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Free Pick: Carolina at Houston 9/23/21
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Free Pick: Carolina at Houston 9/23/21

The Thursday night NFL game features the 2-0 Carolina Panthers against the 1-1 Houston Texans. It is widely speculated that starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor won’t be able to recover from a hamstring injury suffered Sunday against the Browns and will not play in this game. That will hurt Houston’s chances significantly. The Panthers have been a surprise and have won their first two games (both at home), and are venturing out on the road for the first time. This is a huge game for them as they could get to 3-0 in the NFC South.

Scouting the Panthers: Quarterback, Sam Darnold has gotten off to a good start with his new team, completing 68% of his passes for 584 yards and 3 touchdowns. Christian McCaffrey looks recovered from injuries last year and has rushed for 171 yards and has 14 catches for 154 additional yards. Wide receiver, D.J. Moore has been another favorite target with 14 catches and 159 yards. The offense has been efficient and is averaging around 400 yards per game. Carolina’s defense has got tom opposing quarterbacks and have amassed 10 sacks in the first two games. Linebackers, Shaq Thompson has 14 tackles and Haason Reddick has 3 sacks. Upfront, the defensive line has played well limiting opponents to 47 yards rushing. They have been excellent against the pass too. This has been an impressive start on both sides of the ball.

Scouting the Texans: Houston won their opener against Jacksonville and were playing well offensively against Cleveland until Taylor got hurt. If he doesn’t play, they will turn to Davis Mills at quarterback. He completed 8 out of 18 passes for 102 yards after entering the game against the Browns. He will be a downgrade compared to Taylor. Running back, Mark Ingram has 126 yards rushing so far and he has been adequate. Wide receiver, Brandin Cooks has been a dangerous threat as he has caught 14 passes for 210 yards. Defensively, they have been adequate and they are led by linebackers, Zach Cunningham and Christian Kirksey who have combined for 25 tackles. Safety, Justin Reid has 2 interceptions in the young season to lead the secondary.

It is tough to analyze this game not knowing if Taylor is going to play. He suffered a hamstring injury and you have to assume he won’t play in this game. This gives the Panthers a decided advantage and Vegas thinks so too as Carolina is an 8-point favorite.


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