Houston Texans (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
NFL Week 2
Date/Time: Sunday, September 20,2015 at 1:00PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: HOU +3/CAR -3
Over/Under Total: 40.5
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The Houston Texans make the trip to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The Panthers got off to a good start in week 1, marching into Jacksonville and earning a 20-9 win and the cover. Houston, meanwhile, fell short on Sunday, getting beaten at home by the Kansas City Chiefs. For them to earn their first win of the season, theyre going to need to beat a good defense on the road this Sunday.
Unfortunately for Houston, they are already embroiled in a quarterback situation that comes down to which quarterback stinks less. Brian Hoyer came up woefully short on Sunday, unable to get the offense pointed in the right direction. When they brought in Ryan Mallett, the offense began to click and move the ball, making it 27-20 at the end. As of press time, coach Bill OBrien has not announced who will start on Sunday. But it sure didnt take long for Hoyer to get the hook on Sunday, not even getting through the game before OBrien pulled him.
With the lack of a cemented quarterback behind center and star back Arian Foster still on the sidelines, this Houston offense will be hard-pressed to get into the upper-half of NFL offenses this season. They will be relying a lot on their defense, while hoping they can get some improved production on offense at some point. In Houstons favor is emergent receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Wide receiver Nate Washington looked good on Sunday. And while Foster is out, the 3-pronged approach of Chris Polk, Jonathan Grimes, and Alfred Blue should be suitable in spots.
The Texans looked terrible in the first half on Sunday, almost as they were not ready for the game. The Chiefs jumped on them and before the Texans could find their bearings, they were looking at a 27-6 deficit in the second quarter. But as the game wore on, he defense discovered its footing and became far-more effective, shutting down the Chiefs for the final two quarters and change. The Houston offense was unquestionably pedestrian, but showed signs of life under Mallett. Its unclear why OBrien would even entertain going with Hoyer, whose overall low ceiling has already been readily exposed. They should really give Mallett a shot and bring back Hoyer if he falls flat.
Carolina looked OK on Sunday, though a road win by double-digits is nothing to scoff ateven if it did come against the woeful Jaguars. Offensively, they looked typical of this Panthers teammuted. With a run-game led by Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert and an aerial attack that lost key weapon Kelvin Benjamin, this isnt going to be an offense that knocks off peoples socks. But with Greg Olsen and first-rounder receiver Devin Funchess, it shouldnt be so bad moving forward, even without Benjamin. Newton is a tremendous athlete for a quarterback, but the offense is really built to put up just enough points and give the defense enough of a break so that they can do their thing.
It really does come down to defense for the Panthers. Even though holding the Jaguars to no touchdowns is not a cause for celebration, this group has the same look they had in 2013, when opposing offenses could barely get anything going. On Sunday, Luke Kuechly suffered a concussion, so we dont know if hell play as of press time. But even without Kuechly, this is a group that will really test a Houston offense that looked inept at times on Sunday. Justin Norman was particularly effective on Sunday, forcing a fumble and returning a pick for a touchdown. Its a playmaking unit that can camouflage some of Carolinas weaknesses on the other side of the ball.
Houstons defense really shined in the second half on Sunday. Maybe thats a result of Kansas City coasting their way to the finish line, but JJ Watt got started with two sacks and the secondary looked like the unit they were hyped as being after giving up three Alex Smith passing touchdowns in the first half. And to their credit, they held Jamaal Charles to very little the whole game. Carolinas offense is not a game-breaking one and if this Houston D can resume how they were playing in the second half last week, points may be hard to come by for the two-time defending NFC South champions.
With Carolina, it may be hard to identify on paper what led to them having a long winning streak in 2013, followed by an off-the-pace divisional winning effort year last season. But they are a team that needs to be taken seriously. Their defense can change games by making plays and despite the lukewarm offense, they dont shoot themselves in the foot. Carolina may lack the run-game that gives more bite to both sides of the ball, but they are one of the better teams when it comes to grittily grinding out wins.
It will be interesting to see what direction coach OBrien goes with at quarterback. If it is indeed Mallett, he will be playing for his career, in a sense. And you cant underestimate a good prideful athlete like Mallett when his future is on the line. And if its Hoyer, he would also have a lot riding on this game. But coming into Charlotte to play this Carolina defense is a tough time for Mallett or Hoyer to showcase their wares. Its hard to imagine Houston getting much in the way of a run game going on Sunday and that will cost them. Carolina may have trouble getting on the scoreboard, as well, but over 4 quarters, I see them able to pull of the tough win at home.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Carolina Panthers minus 3 points.
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