Week 3 starts off with a rookie QB and a rookie head coach on Thursday Night Football as the Houston Texans host the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers are off to a great start with wins over the Jets and Saints. The Texans have a win over the Jaguars and a loss to the Browns.
We've got a market report on the game from South Point director Chris Andrews and best bets from Adam Burke and Will Hill as Week 3 kicks off.
Carolina Panthers (-8, 43) at Houston Texans
Market report from Chris Andrews: I opened this game Carolina -7. We suspected at the time that Davis Mills was “probably” going to be the starting quarterback for Houston. Tyrod Taylor got hurt vs. Cleveland. Sharps bet Carolina at -7. So, I went up to -7.5. When the official announcement was made Tuesday, I moved with the market up to Carolina -8. By mid-week, I was already receiving active two-team six-point teaser play on Carolina. Sharps love crossing the 7 and the 3 with one move. Carolina -2 is already big in teasers. Carolina -2.5 would be as well if the game moves up to -8.5. I think it’s safe to say that sharps like Carolina -2 (or -2.5) much more than they like a straight bet on Carolina -8 (or -8.5). There are a lot of good teaser options Sunday to pair with the Panthers that also cross those two key numbers.
On the Over/Under, my opening total of 43 was bet up to 43.5 and 44 by sharp play. Then, confirmation of the QB change brought in Wise Guy money on the Under. I dropped back to 43.5, then back to my opener of 43. A lot of play for a line that now sits in the same place it started. The public will probably bet over in the solitary TV game between now and kickoff. In fact, as I write this, my ticket count is still 3/1 to the Over even with the drop back to 43. If public action drives the number higher, sharps will likely come back in on the Under at 43.5 or better.
Burke: The deck is very much stacked against David Culley and Mills on Thursday Night Football, but it has already been more than baked into the line. The Texans actually played quite admirably against the Browns in Week 2 and also had that big win over the Jaguars in Week 1, so this is a team playing better than most of us expected.
So, too, are the Carolina Panthers, who are off to a very impressive 2-0 start with the resurgence of Sam Darnold and a stout defense that shut down New Orleans this past week.
This line is just too big for a straight wager, though. Road favorites of more than a touchdown on Thursday Night Football are few and far between. In fact, it has only happened eight times since the start of the 2012 season (4-4 ATS). Carolina has had a great start and the Houston QB and coaching situations are off-putting, but this probably isn’t the place for an historical outlier kind of spread.
That being said, Carolina falls quite nicely into a teaser this week. Teasing the Panthers down from -8 to -2 will be very popular this week and is part of my card along with taking the Baltimore Ravens down to -2.
For a second pick in this game, the Panthers have racked up 12.2 adjusted net yards per pass attempt in the first half thus far with a 78.6 percent completion rate for Darnold. The numbers dramatically drop off in the second half as teams have made adjustments. Carolina has been well-prepared for games and should be well-prepared for this one as well, especially relative to Culley in his first year and in his first game on a short week.
Carolina should be able to move the ball and get some points. The Panthers may even benefit from a short field or two. As a result, Panthers Team Total Over 13.5 points at the best vig you can find is a good wager.
Picks: Panthers -2 (two-team 6-pt teaser with Baltimore -2); Panthers Over 13.5 Points 1H
Hill: The Panthers and Texans kicking off Week 3 isn’t going to break any ratings records Thursday night, but it does feature two teams who have been very kind to bettors. At a combined 4-0 ATS, both teams have surpassed their modest expectations thus far. With no sign of Deshaun Watson, and Taylor on IR with a hamstring injury, it will be rookie third-round pick in Mills getting the nod for his first career start as Texans quarterback.
The neophyte will have a tough assignment as he faces a Panthers defense that throttled the Saints in Week 2 after shutting the Jets out for much of their Week 1 contest. The Saints were held to meager 3.0 yards per play, and scored their only touchdown following a Darnold interception that gave them a short field.
Despite trailing for most of the game, the Saints only accumulated 80 yards passing, and 128 yards overall. The Panthers lead the league in quarterback hits, and are near the top in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate metric.
I would suspect a conservative game-plan and a below average “depth of target” from the Texans passing attack. The Panthers were also conservative in the blowout victory, kicking a field goal from the 1, and punting on 4th and 1 from midfield despite moving the ball at will and having perhaps the best running back in the league. I look for a close-to-the-vest approach from the rookie QB, and the Panthers as well, knowing they can likely win the game comfortably if they avoid turnovers.
Pick: Under 43