Panthers vs Texans Thursday Night Football Picks and Predictions: Panthers Maul Texans QB

Carolina is off to a solid start and has been wrecking teams on D, which is bad news for the Texans, who lost their starting QB and have a green rookie under center. Find out if they can dig deep for a cover this week with our Panthers vs Texans picks.

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2021 11:51 AM ET Read Time: 5 min

Ah, yes. Another NFL Thursday night "classic" as the Carolina Panthers visit the Houston Texans. But hey, at least one of the teams looks good heading into this matchup.

Matt Rhule and Sam Darnold have the Panthers off to a somewhat surprising 2-0 start. While the Texans have shown more fight than most expected, they will be without starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor in this one. But does Houston still have value getting more than a touchdown at home?

Find out with our free NFL betting picks and predictions for Panthers vs. Texans on Thursday, September 23.

Panthers vs Texans odds

Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.

The Panthers opened this matchup as 7.5-point road chalk, but that is starting to move as some 8s are starting to appear on the odds board. The total has bounced around the opening number of 43.5. Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until kickoff and be sure to check out the full NFL odds before placing your bets.

Panthers vs Texans picks

Picks made on 9/21/2021 at 10:35 p.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.

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Panthers vs Texans game info

Location: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Date: Thursday, September 23, 2021
Time: 8:15 p.m. ET

Panthers at Texans betting preview


Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our NFL weather info.

Key injuries

Panthers: Shi Smith WR (Out), A.J. Bouye CB (Out), Clay Johnston (Out), Phil Hoskins DT (Out), Michael Jordan G (Out), Deonte Brown G (Out).
Texans: Tyrod Taylor QB (Out), Nico Collins WR (Out), Danny Amendola WR (Out), Justin Reid S (Out), Terrance Mitchell CB (Out), Kamu Grugier-Hill LB (Out), Brevin Jordan TE (Out), Jordan Jenkins DT (Out).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Panthers are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games on the road. Find more NFL betting trends for Panthers vs. Texans.

Panthers vs Texans predictions

Matt Rhule got the job as head coach of the Panthers thanks in part to the way he rebuilt the program at Baylor. And we're already starting to see similar results in Carolina.

The Panthers are one of the early surprises in this 2021 NFL season. They opened the season with a 19-14 win over the New York Jets, covering as 3.5-point faves, and followed that up with an impressive 26-7 victory against the New Orleans Saints, winning outright as 3-point dogs.

This start is all the more impressive because running back Christian McCaffrey has yet to really get going. But Quarterback Sam Darnold has been enjoying his new digs in Carolina, throwing for 584 yards while completing 68.5 percent of his passes. And the defense has been outstanding (more on that later).

On the other side, the Texans may be sizeable underdogs heading into this matchup, but they haven’t exactly been the dumpster fire most were expecting before the season, and are actually 2-0 ATS through two games.

Houston opened the year with a convincing 37-21 win over an actual dumpster fire in the Jacksonville Jaguars, and then put up a decent fight against the Browns, losing 31-21 in a game they closed as 13.5-point underdogs.

Unfortunately for the Texans, they lost starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor in that game and for the next several weeks. So, it will be Davis Mills under center. The rookie looked uneasy in his first NFL action, going just 8-18 for 102 yards. 

Now, on a short week, he faces a Panthers defense that has been a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks so far this season. Look for Carolina to take away the run game and force Mills to try and beat them with his arm. It’s tempting to take the points with Houston, but we’ve got to side with the Panthers here. 

When it comes to the total, my gut reaction is to lean towards the Under. 

The Panthers have allowed just 21 points over the first two weeks of the season and lead the NFL in both yards per game and yards per play. Now, they face a Texans team that was only able to generate one touchdown in the second half of last week’s game after Taylor went out. 

The Texans' ground game is stuck in neutral, rushing for just 3.5 yards per carry, and they don’t really have any reliable pass catchers outside of Brandin Cooks. It just seems very unlikely that Houston will be able to do its part with a rookie QB getting just a couple of days of practice before Week 3.

On top of that, the Houston defense hasn’t been that bad. They rank a respectable 17th in total yards allowed per contest and are coming off a game where they limited the Browns to 355 total yards. And while the Panthers have been solid on offense, they haven’t been world-beaters by any means, averaging 22.5 points per game thus far.

They say life is too short to bet the Under. Well, call me boring because I just don’t think the Texans can do enough to send this one Over.

I know this kind of feels like we’re piling on poor Davis Mills here, but oddsmakers aren’t giving us much of a choice. The kid out of Stanford could be a good NFL quarterback someday but he is getting thrown to the wolves in this one.

The Panthers' defensive front has been ferocious so far this season, leading the NFL in sack rate by a fairly wide margin. That has resulted in opposing QBs completing just 52.4 percent of their passes and a league-low 143.5 passing yards per game.

Carolina limited fellow rookie Zach Wilson to 258 yards and followed that up by stifling the Saints' Jameis Winston for 111 passing yards. 

A short week with little time to prepare,  lack of playmakers, and an elite pass defense means a long day for Davis Mills. We’re betting he stays Under his passing yards total on Thursday night.

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