Less than five days after moving to 2-0 with a decisive win over the Saints on Sunday, the Carolina Panthers will return to action in front of a national audience Thursday night, when they travel to Houston to take on the Texans. The game will be televised nationally on NFL Network.
The Texans were projected to be one of the worst teams in the league in 2021 by some experts, but through two weeks Houston is 1-1 and has been competitive in both of its games, including a 31-21 loss to Cleveland on Sunday.
Houston will go with a third option at quarterback. Deshaun Watson, a two-time Pro Bowler, was supposed to be the starter but he has requested a trade and isn’t playing. That makes Tyrod Taylor the Texans’ best option at QB, but Taylor was injured against the Browns and will not play against Carolina. Now expected to line up under center is rookie Davis Mills, who was drafted by Houston out of Stanford in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Forced into action against the Browns on Sunday, Mills completed 8-of-18 passes for 102 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Panthers lead the NFL in sacks with 10 this season.
Through the first two games of the year, Carolina leads the league in pass defense, run defense and total defense, in addition to sacks.
Offensively, Sam Darnold has completed 68.5% of his passes for 584 yards, three touchdowns and one interception through the first two games. Receiver D.J. Moore has caught 14 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown in 2021.
Carolina Pro Bowl running back Christian McCaffrey has had more than 100 yards from scrimmage in both games so far this season. McCaffrey’s had 59 touches over the first two weeks of the season.
If the Panthers win, they’ll be 3-0 for the first time since 2015, when they went 15-1 in the regular season and made it to Super Bowl 50 before falling to the Denver Broncos.
Carolina is one of seven teams in the NFL and five teams in the NFC with an undefeated record. Carolina is tied for first place in the NFC South with defending champion Tampa Bay, which is led by 44-year-old Tom Brady, who has thrown for nine touchdowns over the first two games this season.