NFL Week 15 Predictions: Carolina Panthers vs. Houston Texans

Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans
Sunday, 12/18/11, 1:00 PM EST, TV:  FOX
Opening Point Spread:  Houston -6.5
Current Betting Line:  Houston -6
Opening Total:  46.5
Current Total:  45
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Carolina Panthers are a team to watch heading into the 2012 season

Carolina was on the verge of putting together a three-game winning streak until the Atlanta Falcons stormed back to capture a 31-23 win as three-point road favorites last week.  The Panthers have had every opportunity to have a better mark than their current 4-9 record.  “When you lead 12 out of 13, you have a chance to win games,” commented Panthers head coach Ron Rivera.  “We’ve got to grow up and get past a lot of things.”  Carolina is 3-3 ATS on the road this season and the ‘over’ is 4-1 in that particular situation.

The Panthers offense is certainly dynamic behind the play of quarterback Cam Newton, as he sits just 167 passing yards away from breaking Peyton Manning’s rookie record.  Carolina has registered an NFL-best 76 plays that have covered 20 or more yards and the running game has hit or gone over the century mark in 11 straight games, ranking fifth in the league in averaging 139.1 rushing yards per game.  On the other side of the ball, the defense is incredibly banged up, losing four starters in the front seven to season-ending injuries.

Houston overcame a 16-3 halftime deficit to walk away with a 20-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals to clinch the franchise’s first-ever division title and playoff berth.  It came under improbably circumstances with rookie quarterback T.J. Yates making just his second start, connecting on 26 of 44 passes for 300 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.  “We were pretty calm,” commented Yates after pulling off the heroics. “We knew that the defense had done a great job giving us the ball back.”  Houston is 9-3 ATS on the year and the ‘under’ is 9-4 through 13 games.

The Texans have been ravaged by injuries throughout the season and lost starting right guard Mike Brisiel last week to a leg fracture.  Houston is hoping that wide receiver Andre Johnson will return to the lineup, but he’s likely to sit out now that a postseason berth has been solidified, missing six games this year with a hamstring issue.  Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will not be on the sidelines Sunday, recovering from minor surgery that he underwent on Thursday.  He has played a major part in the team’s success and making the stop unit No. 1 in the league in allowing just 274.9 yards per game.

Bettors will likely back the Panthers due to their 15-6 ATS mark in December, while the Texans are 9-11 ATS at home the past two-plus years.

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