Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Carolina +3 +107over Houston
1:00 PM EST. The Panthers don’t warrant much confidence these days. Of course we can’t expect too much with a new coach and rookie QB, and much of the talent on their roster is in flux. At first they competed admirably, like their 3-point loss against New Orleans in Week 2, but the tide is turning and turning quickly on what’s likely the worst team in pro-football, as their 0-6 record suggests.
Carolina has been beaten by an average margin of 14.25 ppg in their last four contests, although it’s worth noting their level of opponent. Bryce Young and his team have been through a gauntlet, on the road for three out of their last four games and against nearly all above-average teams– Miami, Detroit, Minnesota, and Seattle. And after Week 7, maybe we should reconsider the common notion that Minnesota is a “bad” team, but we digress. A road trip from the Pacific Northwest, back home to Carolina, and then back on the road to Detroit was particularly brutal in Weeks 4-6. One thing’s for sure, Carolina’s undersized #1 overall draft pick is getting an unfiltered, brutal introduction to pro-football. That might help him in the future, but for now it’s a rough watch. We have reasons to believe he can perform better this week, though. Stay tuned.
Houston is 3-3 in large part because of how easily CJ Stroud has adjusted to NFL life. The Texans’ starter is playing like he’s been in the league for a decade, already throwing for 1660 yards and 9 touchdowns in just six games. He boasts a 96.4 QB rating and he’s only thrown one interception so far. Even better, Stroud’s received good protection (his O-line ranks 10th in permitted sack percentage) and he’s unafraid to pass the ball down field. The Texans’ 7.2 yards per pass is 6th overall. Winners of three of their last four, Stroud is probably salivating at the chance to prove why he should have been the highest drafted QB in 2023. Though we doubt he has the same level of desperation as the QB he’ll battle against in Week 8.
No NFL team wants to lose every game. That motivation only increases with each losing week, and the Panthers are set up well, at home, off a bye, to correct their errors and put forth their best performance of the season. But even a situational advantage as strong as that combination of factors isn’t enough to make us want to bet on the Panthers. We need more, as should you. One angle is never enough.
Fortunately, it helps that Houston could be a bad matchup for the Panthers. The Texans are among the worst pass defenses in the NFL, allowing over a 70% completion percentage (28th) and 245.5 pass-yards per game (26th). That should be even more alarming to Houston-backers because their level of competition hasn’t exactly been exceptional. Other than Week 1 at Baltimore, every one of the Texans’ opponents currently have a losing record or they’re at .500. One concerning area for Carolina is their inability to stop the run, but Houston’s 3.2 yards per rush is one of the lowest marks in the league. Even better, the Texans are one of the worst defenses at sacking the QB, ranked 31st overall with a teeny-tiny sack rate of just 4.04%. Sounds like an ideal matchup for Bryce Young to have his best game of the season.
Houston is a decent team, but there’s no way they deserve to be 3-point road chalk, especially considering the Panthers’ situational advantages and the way they match up with their foe. This is Carolina’s best shot to earn a W, and we expect them to bring it off a rest week.
Carolina +3 +107 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.14)