It’s always great to start the football season off with a victory, and that’s exactly what we did here at The Sports Geek during last week’s Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio. In a back-and-forth affair, the Cowboys emerged victorious for their famed owner Jerry Jones, and now we await a full slate of action beginning Wednesday night in Carolina.
The Panthers had a pretty brutal season last year, falling well below of expectations. The biggest reason for their collapse can be attributed to some key injuries, but also a stunning lack of protection and production from their talented QB in Cam Newton. Newton already has been ruled out for tonight’s contest against Houston, but you can bet he’ll be ready to have a more impressive 2017 campaign. Even without Newton, the Panthers still have a couple intriguing names to follow – perhaps none more so than rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. The dynamic runner is always a treat to watch and will really test the speed of the Texans’ defense.
For Houston, they’ve got a deep trio of QB’s and all will get playing time on Wednesday. There’s a bit of quarterback battle going on in camp right now – mainly between Tom Savage and rookie DeShaun Watson. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top Wednesday night. Behind that duo, they also have former starter and first-rounder, Brandon Weeden. Quarterback depth is big in the pre-season and Houston has three decent options in their arsenal.
Even though it’s not regular season action, it’s just nice to have a full 16-game slate of NFL match-ups on the horizon. Week 1 of the exhibition campaign begins tonight, so read on below for a more detailed breakdown and pick for the Texans at the Panthers.
Texans vs. Panthers Betting Odds:
Houston Texans +1.5 (-115)
@ Carolina Panthers -1.5 (-105)
Over 36 (-110)
Under 36 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Texans vs. Panthers Pick:
Houston clearly likes their rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson, and even though it appears as of right now that he won’t be the opening day starter, look for a talented showing from the former top pick. You don’t trade the assets they did to have Watson sit on the bench. As a result, look for an impressive showing from the dynamic runner and passer in tonight’s contest feasting on second-stringers. Head coach Bill O’Brien has been extremely complimentary of the youngster, and even though it remains to be seen whether or not he starts over Savage, the fact that they have a reliable and talented duo bodes well for pre-season handicapping.
Without Newton in the fold for tonight, expect a healthy dose of long-time veteran backups in Derek Anderson and Joe Webb. Both have been around for a while, but truthfully neither inspire much confidence – especially when compared to the depth of the Texans under centre. It is also expected that fourth-stringer Garrett Gilbert will also get a fair bit of playing time against Houston as well. Smart move to give their better QB’s some rest against the likes of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
All accounts from Bill O’Brien suggest that Houston’s camp is going very well. Savage and Watson are making each other better, and their heralded defense seems healthy for the first time in a long time. Plus, it’s even expected that he is going to give the starters a decent run out tonight, a stark contrast from Ron Rivera’s plan for his Panthers’ squad. You can bet J.J. Watt is raring to go after 2016’s injury-plagued campaign. Factoring this in, combined with better QB play from the Texans, and I’m inclined to lean with the underdog in this one. Roll with the Savage and Watson play to do well against the back-ups of the Panthers.
PICK = Texans +1.5 (-115)