When the Panthers (2-0) travel to face the Texans (1-1) on “Thursday Night Football” (8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network), they will look to stay hot behind the Buccaneers in the NFC South. Meanwhile, Houston will be trying to keep pace with Tennessee atop the weaker AFC South.

The Panthers are getting solid QB play from newcomer Sam Darnold, boosted by the return of dynamo Christian McCaffrey. The Texans will need to start rookie Davis Mills opposite Darnold with Tyrod Taylor (hamstring-IR) and Deshaun Watson (non-injury) not playing. 

Will the Panthers and their early dominant defense have a letdown after wins over the Jets and Saints? Or will they keep rolling on the overmatched Texans?

Here’s everything to know about betting on Panthers vs. Texans in Week 3, including updated odds, trends and our prediction for “Thursday Night Football.”

WEEK 3 NFL PICKS: Against the spread | Straight up

Panthers vs. Texans odds for ‘Thursday Night Football’

  • Spread: Panthers by 7.5
  • Over/under: 43.5
  • Moneyine: Panthers -405, Texans +320

The line has been above a touchdown all week, confirmed by Mills needing to start for Taylor. On their home field at night, the Panthers would have been easy double-digit favorites.

(betting odds per FanDuel Sportsbook)

Panthers vs. Texans all-time series

The Panthers and Texans have played only five times in their expansion history. Carolina holds a 3-2 edge over Houston. The Panthers won the 2019 meeting, 16-10. They also won 24-17 during their NFC title run of 2015. The Texans won the first two but the Panthers have won the past three.

Three trends to know

—65.7 percent of bettors like the home underdogs to play hard at night and take care of the number after Houston did so against both Jacksonville and Cleveland.

—More than 64 percent of bettors like the game to go over the low point total figuring the Panthers will do most of the scoring.

—The Panthers are 4-6 straight up in their past 10 games but 7-3 against the spread. The Texans are 3-7 SU but 7-3 ATS in their past 10 games. Something will need to give here.

MORE: Full list of odds for NFL Week 3

Three things to watch

Run CMC and run him some more

McCaffrey is coming back from an injury-riddled season but the Panthers haven’t let up on his workhorse workload as he’s averaged 29.5 touches over the first two games on pace for a record 500-plus touches over 17 games. He’s done everything running and receiving asked of him in the offense to boost Darnold. Don’t expect them to let up here with another positive game script likely.

How will Mills do?

Mills has a good pocket presence and some promising pro passing skills. But he has very little playing experience in the past few seasons given his major knee injury issues. He will need to play smart, protect the ball and trust go-to wide receiver Brandin Cooks as much as possible to move the ball without mistakes. Otherwise, the Texans will not have a chance against a red-hot defense with a terrific pass rush. Good luck on that.

That Panthers’ defense

They come No. 1 in total defense, giving up only 380 yards in two games. They lead the league with 10 sacks thanks to the combination of Brian Burns and Haason Reddick. They also are No. 1 against the run, allowing only 2.7 yards per carry and 46.5 rushing yards per game. Carolina will look to make another prime-time statement for Matt Rhule.

Stat that matters

100.5. That’s Darnold’s impressive passer rating for his new team after two games. Darnold making unforced mistakes and not playing well is the only way the Panthers lose this game. That is unlikely to happen with plenty of running from McCaffrey and a few calculated big plays.

Panthers vs. Texans prediction

The Panthers should be in control offensively and defensively with a lot of McCaffrey and little resistance from Mills, Cooks and not much else. The Texans will try to play inspired, but losing Taylor is a big emotional blow toward pullling off a third straight cover.

Panthers 26, Texans 16

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