Thursday Night Football Betting: Should You Back the Texans to Cover as Big Home Underdogs?

Tonight the Carolina Panthers are on the road to take on the Houston Texans. Per NFL odds, Carolina is a 7.5-point road favorite, and the total is very low at only 43.5 points.

Let's dive into what we think could be some interesting betting angles for this contest.

How Legit Is Carolina?

Our nERD-based metrics are into the Panthers.

Now it's certainly early, but we currently rank the road Panthers as the league's best defense -- and by a pretty wide margin. Surprisingly, the Texans haven't been too poor defensively, either -- they rank in the middle of the pack, per our numbers, although that's boosted by their Week 1 drubbing of what was a listless Jacksonville Jaguars squad.

Offensively, this could be a career renaissance for Sam Darnold. The former New York Jets signal-caller is completing nearly 70% of his passes thus far, and he's thrown for 275 yards in each of the first two games. He currently ranks 10th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back.

Of course, we would be remiss to focus only on Darnold in this Carolina offense as Christian McCaffrey has been his usual workhorse self. In Week 2, he amassed 29 touches (24 rushes and 5 receptions) for 137 total yards and a score. That's on the heels of a whopping 187 total yards in Week 1. He's insane.

For Houston, Davis Mills will make his first NFL start. There's not a ton to say about Mills. He saw his first action last week, completing 8 of 18 passes for 102 yards and a score. This is a very tough spot for him on a short week against s superb defense.

Bets to Consider

According to our numbers, this game could be pretty fun, and there is betting value to be had.

We give the Texans a fighting chance, projecting a score of 27.28-23.66 in favor of the Panthers. We think Houston covers as 7.5-point 'dogs at a clip of 66.1%. We rate it as a three-star bet, and it's one of our top spread bets of Week 3 (as of now).

We also see plenty of value on the total. Our projected total is 50.94 points -- well over the 43.5-point line. We give the over a 70.4% chance to win out and rate it as our best Week 3 bet.

I know it's scary to back Davis Mills in his debut, but that's the direction our algorithm leans.

In the player-prop market, I'm all over Christian McCaffrey's combined rushing and receiving yards (136.5). As long as the Texans keep it competitive -- which our model projects them to do -- CMC can go off with his usual workload.

Historical Betting Trends

-- In their last seven road games, the Panthers are 7-0 against the spread.
-- Houston is 4-0 against the spread in their last four games as an underdog.
-- The under has hit in Carolina's last five games.