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We have been lucky to have two exciting Thursday Night Football matchups to kickoff the season. That could end in Week 3, with the Carolina Panthers taking on the Houston Texans, who will be starting Davis Mills after the injury to Tyrod Taylor.

The star power in this game leans heavily towards Carolina, but the unknown that comes with a rookie quarterback creates an interesting opportunity for value in the NFL betting odds.

Here are our four best NFL betting picks for the Panthers vs Texans.

First-half spread: Panthers -3.5 -120

With games that appear as one-sided as this, betting the spread can be a bit risky due to garbage time points. Instead, I like to bet the first-half spread, since we know teams won’t be taking their foot off the pedal this early.

The Panthers rank seventh in first-half scoring, averaging 16.5 point, and haven’t surrendered a single first-half point yet. While I’m not saying it will be their third straight first-half shutout, they should start the game quickly yet again.

Sam Darnold passing yards: Over 260.5 -110

The Panthers have now had a close win and a blowout win. Believe it or not, Sam Darnold attempted more passes and threw for more yards in the blowout. There doesn’t seem to be a game script where the Panthers become a run-heavy team to milk the clock. 

A big reason for this is the player they have in the backfield. Christian McCaffrey is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL in space. Instead of handing him the ball, the Panthers like to pass it to him out of the backfield to get him in space. This is good for Darnold, who has passed for over 261 yards in both games this season.

Mark Ingram rushing attempts: Over 8.5 -140

Much like there isn’t a scenario where Darnold doesn’t pass, there may not be a scenario where Mark Ingram doesn’t get his carries. The Texans were trailing in Week 2 and Ingram didn’t even see a third of the offensive snaps, but he still led the backfield with 14 carries. 

With the rookie Mills starting at quarterback, look for Houston to try and establish a running game early to take pressure off the young passer. Even if it doesn’t work, Houston has proven they will not abandon the running game, which benefits Ingram here. 

David Johnson receiving yards: Over 15.5 -115

While Ingram will get his touches, David Johnson should lead the backfield in snaps. Ingram was the majority snap leader in Week 1, since the Texans were leading throughout the entire game, but last week, Johnson led the backfield with 42.6 per cent of the snaps aa they were trailing and he is the main receiving back.

While it only led to two catches, he still totaled 22 yards through the air. With rookie Nico Collins out injured, Houston is missing another pass catcher, so look for the rookie Mills to check it down to Johnson a few times this game.