We picked the Panthers to beat the Texans -7.5 believing Carolina’s defense would smother Texans’ rookie quarterback Davis Mills, causing Houston’s offense to struggle to keep pace. We predicted correctly. Carolina (3-0) defeated Houston, 24-9, fueled by the defense’s four sacks. After Thursday, they lead the league in that category with 14.
Sam Darnold continued his strong start with the Panthers, throwing for 304 yards and rushing for two touchdowns. Mills, who started in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor, had 168 passing yards, 112 of them to receiver Brandin Cooks, whom he targeted 11 times.
Houston (1-2) rushed for only 42 yards. That’s not a formula to win games, and that lack of production from the Texans’ running backs and other receivers certainly did not help the third-round draft pick in his first professional start.
Carolina, though, left NRG Stadium with concerns. Christian McCaffrey, their versatile running back and best offensive player, injured his hamstring. Cornerback Jaycee Horn, the team’s first-round draft pick, needed help from team personnel to hop off the field after he reportedly broke his foot. The seriousness of those injuries will affect Carolina’s betting lines and its chances to stay undefeated.
How Betting Lines Work
A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Steelers -4.5, for example, means that Pittsburgh must beat Cincinnati by at least 5 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.