Best NFL player props for Carolina Panthers vs Houston Texans: Darnold dominates
We’ve been fortunate thus far to be treated to two Thursday Night Football games that have come down to the final seconds. Can the third installment of the midweek clash continue on that streak? This Thursday, we’ve got the Carolina Panthers versus the Houston Texans. The 2-0 Panthers come into this one as 7.5-point favorites, with a game total hovering around the 43.5 mark. Before I get to my player prop of the game, make sure you check out our expert picks for the game sides and totals.
Week 3 brings us yet another chance to see what is working for some teams, and what isn’t. With the upstart Panthers, I’m loving what I’ve seen thus far on offense. Fully healthy, I’m looking for them to get to the endzone a few times versus Houston, on the strength of their new quarterback.
Sam Darnold (CAR) over 1.5 touchdown passes (-122)
Line available at time of publishing.
The Darnold reclamation project is real, and I’m here for it. It’s only been two games, but the Panthers look like an entirely different team offensively. Of course, a lot of that also has to do with a healthy Christian McCaffrey, whom I’ll touch on shortly, but Darnold’s quarterback play has been a welcomed sight.
The signal-caller has guided his team to five touchdown drives, with three of them coming on the strength of the passing game. The Panthers’ offense is predicated on getting their playmakers in space, allowing for Darnold to execute on short, quick throws. Through two games, Darnold’s yards per attempt on short throws (less than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage) yield the second-most yards per attempt, trailing only Patrick Mahomes. This might seem like a trivial statistic, but it shows the strength of the Panthers’ passing attack. And the Texans’ lackluster defense is a tremendous opponent for Darnold, on paper.
Ah, the Texans. Last season, they struggled mightily on defense, and it’s not looking much brighter for them thus far in 2021. They’ve allowed 7 touchdowns over the first 2 games, with a 75% opponents’ redzone conversion percentage.
So far in 2021, their DADOT (opposing QBs average depth of target) sits right in the middle of the pack at 8.5 yards, a short increase versus 7.7 last season. It’s only been two games, but so far, opponents are choosing the shorter passing attack versus Houston — and it’s working. The Texans allow the fourth-most yards after catch (YAC) per reception, and have missed the second-most tackles thus far. McCaffrey, and receivers DJ Moore and Robby Anderson should have plenty of room to run free after the catch.
When the defense struggles in what the offense is looking to do, touchdowns usually result. Overall, the Texans have allowed 10 of the last 18 quarterbacks to throw for at least 2 touchdowns, dating back to the beginning of last season. With rookie quarterback Davis Mills taking the snaps for Houston in his first NFL start, time of possession should not be an issue for Darnold and the Panthers’ offense. More time for the offense leads to more opportunity for touchdowns.
Less run, more pass?
Make no mistake about this Panthers offense, Christian McCaffrey makes the team go. After multiple injuries last season, the Panthers’ All-Pro running back is finally fully healthy. However, this game represents the first time McCaffrey will play on short rest since 2019, and he’s coming off a 29-touch effort on Sunday. So, even against a suspect rush defense, there’s a chance the Panthers don’t push McCaffrey to the limit in this one.
Even if he’s used fully, the Stanford product represents as much of a weapon as a pass-catcher as he does as a runner. And with defensive eyes glued to CMC, there will be ample opportunity for Darnold to try Anderson or Moore over the top.
It’s not a stretch to say that the Panthers’ passing attack will be the strongest the Texans have faced so far this young season. Without ample time to gameplan, I have the Texans defense struggling against the Panthers’ quick-strike offense. Darnold should be able to throw for his second passing touchdown before the end of the third quarter.
Be sure to check out our full game preview for Carolina Panthers vs Houston Texans