more attractive if Mills gets the start, but we’re still waiting to see the Panthers clicking on all cylinders offensively. A sluggish start by Sam Darnold or a couple of untimely miscues might be all it takes for Houston to make this a stiffer challenge than anticipated.