Panthers-Texans best bets: Will Carolina maintain its perfect start?

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Thank God for betting, right? Without it, maybe 50 people outside of Piedmont and Southeast Texas would actually watch this game Thursday night.

Here's how we'll be betting Panthers-Texans:

Texans under 16.5 points (+100)

This is one of my favorite plays so far this campaign, as it pits my favorite early-season unit against the disaster that is the Texans' offense.

I was high on the Panthers' defense coming into the year thanks to a wealth of former first-rounders and breakout stars. The unit has delivered through two weeks, ranking first in average yards allowed (190) and points allowed (10.5) after last week's smothering of a Saints offense that scored five touchdowns seven days prior.

Now Carolina gets to tee off on rookie quarterback Davis Mills, who missed open receivers left and right in the first 30 minutes of his professional career Sunday. The Texans scored a whopping seven points under his watch in Week 2, and they'll be lucky to hit 14 in Mills' first career start.

- C Jackson Cowart

Under 43.5

One of these days, the under will hit in prime time. Maybe. Overs are 6-0 in prime-time games so far this season, but I feel strongly about that run ending Thursday at NRG Stadium.

How are the Texans expected to put up points here? Mills makes his first career start on short rest, and nothing about his appearance against the Browns in relief of the injured Tyrod Taylor inspires confidence.

Mills completed just 8 of 18 passes for 108 yards, with three of those completions and 54 of those yards coming in garbage time. Now he gets a Carolina team that ranks first in both points and yards allowed, as well as yards allowed per play, third-down defense, and sacks.

While the Panthers have lit it up defensively, their offense has been rather pedestrian, ranking 18th in yards per play, 14th in third-down conversion percentage, and 25th in red-zone touchdown success rate. They'll move the ball against a weak Texans defense, but don't expect them to light up the scoreboard, either. Points will be scarce - at least by this season's lofty standards - on Thursday night.

- Alex Moretto

Texans +8

Despite being 2-0 against the spread, the Texans are an 8-point underdog against the surprising Panthers thanks to an injury to a quarterback very few people were thrilled about to begin with.

I've backed the Panthers in their first two games, but even I'm skeptical they should be given the same credit in the market that teams like the Titans, Steelers, Vikings, and Broncos would've received against Houston.

The concern is that Mills isn't ready for prime time, but the Texans' veterans have at least shown an ability to execute basic offensive plays. I'm willing to believe Mills has picked up the playbook and can keep Houston in a game against a team with Sam Darnold playing on the road for the first time this season.

- Matt Russell

Panthers-Texans best bets: Will Carolina maintain its perfect start?
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