Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers
Two rookie QB’s face off as the Houston Texans host the Carolina Panthers battle it out in Houston on Sunday. The Texans are -6.5 point favorites over the Panthers with an over/under point total set at 46.5.
The Houston Texans have clinched the AFC South and their first playoff appearance in franchise history but with home field advantage and first round byes to be decided there is plenty left to play for. The Texans have overcome adversity all season long and while they may not be at full strength they control their own destiny and if they win out they are the number one seed in the AFC. T.J. Yates has taken over at QB and what he lacks in pro experience he makes up for in knowledge of the game as a four year starter in college and he has used all of it to keep Houston winning. Arian Foster is averaging 4.0 yards per carry and he has 957 yards and eight touchdowns and Ben Tate averages 5.6 yards per carry as he has 820 yards and three touchdowns as they have a very good chance of accomplishing the rare feat of two 1,000 yard rushers on the same team. Owen Daniels has 51 catches and Kevin Walter has 34 catches as Andre Johnson has been in and out of the lineup as the Texans can only hope he is healthy for the playoffs. The Houston defense has 36 sacks, 10 fumble recoveries, and 17 interceptions with a plus 10 turnover ratio while they allow and NFL best 274.9 yards per game and just 16 points. Brian Cushing has 86 tackles, Clover Quin has 63 tackles, and Connor Barwin has 9.5 sacks. The Houston defense has been one of the big turnaround stories in the NFL this season and it has been what has pushed them over the top and into the post season.
The Carolina Panthers have made huge strides this season and while they are clearly a few pieces of the puzzle away from becoming a contender they may be on their way. Carolina will still be drafting fairly high this season but the Panthers might just be a few picks away from have a cornerstone to build on for years to come. Cam Newton is the likely NFL Rookie of the Year and while he has completed just 59.7 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions he has also run for 554 yards and 13 touchdowns. In the backfield DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart split carries and while they average 5.2 and 4.8 yards respectively it will be interesting to see how long the Panthers have the luxury to keep both. Steve Smith has caught 67 passes for five touchdowns, Greg Olsen has 43 catches and five touchdowns, and Legedu Naanee has 40 catches. Defensively Carolina has 26 sacks, nine fumble recoveries, and 10 interceptions with a minus five turnover ratio and they allow 365.4 yards and 27.3 points per game. James Anderson has 117 tackles, Charles Godfrey has 76 tackles, and Charles Johnson has 9.0 sacks. With Ron Rivera as the Head Coach the odds are the Panthers will clean up their defense which will make them a better team in a hurry.
Houston is 6-0-1 against the spread in their last seven games overall, 5-1-1 against the spread in their last seven home games, and 6-1-1 against the spread in their last eight games as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points. Carolina is 3-9 against the spread against a team with a winning record, 1-6 against the spread as a road underdog, and 0-4 against the spread against a team with a winning home record.
Houston can get it done and as I have said all along having a four year college starter like T.J. Yates gives them a more battle tested QB than most in the NFL. The Panthers have played hard but as the season has gone on their lack of depth has caught up with them. With the line at 6.5 I see this one being closer than that and while Houston wins, Carolina covers.
Carolina Panthers +6.5 Houston Texans