New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers
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The Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans will kick off Week 3 in the NFL when they go head to head on "Thursday Night Football" tonight. The notable headline coming into this game is that the Texans will not be led by Week 1 starter Tyrod Taylor as the veteran quarterback has landed on IR due to a hamstring injury. That now puts rookie Davis Mills under center against what is evolving to be a stout Panthers defense that just held the Saints to seven points in Week 2. 

As the youngster gets ready for his first start in the NFL, we'll cover all the different betting angles that this game has to offer. Below, we'll dive into the line movement throughout the week, take a look at some player props and, of course, give you our picks for how we see this game unfolding. These clubs are two of the five remaining teams in the NFL that are 2-0 ATS to begin the season, so something will need to give on Thursday night. 

All NFL odds via Caesars Sportsbook.

How to watch

Date: Thursday, Sept. 23 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: NRG Stadium (Houston)
NFLN | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Panthers -8, O/U 43

Line movement

Latest Odds: Houston Texans +7.5

The number opened at Carolina -7 and has jumped up a point as the week progressed. Only hours after it opened, it ticked up a half-point and that held up until Wednesday when it bumped up again to Carolina -8. 

The pick: Carolina -8. The Panthers are boasting the best defense in the NFL at moment and are about to face off against a rookie quarterback that the Texans are rolling out prematurely due to the injury to Taylor. It's a lot to ask of Mills to go toe to toe with this defense that just held the New Orleans Saints to seven points and just six first downs in Week 2. Meanwhile, Sam Darnold has looked strong to begin his Panthers tenure and should be able to move the ball up and down the field. This feels like a double-digit win for Carolina. 

Key trend: Panthers are 7-0 ATS on the road. 

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Over/Under total

There was some jockeying around this week with the total for this game, but it has ultimately found its way back to its opening number of 43 as of Wednesday evening. It jumped down to 42.5 on Monday and rose as high as 44, but has since settled back down to its original number. 

The pick: Under 43. A rookie quarterback playing against a good defense in the Panthers is a recipe for a low-scoring affair. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Carolina kept the Mills-led Texans in the single digits on Thursday night. With that in mind, that's a lot to ask of the Panthers offense to allow us to hit the Over here. The Under is also 4-1 for the Texans in their last five games against teams with a winning record. 

Key trend: The Under is 5-0 for the Panthers over their last five games. 

Sam Darnold props

Sam Darnold
SF • QB • #14
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  • Passing touchdowns: 1.5 (Over -150, Under +120)
  • Passing yards: 264.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
  • Rushing yards: 6.5 (Over -120, Under -110)
  • Pass attempts: 33.5 (Over -125, Under -105)
  • Completions: 23.5 (Over -105, Under -125)
  • Longest pass completion: 36.5 (Over -110, Under -120) 
  • Interceptions: 0.5 (Over +110, Under -140)

The over on Darnold's passing yards is where I'm leaning. He's gone over this total in each of his first two games with the Panthers and the Texans should provide little resistance on Thursday night. Even if the Panthers jump out to an early lead, they could still look to pass the football as they burn down the clock to give Darnold some opportunities to continue developing within Joe Brady's offense. I don't hate the over on his 6.5 rushing yards prop, either. 

Davis Mills props

Davis Mills
HOU • QB • #10
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  • Passing touchdowns: 1.5 (Over +185, Under -230)
  • Passing yards: 210.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
  • Pass attempts: 30.5 (Over -125, Under -105)
  • Completions: 18.5 (Over -125, Under -105)
  • Longest pass completion: 34.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
  • Interceptions: 0.5 (Over -190, Under +155)

There's really not great value in taking the Under on Mills' passing touchdown total, but I don't see him finding the end zone twice. The 210.5 passing yard mark may be strikingly low, but the Panthers are allowing just 143.5 yards through the air per game so far in 2021, which makes me lean toward that. 

Player props to consider

D.J. Moore 5.5 receptions: Over +110. Moore leads the Panthers in targets (19), recording six catches in Week 1 and eight in Week 2.  

David Johnson 17.5 receiving yards: Over -115. I expect Mills to check down a strong amount, which could open up more chances for Johnson in the passing game. He's already gone over this total in both his games played this season, including last week when he finished with 22 yards receiving. 

Mark Ingram 9.5 rushing attempts: Over -120. There's always the risk that Houston needs to abandon the run, but Ingram has 40 carries through two games. With this being below double digits, it's a smash play, especially with the theory that Houston could look to run early to allow Mills to ease into his first NFL start.