The Houston Texans began their 2021 NFL season in strong fashion, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor led them to a 37-21 victory over Jacksonville. The situation deteriorated quickly, however, as Taylor suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of Sunday's 31-21 setback at Cleveland and landed on injured reserve. Rookie Davis Mills will make his first NFL start and attempt to lead the Texans to a second home win when they host the unbeaten Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football. Selected out of Stanford in the third round of this year's NFL Draft, Mills threw for 102 yards and a touchdown with one interception in the second half of the loss to the Browns.

Kickoff from NRG Stadium in Houston is set for 8:20 p.m. ET. Carolina is an eight-point favorite in the latest Panthers vs. Texans odds from Caesars Sportsbook, while the over-under for total points scored is 43. Before you make any Texans vs. Panthers picks, make sure to check out the NFL predictions and betting advice from SportsLine's proven computer model.

The model, which simulates every NFL game 10,000 times, is up almost $7,800 for $100 players on top-rated NFL picks since its inception six-plus years ago. It went a sizzling 24-14 on top-rated NFL picks last season, returning more than $800. The model also enters Week 3 of the 2021 season on an incredible 122-81 run on top-rated NFL picks that dates back to the 2017 season.

The model also ranked in the top 10 on NFLPickWatch four of the past five years on straight-up NFL picks and beat more than 94 percent of CBS Sports Football Pick'em players four times during that span. Anyone who has followed it is way up.

Now, the model has simulated Panthers vs. Texans 10,000 times and just revealed its NFL expert picks and predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see its picks. Here are several NFL odds and betting trends for Panthers vs. Texans:

  • Panthers vs. Texans spread: Panthers -8
  • Panthers vs. Texans over-under: 43 points
  • Panthers vs. Texans money line: Houston +320, Carolina -420
  • CAR: Panthers are 7-0 against the spread in their last seven road games
  • HOU: Over has hit in the Texans' last four games

Why the Panthers can cover

Quarterback Sam Darnold's Carolina career is off and running. After three seasons with the New York Jets, Darnold is taking advantage of his new weapons and has completed 50-of-73 passes (68.5 percent) for 584 yards, three touchdowns, and a 100.5 rating in two games with the Panthers. He has also rushed for a score. In 38 career games in New York, Darnold had completed 729-of-1,219 passes (59.8 percent) for 8,097 yards and 45 touchdowns. He was picked off 39 times.

Defensively, the Panthers are getting production from a number of players, including linebacker Haason Reddick. He had 1.5 sacks in Week 2 and is looking for his third game in a row with 1.5 or more. For the season, Reddick has seven tackles, including four solo, fourth-best on the team. He also has three sacks for 18 yards, one forced fumble and one tackle for loss.

Why the Texans can cover

Recent history is on Mills' side as over the last 10 seasons, 10 of the 12 quarterbacks making their first career start in primetime have led their teams to victory. In addition, seven of those 10 wins have come when their clubs were underdogs. The 22-year-old Mills completed eight of his 18 pass attempts in his NFL debut, with four going to wide receiver Brandin Cooks for 28 yards.

Much will be expected of running back Mark Ingram, who has rushed 40 times for 126 yards and a touchdown over his first two games with the Texans. The 31-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner was not a major part of Baltimore's ground attack last season but posted the third 1,000-yard year of his career in 2019, gaining 1,018 on 202 carries. Ingram also ran for 10 touchdowns, marking just the second time he reached double digits in nine NFL seasons to that point, and hauled in a career-high five scoring passes.

How to make Panthers vs. Texans picks

SportsLine's model is leaning over on the total, projecting the teams to combine for 45 points. In fact, it says Carolina's Sam Darnold will throw for nearly 300 yards passing and two touchdowns, while Houston quarterback Davis Mills steps in to throw for more than 200 yards and one TD. It also says one side of the spread cashes in over 50 percent of simulations. You can only see which side to back here.

So who wins Texans vs. Panthers on Thursday Night Football? And which side cashes in over 50 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Texans vs. Panthers spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that is up nearly $7,900 on its NFL picks, and find out.