The Carolina Panthers (0-6) are looking to get their first win of the season when they play host to the Houston Texans (3-3) this Sunday (10/29/23) at 1 p.m. ET. The Texans are the betting favorites with a spread of -3.5 while the over/under is set at 43.5 total points.
This article provides Texans vs. Panthers analysis, predictions and betting recommendations and explains why the best bet in this matchup is the over on 43.5 points.
Hoston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers Prediction & Best Bet
In this battle of the top 2 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, look for C.J. Stroud to further cement his status as the frontrunner for the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Texans look like one of the biggest pleasant surprises of the 2023 season. Stroud has been outstanding and looks every bit the part of a franchise quarterback, while the defense looks much improved under new defensive-minded head coach DeMeco Ryans.
Bryce Young, on the other hand, has struggled early on in his rookie season for a variety of reasons. His 33.2 QBR ranks last in the NFL, and the Panthers’ offense looked much better under veteran backup Andy Dalton.
Coming out of their bye week, Panthers coach Frank Reich is hoping to get things turned around offensively by handing over playcalling duties to 1st-year offensive coordinator Thomas Brown. A former NFL running back and assistant coach under Sean McVay with the Rams, Brown is not expected to make wholesale changes to the offense, but we could see more emphasis on the running game and more use of tempo and pre-snap motion (which McVay is known for).
While there is reason for optimism that Brown could have a positive impact on the Panthers’ offense, we don’t like their chances against the up-and-coming Texans. Houston’s biggest challenge offensively has been an inability to run the ball, partially due to several injuries along the offensive line. But the O-line is getting healthier, and the Panthers’ defense is the worst in the league at stopping the run. If the Texans can establish a more balanced attack with Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary on the ground, that will only make things easier for Stroud and the passing game.
For that reason, we like the over on 43.5 points as the best bet in this game. We expect a big day from the Texans’ offense against this weak and banged up Panthers defense that just lost one of their best players in safety Jeremy Chinn and also could be without star edge rusher Brian Burns. The Panthers also have a good chance to look better offensively under their new playcaller, and while the Texans’ defense is much-improved, they are still just 21st in DVOA and 18th in EPA.
We also expect the Texans to win and cover the -3.5 in this matchup, but we are not quite confident enough in the Texans yet to recommend that bet. The Panthers will be playing with plenty of motivation to get their first win of the season in front of their home crowd, and this is probably their best opportunity yet this season to get a notch in the win column. With all the parity in the NFL, we want to see more from the Texans before we can confidently bet on them.
Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers Prediction & Best Bet: Texans win 31-21, Texans -3.5, over 43.5 (best bet)
Texans vs. Panthers Best Betting Odds
HOU @ CAR
Oct. 29, 12:00 PM
Odds updated October 29th, 2023, at 2:51 pm
The spread in this matchup opened right at the key number of 3 and made the all-important important shift to 3.5 at most sportsbooks, adding the hook to the football number and signaling more support for Houston in this matchup.
The over/under is trending up after opening at 41.5 and now sits at 43.5 at most major sportsbooks.
The implied outcome of these odds is the Texans winning 24-20.
Texans vs. Panthers Key Injuries
The Texans are expected to be missing starting WR Robert Woods. They are managing injuries to LT Laremy Tunsil and LG Tytus Howard, but both are expected to play. Starting DT Sheldon Rankins is also questionable but trending towards playing. The most notable Texans player on IR is CB Derek Stingley Jr.
The key Panthers injury to monitor is star edge rusher Brian Burns, who was added to the injury report Thursday. The other key player to monitor is starting guard Austin Corbett, who was just activated off IR and has a chance to make his season debut. Besides Burns and Corbett, starting S Vonn Bell and LB Frankie Luvu are questionable on defense, while RT Taylor Moton and reserve WR Laviska Shenault Jr. are other players to monitor on offense.
Texans vs. Panthers Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Texans vs. Panthers below.
Dameon Pierce vs. Panthers’ run defense
This could be the week that the Texans are finally able to get Dameon Pierce going in the run game. Carolina is allowing the second-most rushing yards per game (144.3) and the 5th-most yards per carry (4.9). They are also dead last in run defense DVOA, EPA and success rate.
Pierce is averaging a pedestrian 2.9 yards per carry after posting an impressive 4.3 yards per carry in his rookie season last year. Part of the reason has been the offensive line, which was missing more than half its starters for most of the season but is now mostly back to full strength. Another reason has been a tough schedule to start the season. The Texans have faced 4 of the top 12 run defenses (Ravens, Jaguars, Falcons and Saints) in their first six games.
The Texans’ offense will still succeed or fail based on the arm of C.J. Stroud, but a more balanced attack with an effective run game will open up the play-action game for Stroud and take the whole offense to another level. In this particular matchup, it will also help the Texans to shorten the game if they are protecting a lead in the second half.
Adam Thielen vs. Jimmie Ward/Grayland Arnold
Thielen is just about the only thing that the Panthers’ have going offensively right now. The veteran wide receiver has found the fountain of youth on his way to being 4th among WRs in receptions per game (8.17) and 13th in yards (84.8).
Thielen has operated primarily out of the slot for the majority of his career, and that did not change when he came over from the Vikings in the offseason. He has lined up in the slot on 72.4% of his snaps this season, which is among the highest players in the league in slot usage (currently 10th per PFF).
Grayland Arnold has been the Texan’s primary slot corner this season, while do-it-all safety Jimmie Ward has also contributed in the slot and lined up there on 70 of his 82 snaps in the Texans’ last game in week 6. Arnold and Ward are allowing pedestrian passer ratings of 95.4 and 94.6, respectively, when targeted in the slot this season.
Thielen has the advantage in this matchup and the extent to which Ward and Arnold can slow him down will go a long way in the Texans’ not only winning the game but also covering the spread.