Thursday Night Football Preview: Panthers at Texans

So far this season, the Thursday night games have been fantastic and much of that has been the matchmaking and the implications of each game. Maybe the NFL was trying to put their best foot forward to get viewership back up in those first couple of weeks, maybe it was completely random (I doubt it), but when the Carolina Panthers head to Houston to take on the Texans, the magic just isn’t there.

(-400) Carolina Panther at (+310) Houston Texans (+8, 43)

Christian McCaffrey should be at the center of this game

This isn’t a division game, heck, it’s not even a conference game, and besides playing in their respective conference’s South division there’s almost no connective tissue here at all. There isn’t even any natural geographical rivalry here. 

Maybe this was meant to be a showcase game for DeShaun Watson before the shit hit the proverbial fan with him during the offseason, but now the (1-1) Texans are without their replacement starter Tyrod Taylor who suffered a hamstring injury while scoring a touchdown against Cleveland on Sunday and subsequently placed on the short-term injured reserve list. Taylor helped end the Buffalo Bills’ playoff drought in 2017 so I feel especially bad for him. 

Taylor knew something was wrong right away after he scored the TD

He was shipped from Buffalo to Cleveland when the Bills drafted Josh Allen in 2018 and Taylor was the starter for the Browns until he got injured and was replaced by the rookie QB they drafted, Baker Mayfield. Tyrod signed with the Chargers to be the backup to Philip Rivers in 2019 and when Rivers left for Indianapolis in the offseason, Taylor became the starter. However, his 2020 season was derailed when the team doctor accidentally punctured Taylor’s lung while giving him an injection of painkillers. The Chargers’ then named their rookie QB, Justin Herbert, as the starter and Tyrod was once again on the outs. He signed with the Texans in the 2021 offseason to be the backup QB, but the starting job landed in his lap due to Watson’s ongoing legal issues off the field. After an impressive Week 1, here we are again with Taylor injured and a rookie QB taking his place. It’s like that old Yogi Berra saying, “it’s like deja vu all over again” for Taylor. 

With T2 out, rookie QB Davis Mills suits up for his first start in the national spotlight and he’s going to have quite a lot on his plate with a (2-0) Panthers team that’s looking to make a statement. The 26-7 hammering of the Saints was impressive, but Carolina has the chance to get out in front of the NFC South race with a win over Houston. Carolina’s defensive front ransacked the Saints’ O-line and came away with 4-sacks and 11-QB hits. That’s not the best situation to walk into when making your first career start. 

Sam Darnold certainly has the decided edge for Carolina

On the other sideline, Panthers’ QB Sam Darnold has found new life away from the Jets. It’s obviously early, but he’s posted a career-high in completion percentage (68.5%), average yards per attempt (8.0), passer rating (100.5), and total QBR (66.3) which is 6th best in the NFL right now. Their competition is going to get more difficult over the next month, but Thursday’s game is a great spot for Darnold to keep building confidence. 

Carolina is mostly pretty healthy too, but they’ll be without defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos in this one. Besides the injury to Taylor, the Texans will also be without the services of veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola and starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell. The short week doesn’t help the team that’s already hurt and the injury report got the best of Houston for this one. 

This may turn out to be a much better game than I’m giving it credit for but, as a football fan, there is very little to get excited about. Fantasy owners will be excited to see Christian McCaffrey out there and, of course, I’m still going to watch but there’s nothing for me to be invested in. There’s no particularly compelling storyline that breathes life into the matchup. Plus, with Tyrod out of the game, I don’t see any reason to believe that it’ll be competitive. 

Pick: Panthers | Vs Spead: Panthers -8 | Under: 43 | Final: 31-10 

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