Carolina and Houston will be the center of the NFL on Thursday night as they kick off week three of the regular season. What do the Panthers need to do to move to 3-0 on the season?
Here are tonight's keys to the game.
Rattle QB Davis Mills
This is going to be a heck of a challenge for Houston's rookie QB Davis Mills. The Carolina Panthers' defense through two weeks has proved to be the best in the league in terms of getting to the quarterback and in several other categories such as total yards allowed per game, rushing yards/game, and passing yards/game.
Phil Snow threw a ton at Jets QB Zach Wilson and I expect much of the same tonight. Carolina can provide a variety of different looks that will confuse Mills thanks to the number of guys that can play multiple positions. Snow wants to make Mills feel uncomfortable, rush his decision-making, and have him jittery in the pocket. Dialing up a lot of pressure early in the game should get the job done.
Take away the run game
The Texans understand that to win this game or any game moving forward with the rookie quarterback, they're going to have to rely on the running game. Fortunately for them, they have a strong quartet of backs that can carry the load with Mark Ingram II, David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead. If I'm Phil Snow, I'm loading up the box constantly and daring the Texans to beat you by throwing the football.
Get out of this game healthy
It's not necessarily a key to victory although it could be. Many expect the Panthers to leave Houston with their third win of the season but they must come out of this game unscathed on the injury front. Carolina's offensive line has already taken a beating with Pat Elflein on the shelf dealing with a hamstring injury and Cameron Erving playing through a knee injury.
Most importantly, this is a great opportunity to get Chuba Hubbard and Royce Freeman more involved in the offense, in some capacity. Christian McCaffrey can't average 30 touches a game throughout the course of the season. With it being a short week, I would do whatever I could to save some of those hits on McCaffrey for another week.
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