Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers
Date and Time: Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Preseason NFL Week 1 Opening Odds: Panthers -3, O/U 36.5
Texans vs. Panthers TV Coverage: NFL Network
The quarterback battle in Houston is going to rage on throughout the preseason. Tom Savage is going to end up getting the start in this game, but it's unknown just how long he's going to be out there. Bill O'Brien, though, will surely want to get a good look at both his projected starting quarterback and the man who is going to be taking over at some point down the line, if not this year, than in the not-distant future.
Savage was actually pretty darn good for the Texans in the 2016 preseason, throwing for 437 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. It kept him in the No. 2 position on the depth chart behind Brock Osweiler, if nothing else. He also led the NFL in the preseason with eight passes of at least 20 yards.
Carolina has no such quarterbacking controversy. Cam Newton is definitively the starter, and Derek Anderson is absolutely the man backing him up. Even third-stringer, Joe Webb won't need much time, knowing that he's a veteran as well.
Instead, we suspect we're going to see a lot of Garrett Gilbert in this game. Gilbert is nothing more than a camp arm for sure, knowing that he only spent a limited amount of time on Oakland's practice squad last year. That doesn't bode well for his future.
Aside from the fact that the Texans are sure to be working a lot on their quarterbacks in the preseason, they've got a lot of decisions to make at wide receiver as well. Will Fuller is likely going to miss substantial time with a broken collarbone, and that leaves the second wide receiver slot open flanking DeAndre Hopkins.
Jaelen Strong and Braxton Miller figure to get the first shot, but Houston also has three undrafted rookies who are going to get some run as well in Justin Hardee, Chris Thompson and Riley McCarron. All three are going to get their share of reps in this game, and if any of the three can really showcase some growth, they'll have a shot to not only get on this team, but to ultimately find a way to carve out a niche in the lineup, too.
Carolina, though, does have a strong secondary. Corn Elder was a fifth-round pick in the NFL Draft, while Cole Luke is an undrafted rookie free agent who is going to try to make this team. Aside from that, all of the players are vets that are going to be out there in the secondary for the hosts, and that should provide a good matchup for Savage, Watson, and ultimately, Brandon Weeden as well.
Texans vs. Panthers Free Picks
It's almost a little surprising that the Panthers are laying a field goal at all of the top online sportsbooks. Clearly, Houston has the greater motivation in this game, and the Panthers are coming off of a preseason in which they went 2-2 SU and ATS. The Texans went 4-0 SU and ATS last preseason and have typically been pretty good in exhibitions with O'Brien calling the shots.
Still, the preseason is always seemingly a coin flip, and there's never really a way to firmly handicap these games. A lot of the square money is sure to be coming in on the Texans in this game, and we think that's misguided. The oddsmakers don't make huge mistakes often, though they do come more often in these preseason games. We'd lay the lumber with Carolina, if only because it goes completely against the grain of expectations.
Texans vs. Panthers ATS Pick: Panthers -3 at BookMaker.eu
Texans vs. Panthers Score Prediction: Panthers 20, Texans 14