The Carolina Panthers (2-0, 0-0 away) and the Houston Texans (1-1, 1-0 home) meet up Thursday night to kick off Week 3 of NFL action. Carolina rolled to a 26-7 victory over the New Orleans Saints, and the Texans fell on the road to the Cleveland Browns, 31-21.
The kickoff for Thursday’s contest is at 8:20 p.m. inside NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. Carolina is an 8-point favorite, and the total over-under is 43 points.
What to Know – Carolina Panthers
Carolina is 2-0 to start the season for the first time since 2017. The Panthers have made the postseason in six of the seven seasons, beginning 2-0. Carolina is tied atop the NFC South standings with the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Quarterback Sam Darnold looks like a different player since joining the Panthers this offseason. The former first-round pick and New York Jet is completing 68.5 percent of his passes and has three touchdowns to only one interception. Darnold is sixth in the league with a 66.3 QBR.
Running back Christian McCaffrey is back and healthy, carrying the ball 45 times for 170 yards and hauling in 14 receptions for 154 yards over the first two games. Wide receiver DJ Moore has emerged as Darnold’s favorite pass-catching target, leading the Panthers with 159 yards through the air.
Carolina’s defense has set the tone this season, leading the NFL in total yards, yards passing, yards rushing, points allowed, and sacks.
What to Know – Houston Texans
The Texans looked to had found their starting quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, but the veteran quarterback suffered a hamstring injury and will miss Thursday night’s contest. Rookie quarterback David Mills will make his first NFL start for Houston, and he will try and help Houston improve to 2-0 at home this season.
The 22-year old signal-caller was a third-round pick in this season’s NFL draft out of Stanford. Mills stands 6’4”, 225 pounds, and finished last week’s contest 8-of-18 for 102 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in the loss to Cleveland.
With a rookie QB making his first start, the Texans will look to veteran running back Mark Ingram II to handle an uptick in workload in the short week. The 31-year old rusher has already carried the ball 40 times this season, fifth in the league. Ingram is averaging 3.2 yards per carry and has found the endzone once this year.
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks has tallied 210 receiving yards and provides Mills with a prime target in the passing game. Cooks is averaging 15.0 yards a catch and connected with Mills for his first receiving touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss.
The Pick is In
Thursday’s contest marks the second time this season the Panthers will go up against a rookie quarterback. Carolina defeated Zach Wilson and the New York Jets in the season-opener.
Mills didn’t look bad in his first professional action last week but won’t get a whole week of practice to prep for the Panthers. Still, focusing on the ground game and controlling the clock will keep the Texans in the game that should be a low-scoring affair.
Carolina wins by a touchdown, but the Texans cover the spread.
Betting Pick: Houston Texans +8