A couple of surprising early season squads square off on Thursday night to open the Week 3 betting slate. The Carolina Panthers are one of four unbeaten NFC teams improving to 2-0 following a thorough beating of New Orleans on Sunday.
There’s a chance we see Deshaun Watson behind center for the Houston Texans, who saw starter Tyrod Taylor exit Sunday’s loss to the Browns with a hamstring injury. Watson was inactive in the first two games as he continues to deal with off-field legal issues.
For the first time in nearly two years the Panthers are a converted touchdown favorite hitting the board at -7.
The Week 3 Thursday Night Football game between the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans will take place at NRG Stadium at 8:20 p.m. ET on September 23 and will be televised on NFL Network.
NFL Week 3 – Carolina Panthers vs Houston Texans Odds
Carolina Panthers -7 | Houston Texans +7 [BET NOW]
Carolina Panthers vs Houston Texans Money Line
Carolina Panthers -325 | Houston Texans +210 [BET NOW]
Carolina Panthers vs Houston Texans Over/Under
Over/Under 43.5 [BET NOW]
After winning just five games in each of the previous two seasons the Panthers are on a roll. Beating the Jets in Week 1 wasn’t a surprise since they were a field goal favorite on the closing line. Taking down New Orleans on Sunday was a much bigger deal. Catching 3-points against the Saints in a division matchup, Carolina cruised to a 26-7 win improving to 2-0 SU and ATS.
With some concerns about their quarterback situation the Texans hit the board as a 7-point home dog. Depending on how the situation plays out we could see Carolina end up a bigger favorite by game time. Houston covered the 13.5-point line in a 31-21 loss to Cleveland on Sunday with rookie Davis Mills finishing the game at QB.
A rejuvenated Sam Darnold, a healthy Christian McCaffrey and a smothering defense have the Panthers off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2017, which is the last time they had a winning record and competed in the postseason. After taking down the Jets in the opener we were going to see just how the team progressed with a Week 2 matchup against the Saints. Well, the verdict is in and the Panthers are legit.
The Jets might be second guessing the deal that sent Darnold to Carolina, especially after what their QB did on Sunday, but what’s done is done and Darnold is thriving in his new environment. He threw for 305 yards with a pair of touchdowns and McCaffrey had 137 scrimmage yards as the Panthers rolled up nearly 400 total yards.
While the offense was efficient, the defense was spectacular. The group allowed only 128 total yards, the fewest for New Orleans under Sean Payton, intercepted two passes and recorded four sacks. The Saints managed just six first downs and were 2 of 11 on third-downs. A big improvement has come on third down with the Panthers allowing opponents to convert on just 25 percent of their chances.
The injury bug got Taylor again. A few seasons ago he was keeping the seat warm for Baker Mayfield in Cleveland when an injury forced the Browns to turn to the No. 1 overall pick. Now there’s a chance Taylor misses Thursday’s game allowing for the possible return of Watson. When Taylor left Sunday’s game rookie Davis Mills took over. He wasn’t bad going 8 of 18 for 102 yards with a touchdown and a pick. David Cully thought Mills “did really well” taking his first career snaps, but he failed to consistently move the offense.
Not much is expected from the Texans this season so we could say after two weeks they’ve overachieved. Taylor threw two touchdown passes and Houston amassed 449 total yards in an outright season-opening 37-21 win over the Jags as a 3-point dog. Taylor had a solid game against the Browns and exited with the score tied. The offense faltered with Mills at the helm and the Browns were able to pull away for the 31-21 victory. The Texans covered the 13.5-point spread, though, moving to 2-0 ATS for the year.
With Taylor not playing on Thursday options are thin. Mills may end up being a decent quarterback but he’s still raw and the offense struggled with him leading the way on Sunday. Culley said “we’ll see” when asked if Watson would get the nod. Watson asked for a trade during the offseason and is dealing with legal issues so I wonder just how effective he’ll be if he plays.
Panthers vs Texans Predictions
Our Predictions: Carolina Panthers -7 and UNDER 43.5
I’m not completely sold on Carolina yet but Darnold looks like the player many expected him to be when the Jets drafted him a few years back. And with McCaffrey back and a strong group of receivers, the Panthers can put up points. Defensively they’re solid and it’s going to be tough for Houston to generate enough points so I’m leaning toward the visitors minus the points.
View the latest Week 3 NFL odds.