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NFL Betting Thursday Night Football Week 3: Panthers vs. Texans—Lines, Odds, Analysis & Picks

Sam Darnold and the Panthers head on the road to take on the Houston Texans

Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season kicks off Thursday night when the Houston Texans play host to Christian McCaffery and the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers, who are off to a 2-0 start behind the solid play of Sam Darnold under center, will look to send a short-handed Texans club to their second consecutive defeat. After splitting their first two games, the Texans will be forced to start rookie David Mills after losing starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor due to a hamstring injury.

Thursday Night Football Week 3: Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans

  • Spread: Carolina Panthers -8 (-110) | Houston Texans +8 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Carolina (-450) | Houston (+310)
  • Total: 43– Over (-110) | Under 43 (-110)
  • Public (Spread) Betting Percentages: CAR 61% | HOU: 39%
  • Game Info: Thursday September 23, 2021 8:20 pm EST | NFL Network

(Note: Odds are subject to change.)

Texans Brandin Cooks Fantasy Football

Since its opening, the line has ticked up a full point in favor of Carolina as a 7-point road favorite over the Houston Texans, with a line currently displaying the Panthers as 8-point favorites at SI Sportsbook.

The public steam has pushed the number up after its opening, and money continues to arrive to lay the points supporting the visiting Panthers. Houston will be starting rookie David Mills under center after losing starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor to a hamstring injury in their Week 2 loss at Cleveland. Mills replaced Taylor in the second half and finished 8 of 18 for 102 yards with a touchdown and an interception. On a short week, the rookie could be in for a long night against a Carolina defense that leads the NFL with 10 sacks through the first two weeks. The Houston Texans (1-1 SU; 2-0 ATS) will look to get back in the win column after their 31-21 road loss to the Browns, while more importantly to bettors, looking to cover the spread as underdogs for the third straight week.

Houston will rely heavily upon its passing attack led by wideout Brandin Cooks who has hauled in 14 receptions for 201 yards and a touchdown in the first two games of the season. Oddsmakers are projecting that Cooks will lead the game in receiving yards as most books around the country are hanging his projected receiving betting market around 68.5. My projections have Cooks surpassing his betting number in the range of 75.5 receiving yards. The veteran wide receiver found the end zone in Week 2, and his any-time touchdown at odds of +170 at SI Sportsbook is an attractive play as the game script will likely be in his favor.

On the other side of the ball, the Carolina Panthers (2-0 SU; 2-0 ATS) are off to a red-hot start to the 2021 season. Previously maligned quarterback Sam Darnold looks like a different player than what the football world witnessed while he was a member of the New York Jets for several seasons. The former USC standout has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 584 yards and three touchdowns. Darnold threw for 300-plus passing yards for the first time since Week 2 of 2019 last week in a dominant 26-7 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

Darnold is surrounded by a wealth of offensive talent led by star running back Christian McCaffrey and wideouts DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson. McCaffrey leads the team with 324 yards from scrimmage, including tied for a team-high with Moore in receptions (14). Moore appears poised to be the leading wideout in the Carolina attack after leading the club with 159 receiving yards through the first two weeks. However, my projections suggest bettors should back Anderson hauling in three-plus receptions in Week 3 while targeting over 43.5 receiving yards. Facing a Texans defense surrendering 26.0 points per game, several Panthers should likely find the end zone on Thursday night. Although McCaffrey is a near-lock to score at least once, his prohibitive -250 odds make it a hard pass. Instead, we will take a shot with Anderson (+165) and Moore (+145) any-time touchdowns at SI Sportsbook.

Although I am never thrilled about laying more than a touchdown on the road, the Panthers' offense is too good for a Texans defense surrendering the 13th-most points per game. On the flip side, starting a rookie on a short week against a defense that leads the league in sacks and points allowed (10.5) is simply too big a task for the home club. Lay the wood with the more talented team on both sides of the ball.


SI Recommends

  • Road Warriors: The Panthers are 7-0 ATS in its last seven road games

SI BET: Carolina -8 (-110)

SI PROP BETS: Cooks (+170), Moore (+145) & Anderson (+165) anytime-touchdown (half units)

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More Betting coverage:

NFL Player Prop Bets: Week 3 Thursday Night Football
NFL Betting Week 3 Preview


We bounced back in a big way on Monday night when we hit Green Bay (-11.5) as well as both anytime-touchdown wagers on TJ Hockenson (+175) and Aaron Jones (-138)! Let's keep it rolling on Thursday!

2021 SI Betting NFL Football: 3-3 ATS
2020 SI Betting NFL Football: 72-58-1 ATS (55%)

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Frankie Taddeo is a successful high-stakes fantasy football player who created the first-ever DFS program ever offered in a Las Vegas sportsbook. Frankie is SI Betting's Senior Analyst and provides his significant experience and resources in the sports betting scene. You can follow Frankie on Twitter @Frankie_Fantasy for his latest betting and fantasy insights from Las Vegas.