Date/Time: Saturday, August 11 7:00 p.m. (ET)
Television: NFL Network
NFL Odds from VietBet
Point Spread: Carolina -1
NFL Preseason-Week 1
Texans and Panthers open-up Saturday night’s double-header on the NFL Network
Houston was well on its way to a legitimate run to a possible AFC Championship last season before injuries took their toll. Most notable was the loss of quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson. The Texans still managed win the AFC South and knock-off Cincinnati 31-10 in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs, but the run ended with a 20-13 loss to Baltimore in the Divisional Round.
While all of Houston’s primary weapons are back in the fold, do not expect to see them play more than one or two series against Carolina. This team is clearly focused on winning the conference this season so staying healthy in the preseason is its primary concern. Defensive end JJ Watt already injured his elbow and could miss the rest of the preseason and left tackle Duane Brown suffered a minor injury to his leg, so it safe to assume that head coach Gary Kubiak will not be taking any unnecessary chances on Saturday night.
The Panthers come into this season with something to prove as well. Last year’s arrival of quarterback Cam Newton as the first overall pick in the 2011 draft was the first major step towards revitalizing this franchise. The result was a 6-10 record, which was a major improvement over just two victories in 2010, but the Panthers know they are going to have to improve upon a 2-4 record in the division to compete with the likes of Atlanta and New Orleans in the NFC South.
Winning is still fairly new to this youthful bunch, so this nationally televised game in front of the home-town crowd takes on a bit more meaning for Carolina. Newton will most likely see limited action, but the rest of the starters could play into the second quarter. A couple of players to watch for on Saturday night are first-round draft pick Luke Kuechly at linebacker and fourth-round pick Frank Alexander at defensive end. These two are part of the youth movement that has been brought in to help improve a Panthers’ defense that finished last season ranked 28th in the NFL.
NFL Preseason Prediction
Stick with the home team in this one as winning is far more important to Carolina at this stage of the game than it is to Houston. Other than the first couple drives for each team, this matchup sets-up as a low-scoring defensive battle that should remain fairly close until the end. Carolina 20 Houston 17
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