The Carolina Panthers are on the road on Thursday night and favored by more than a touchdown on the spread over the Houston Texans. Both these teams are 2-0 against the line this year; the Texans winning on opening day against the Jacksonville Jaguars and winning on the spread last week in a straight-up road loss to the Cleveland Browns.
The Panthers first two weeks have been more impressive.
On opening day they won at home and covered the point spread against the New York Jets. Last Sunday, they upset the New Orleans Saints, 26-7. The Saints had opened their season with a 38-3 victory over the Green Bay Packers, then were throttled by the Panthers.
Are the Panthers the surprise team of the NFL this year?
With newly acquired quarterback Sam Darnold and the explosive running of Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers attack has solid potential. But the real strength of this young Panthers ball club is the defense head coach Matt Rhule has assembled.
So, are the Panthers ready to be favored by more than a touchdown on the road?
Because we can utilize the Point Spread Chart that is found on this site we can know what the spread would have been in the first two weeks of this season had these two teams met in Houston. If this was a first week matchup in Texas the Panthers would have been a three point favorite. Last week, they would have grown to a four point pick over the Texans at NRG Stadium
Why so much this week?
Two reasons. First, Texans starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was injured during Houston’s loss last week in Cleveland and will not be available for this Thursday’s home opener. Second, the Panthers impressive two wins, over the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints, has the football world buzzing over the potential of this Panthers squad.
But, before Carolina fans make plans to be in Los Angeles in the first week in February, an examination of the Panthers initial successes could serve to quell their high hopes.
Beating the Jets on their home field on opening day would only be noteworthy had they not beaten New York. The Jets lost last week in their home opener by a lopsided score to the previously winless New England Patriots. And their victory last Sunday, over Sean Payton’s New Orleans squad, could be attributed more to a letdown by New Orleans than a rule breaking win for the Panthers.
The Saints had opened as an underdog to the Packers in a game that had to be moved to Houston because of the damage Hurricane Ida caused in New Orleans. The Saints were in an ideal spot to overachieve and did it in convincing style, downing Aaron Rodgers and company, 38-3.
Off that win, the Saints were the ones overconfident when they visited Carolina last week … and played like it. New Orleans quarterback Jameis Winston went from throwing five touchdowns against the Packers in their opener to leading an offense that rushed for only 48 yards and generated only 80 net passing yards in their loss to Carolina. Winston was also sacked four times and tossed two interceptions without adding any additional touchdowns to his season total.
Should the tough Panthers defense get the credit?
Partially. They did play well, but the turnaround in the Saints two performances is more a case of motivational factors. New Orleans was an underdog in their opener on a neutral field and had a myriad of factors to overcome enroute to their one-sided victory, and a favorite on the road following that win and headed into their first loss.
The dead stop of the Saints offense was more a result of motivation than talent.
But, it did serve the purpose of driving the line up on the Panthers for when they meet the Texans on Thursday night in Houston.
The highest point spread price for the Panthers comes on the heels of their big win over New Orleans and they are headed into their first game facing negative motivational factors.
We will get to see how these two teams prepare for this game before making a determination if this contest rates a money play, but we can be certain that we begin that quest for a winner with a huge point spread advantage for the home team.
Qoxhi Picks: Houston Texans (+7½) over Carolina Panthers