The first full week of the NFL preseason has arrived, and it kicks off with the Houston Texans visiting the Charlotte Panthers on Wednesday night. It’s a chance for fans to see one very intriguing rookie on each side. Carolina is a 3-point favourite on Sports Interaction NFL preseason odds.
Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers
Point spread: Panthers -3
Date: Wednesday, August 9, 2017 @ 19:30
The franchises last played in Week 2 of the 2015 regular season, a 24-17 Carolina victory. Cam Newton threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns. He’s only expected to play a series Wednesday, if that. Houston’s starting QB was Ryan Mallett, who is now in Baltimore.
Carolina is a 3-point home favorite – a standard number for a home team in a preseason game. The total is 37; totals are always lower in the preseason. Houston is 1-4 ATS in its past five games. The Panthers are 2-5 ATS in their previous seven at home.
In this year’s draft, the Texans traded their 2017 first-round pick (No. 25) and 2018 first-rounder to Cleveland to move up to No. 12. Houston did that because it feared the team picking at 13th, the Cardinals, were going to take Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist and reigning national champion. The Texans took Watson as they had a need at quarterback after dealing last year’s starter, free-agent bust Brock Osweiler, to Cleveland.
O’Brien has been signing Watson’s praises thus far in training camp, and he could beat out Tom Savage for the starting job. Thus both guys could play longer than expected Wednesday because it’s a close competition. Watson is one of the early NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year betting favourites. The initial depth chart issued by the Texans has Watson at No. 2.
Houston already has suffered one major injury in camp as starting receiver Will Fuller broke his collarbone and will miss 2-3 months. The No. 21 overall pick in the 2016 draft caught 47 passes for 635 yards and two scores as a rookie and was a good punt returner.
It’s the first professional game for Carolina rookie Christian McCaffrey, the 2015 Heisman runner-up when he set the NCAA single-season record for all-purpose yardage. The Panthers will line up McCaffrey all over the field: at running back, receiver even a Wildcat quarterback. Plus he can return kicks. McCaffrey is another Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
There’s no quarterback battle on this team as 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton is the starter, but it’s not clear if he can play Wednesday. After he threw for the first four days of training camp, the Panthers shut down Newton when he had soreness in his surgically repaired right shoulder. So if Newton plays vs. Houston, it might be to simply hand off. The Panthers have also been missing second-round pick Curtis Samuel for all but one practice in camp because of a hamstring injury.
Texans vs. Panthers Prediction
Small advantage for Houston with Newton potentially not playing, so take the points and lean under the total.