Thursday games give everyone a singular focus for betting and even a pairing that would have almost no interest on a Sunday slate — like tonight’s Carolina Panthers versus Houston Texans event — will get books cooking.
First and foremost, and this is now a sentence on a loop, it is best to manage your bankroll with risk mitigation. Sure it is cool to see people hit a big bet or a huge parlay, but the fact that social media has a few of those per weekend highlights how rare they are — and realize there are a ton of people who lost on a zillion parlays, otherwise why would gambling sites exist if parlays were hitting left and right.
In the spirit of risk mitigation, you need to skip right on past the line and the total for the game. Carolina (-8) seems low considering Houston is down to Davis Mills as its quarterback and Carolina just spanked New Orleans. Bettors are nearing 80% of tickets and money coming in on Carolina, which is scary that it seems like the number is too good to be true. The total (+/- 43) also feels about right, considering the same factors.
The problem here is the one major variable at quarterback. Davis Mills subbed in for Tyrod Taylor against the Browns and completed eight of his 18 pass attempts for 102 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He is making his first career start tonight.
I liken quarterback changes like this to betting on Ryan Fitzpatrick-led teams, something I literally never do. Mills could come out and throw for 400 yards and blow up everything, or he could be an absolute disaster and Houston gets blanked. Much like Fitzpatrick varies from week to week, simply don’t allow yourself to believe that you know how Mills will perform. Stay away. Risk mitigation.
Additionally, through two games the Panthers have the best defense in the league and has hit the under in both games. It has allowed 14 points to the Jets and just 7 against the Saints. Neither of those offenses looked that adept and so there is a risk for regression to the mean this week, or there is a chance that Houston’s offense sends out a third stinker.
Conversely, Houston has hit the over in both of its game. It allowed 21 to Jacksonville and 31 to Cleveland. It isn’t impossible to see Carolina put up 27 on its own this week, meaning Houston would need just 17 to push the over… and a 27-17 game feels right, but again, Mills could be brilliant or a dud. Leave it alone.
Where there will be money to be made is in the prop bets section as Joe Brady is having a good time with Christian McCaffery.
The play this week is Christian McCaffrey over 136.5 Rushing and Receiving Yards (-116).
McCaffery bettered that number in Week 1with 187 yards and he also just barely eclipsed it in Week 2 (despite missing several series’ with cramps) hitting 137 yards.
Historically, McCaffery is also dominating that number, hitting it in two of his three games last year, and 11 of 16 in 2019. The Panthers are going to get him 25+ touches tonight and against the Texans defense, he will go over 140.
Another good angle to play is McCaffery over 5.5 catches (-105). The first game of the year he hauled in all nine targets, and last week he pulled in five of his six targets, again missing multiple series’ with cramps. He was over 5.5 receptions in 11 games in 2019, many times with double-digit targets.
If you want a third play, take a look at Sam Darnold under 263.5 passing yards (-115).
I don’t love this one as much as the two McCaffery plays but things do look better in three’s, so this is the third play I would make — though I’m not sure I actually will. Houston is going to have to take the air out of the ball and even though Darnold has thrown for 584 yards, three touchdowns and is completing passes at a 68.5% rate, that is not his norm.
For historical context, in his 40 career starts, Darnold has gone over 264 passing yards just 10 total times. Recent history is that he has hit it in both games this season but, again, not the norm. With this being the first road game for the Panthers, I am expecting a more simplified passing attack with more check down passes (which is why I am playing McCaffery catches) and running the ball to just get out of town with a win before a much more challenging game against Dallas next week. No need to give the Cowboys more to look at on film, Darnold under the passing total looks nice.