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Best NFL, College Football Bets, Plus a Thursday Night Football Preview

Who will score a touchdown on Thursday Night? Check out the best player props and fantasy rankings

It's Week 3 of the NFL season already, and injuries are piling up. I'm here to help navigate a slate of games filled with backup quarterbacks starting for their injured counterparts.

Eligibility restrictions apply. See SI Sportsbook for more details.

Eligibility restrictions apply. See SI Sportsbook for more details.

Essential Reading

Thursday Night Player Props: Jennifer Piacenti explained her prop bet picks for tonight’s game between the Texans and Panthers, which has one of the lowest over/unders on SI Sportsbook this week.

Follow the Money: Frankie Taddeo is following the latest line movements for this weekend’s NFL slate.

Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Michael Fabiano’s Start of the Week will leave you SHOCKED. Find out why he LOVES this rusher for Week 3.

CFB Best Bets: Can Coastal Carolina cover as a 36-point favorite against UMass? Richard Johnson’s composite college football betting model answers that and more to prepare you for Week 4 of CFB.

Fantasy Performance Projections: Shawn Childs envisions bounce back weeks for a couple of slumping sophomore receivers. See who they are and how the rest of his rankings stack up.

Volume Players: Who's due for positive and negative regression? I tracked poor performers from Week 2 of the NFL season who saw lots of opportunities and standouts who didn’t see much volume.

We’re talking about defense?

The phrase “defense wins championships” has largely been phased out of professional sports with recent offensive booms in football and basketball. The cliche is generally reserved for the sidelines of youth sporting events.

I'm not here to make a declaration on the validity of the phrase. However, a good defense can help you survive a dud from one of your starting skill position players in fantasy football. And the best fantasy defense in the NFL plays tonight against a rookie quarterback.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Carolina Panthers D/ST.

Before I get into all of the reasons that the Panthers' defense has been great and will continue to be great (at least tonight), check if it's available in your league. There's a good chance it is. Carolina is the No. 1 scoring defense on ESPN and is owned in only 46.8% of leagues. There are 12 defenses that are owned in more leagues than the Panthers.

(Fantasy points and points and yards allowed all on per-game basis. Interceptions, fumbles and sacks are season totals.)

(Fantasy points and points and yards allowed all on per-game basis. Interceptions, fumbles and sacks are season totals.)

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Carolina is No. 1 in the NFL in sacks, points allowed per game and yards allowed per game. All of those things are not only good for fantasy scoring; they're also a bit more reliable week to week than turnovers and defensive or special teams touchdowns.

Defense is just as much matchup dependent, if not more so, as it is talent-based. Carolina, who infamously used all seven draft picks on defensive players two years ago, is led by defensive ends Brian Burns and Haason Reddick, cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Jaycee Horn and linebackers Shaq Thompson and Jermaine Carter. The Jets were a good Week 1 matchup, but the more impressive outing was holding the Saints to seven points after New Orleans ran up the score on Green Bay a week prior.

A tougher schedule of offensive opponents awaits the Panthers in the coming weeks, like the Cowboys and Vikings. But the strong start to the season continues against the Texans, who are without the risk-averse Tyrod Taylor under center.


Houston has been much better than expected through two games, blowing out the Jaguars and hanging with the Browns, who hung with the Chiefs a week prior. But the architect of this surprising start in Houston, Taylor, is on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Rookie Davis Mills, who went 8-for-18 for 102 yards, an interception and a touchdown in relief of Taylor, gets his first career start tonight. The Texans have been a nice story, but Carolina is going to get after Mills.

Other D/ST Streaming Options:

Raiders (21.6% rostered on ESPN) vs. Dolphins

Cardinals (53.1% rostered on ESPN) @ Jaguars

Giants (7.2% rostered on ESPN) vs. Falcons

Play of the Day and Games I’m Watching

Play of the Day: In DFS, I like, you guessed it, the Panthers' defense! Carolina is one of the more expensive selections at the position, though I think paying up for this unit will be well worth it. DJ Moore, with 14 catches on 19 targets in two games, is a solid option at receiver. He’s established himself as Sam Darnold’s favorite target so far and he’s a moderately expensive option who’s outperformed some receivers priced above him.

Games I’m Watching: Compared with recent weeks, we’re a little light on top-25 matchups, but we do have a few. The one I’m most intrigued by is No. 16 Arkansas hosting No. 7 Texas A&M. The Razorbacks smacked around the last ranked team from Texas to visit Fayetteville a few weeks ago, and the Aggies haven't been the model of dominance against lesser competition so far this season. Arkansas is getting 4.5 points at home if you're so inclined.

And Saturday night, I'm headed to Gainesville to see my alma mater, Florida, take on Tennessee in The Swamp. The Gators are two-touchdown favorites against the Volunteers, and after last week's narrow loss to Alabama, I'm beginning to feel a bit better about UF's chance in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Georgia. I'm just hoping I get to see the human highlight reel Anthony Richardson play this weekend.

I leave you with the feel-good story of a bettor hitting 15 out of 16 legs on a parlay and getting the would-be cash-out option as a very large and generous consolation prize. May the last leg of all of your parlays hit this weekend.

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