Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers
Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte, North Carolina
Sunday, September 20, 2015, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS, NFL Sunday Ticket
Opening Line: Carolina -3 1/2 (-115)
Current Line: Carolina -3 (+100)
Opening Total: 41
Current Total: 39 1/2
Opening Money Line: Panthers -170 / Texans +150
Current Money Line: Panthers -155 / Texans +135
The 0-1 Houston Texans travel to the 1-0 Carolina Panthers Sunday in Week Two action. This is only the fourth regular season meeting between the teams. Houston leads the series 2-1. The Panthers won the last meeting 28-13 in Houston in 2011. That game occurred in the rookie seasons of both coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton for the Panthers. One J.J. Watt was also in his rookie season for the Texans.
Houston is coached by Bill O’Brien. The Texans began the season with a 27-20 loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. Houston was a one point underdog in that game and the total was 41.
Carolina opened the season with a 20-9 win at the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Panthers were 3 point favorites and the total was 41.
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Against Kansas City, Houston found themselves down 14-0 early as Alex Smith threw a pair of touchdowns to tight end Travis Kelce. Houston got on the board late in the first quarter with a touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer to DeAndre Hopkins. However, the Texans missed the extra point. In the second quarter, the Chiefs scored 13 straight points to expand the lead to 27-6. Houston would kick afield goal just before halftime to make it 27-9. Neither team would score again until Houston scored with 4:07 left on a touchdown and two point conversion both from Ryan Mallett to Hopkins. Mallett replaced an ineffective Hoyer. Houston would add a field goal with 1:23 left but were unable to recover the ensuing onside kick. Kansas City would hold on for the 27-20 victory.
Houston had 396 total yards including 298 passing and 98 rushing yards. Kansas City had 330 total yards including 233 passing and 97 rushing yards. Houston had 24 first downs to 19 for Kansas City. The Texans had 6 penalties for 39 yards and the Chiefs had 2 for 25 yards. Houston had the only two turnovers of the game. Kansas City had possession for over 35 minutes. Houston allowed five sacks.
Hoyer completed 18 of 34 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also had a costly fumble that was recovered by the Chiefs. Kansas City converted both turnovers into 14 points. Hoyer was benched with six minutes left in the fourth in favor of Mallett. The Texans would score on both possessions with Mallett at the helm. He completed 8/13 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for six yards. O’Brien named Mallett the starter for week two but it is unclear if that is a permanent move.
Running back Arian Foster is out indefinitely with a groin injury. It will be a running back by committee approach to replace the former all-pro. Alfred Blue had 9 carries for 42 yards, plus a catch for 7 yards. Jonathan Grimes had 6 carries for 28 yards, plus a catch for 2 yards. Chris Polk had 5 carries for 22 yards, plus a catch for 9 yards.
Receiver Nate Washington had 6 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. He is probable with an abdominal injury. Hopkins had 9 catches for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns. Cecil Shorts III had 4 catches for 57 yards. Fourteen Texans are listed on the injury report including 4 offensive linemen and six defensive players.
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Jacksonville and Carolina traded field goals in the first quarter last week. Neither team would score again until there was less than 2 minutes left in the second quarter. Carolina scored on a 7 yard touchdown pass from Newton to Jerricho Cotchery with 1:52 left to make it 10-3. Jacksonville scored with 9 seconds left before halftime but missed the extra point to make it 10-9 Panthers at halftime. Carolina scored on a 30 yard pick six from Josh Norman midway through the third quarter to make it 17-9. The Panthers added a field goal with 2:41 left in the fourth to ice the game 20-9.
Carolina had 263 total yards including 158 passing and 105 rushing yards. Jacksonville had 265 total yards including 169 passing and 96 rushing yards. The Jaguars had 18 first downs to 17 for the Panthers. Jacksonville had 3 turnovers to 1 for Carolina. The Panthers had possession for just over 34 minutes.
There is no quarterback controversy in Carolina. Newton is the unquestioned starter but he just doesn’t have a lot of weapons in which to throw the ball. He completed 18/31 passes for 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and also had 14 carries for 35 yards.
Running back Jonathan Stewart is probable with a knee injury. He had 18 carries for 56 yards last week, and added 4 catches for 25 yards. Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whitaker will also get some carries. Receiver Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL during training camp and it out for the season. Receiver Tedd Ginn, Jr. had 2 catches for 54 yards. Cotchery had 4 catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. Star tight end Greg Olson was held in check with only a catch for 11 yards. Corey Brown will also get some targets.
Eleven players are listed on the injury report, including six defensive players. Star linebacker Luke Kuechly is out with a concussion.
Houston is 4-0 ATS after passing for more than 250 yards, 3-0-1 in road games, 6-1 in week two games, 4-1 after a straight up loss 6-2 after an ATS loss, and 3-1-1 after gaining more than 350 total yards.
Carolina is 17-7-1 ATS against teams with losing records, 11-5-1 at home, and 2-5 after a cover.
Carolina has some serious issues on offense at the skill positions. They are also banged up on defense. Houston is also banged up on defense and on the offensive line as well. Newton is the better quarterback and I think he wills Carolina to a win in a gritty low-scoring game.