After climbing out of an 0-2 hole last week in Arizona, The Carolina Panthers travel west once again to take on the formidable Houston Texans. This marks the first meeting between the two teams since early 2015, when Carolina put together a win behind the arm and legs of Cam Newton.
Here are a few game notes to get you prepped and ready for Panthers at Texans:
The Quarterback Story
In Kyle Allen, Carolina may have found a diamond in the rough. The second year undrafted product—from, ironically enough, Houston—makes his third career start this afternoon. Last week, Allen threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions. Over his first two starts, he’s put up seven total touchdowns without throwing a pick. Allen’s pocket mobility and quick release have served Norv Turner’s offense well. So far, we have seen tremendous accuracy and ball placement on most of his throws.
Defensively, the Panthers face their toughest quarterback test in quite some time via-Deshaun Watson. The Clemson product has accumulated 778 passing yards, tossing six touchdowns and only one interception in 2019. Watson has also rushed for a pair of touchdowns this year.
Last week against San Diego, he overcame an early 10-0 road deficit to lead the Texans to a crucial conference win. In doing so, Watson averaged over 10 yards per pass attempt.
Watson can make all the throws. Rolling to his left, or to his right. Standing in a crowded pocket under duress. He can also throw from multiple angles, a rare trait among quarterbacks, and many of his throws are placed with pinpoint accuracy, particularly the deep ball. In fact, he may have the most accurate deep ball in the game right now.
Pound That Rock
For one of the few times in the Turner administration, the Panthers had more rushing attempts than passing attempts last week in their win against the Cardinals. Such a strategy may prove beneficial today against the Texans. Houston has a formidable group of pass rushers, including JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus and D.J. Reader.
While that group is also strong in their own right against the run, Houston on the whole does struggle against the run. They fared better against the rush last week at San Diego, but that was without Chargers starting running back Melvin Gordon.
On the season, the Texans allow 5.4 rushing yards per attempt, 3rd worst in the NFL. They struggle particularly against 12 personnel—one back, two TE. Carolina loves to run from “12”, with Chris Manhertz as a second tight end. Many times, he’s essentially a sixth offensive lineman. He’s not as explosive in the passing game as Ian Thomas, but he is a tough, hard-nosed blocker in the run game.
With Christian McCaffrey coming off a record day in Arizona, staying the course with the run is essential on the road in Houston today.
The Kicking Game
Houston kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn has seen limited action in 2019. He also struggled last week in Los Angeles, missing an extra point and failing on his only field goal attempt. He has only three field goal attempts for the entire season.
Meanwhile, out-of-nowhere sensation Joey Slye has been nothing short of rock-solid for Carolina. He’s connected on 7-of-8 attempts, with a long of 54. Slye is also perfect on extra points, connecting on eight consecutive PAT’s.
If this game comes down to the wire, which many believe it will, my money is on Joey Slye to bang one home.