It happens at least a couple of times a year, but the Panthers became one of the first teams this season to have a change in the play-calling duties. With Thomas Brown now calling the plays on offense, his first opponent will be the Houston Texans, and with injuries affecting both defenses, I think Brown’s first game calling the shots will be a high-scoring one.
Coming out of their bye week, the Houston Texans offense, led by CJ Stroud, has produced a positive EPA in five straight weeks. Having a team that has been bitten by the injury bug has not affected the rookie quarterback at all, as he enters this week ranked 6th in passing yards and 8th in passing touchdowns.
Stroud threw his first interception of the year against the Saints in week six, but Houston still managed to pick up a 20-13 win. Even with the interception, the Texans passing game finished with a (9.14) EPA. As Stroud continues to improve and get some injured players back, the Texans’ offense looks to be trending in the right direction. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about their defense.
Out of the six games they’ve played this season, Houston’s defense has finished with a negative EPA in four of them. They may rank 8th in average points allowed per game, but the Texans are also 24th in yards allowed and 26th in passing yards allowed. With their secondary ranked at the bottom of the league in most statistical categories, they are the ideal matchup for Bryce Young and his new playcaller, Thomas Brown.
The winless Panthers went into the bye week after a 21-point loss to the Dolphins, which sparked Frank Reich to strip himself of playcalling duty. That gave Young and Brown time to figure out how to improve an offense that is 23rd in points per game and has finished with a negative EPA in four out of their six games.
There are some things that the playcalling won’t fix, like the Panthers pass blocking grade ranks 29th in the league, according to PFF. Still, a game plan more catered to Young’s abilities might help improve the fact that Carolina is averaging just 4.4 yards per play.
The point total for this battle between the number one and two overall picks is currently set at 43.5, and I’ll be taking the over for my play. Houston’s passing offense has been one of the best in the league, and they will be playing a Panthers defense that will be without Jeremy Chinn, Jaycee Horn, and Yetur Gross-Matos. Carolina could also be missing Brian Burns, who is questionable, and Vonn Bell, who was unable to practice this week.
In terms of the team on the field, Carolina is allowing the sixth most yards per pass attempt with an average of seven, and according to FantasyPros, they have also allowed the sixth-highest deep passer rating. Stroud was already pushing the ball downfield often, helping the Texans average 7.2 yards per pass, but with the Panthers' struggles, that average could increase even more after this weekend.
Houston’s ability to score in a hurry means Bryce Young and Thomas Brown will need to attack a Texans secondary that is allowing 245.5 passing yards per game, which is the 6th highest-average in the league. Carolina was already 4th in pass play percentage headed into this matchup, and with extra time to prep for this game, I think they can put some points on the board.
Over 43.5 (-108) on DraftKings