On the Line: Texans at Panthers (-2.5)

Panthers -2.5/ OU 36

Preseason games don’t mean much, at least that’s what they say. In the past, Carolina’s preseason record has greatly foreshadowed their regular season success. In every season the Panthers have had regular season success, they have played well in the preseason. In their two best seasons, which resulted in trips to the Super Bowl, Carolina went 4-0 in the preseason. The preseason’s relationship to regular season success may be more corollary than causal, but there is a lot on the line for the tone the team is trying to set and the players trying to make the final roster.

2015- 4-0
2013- 3-1
2008- 2-2
2005- 2-2
2003- 4-0

The Panthers are favored by -2.5 and the O/U is 36. I really don’t know how to bet this one. I’m going to take the Texans to cover the spread and the over. Murmurs coming out of Houston’s training camp is that they are going to play some of their key players a little more than Carolina.  There won’t be any Cam Newton, really any of the Panthers starting defense, and we won’t see any Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey in a limited role. I think the Panthers defensive inexperience in the secondary will probably determine the outcome of this game most. Carolina does have an edge with more experienced quarterback play from Derek Anderson and Joe Webb, however.

Betting the preseason has to be a play by the most devoted of gamblers, and I’m not sure the strategies for calling this outcome, but here is a lot on the line for the Panthers.

Offensively, Carolina will have to learn about some of the receivers vying for that 5th spot. Ron Rivera has noted that he wants to see who is making plays and who has the game speed that they lacked last season. Players like Damiere Byrd, Austin Duke, and Fred Ross will be trying to show they can contribute to a team trying to develop a more explosive offense. If they aren’t fighting for the 5th receiver spot, they will be fighting for one of those limited practice squad positions in hope they can get called up throughout the season or stick with the team for another year.

Right tackle is another position Carolina will be trying to learn about this preseason. Third-year player, Daryl Williams, will try to cement his spot as starting right tackle, while rookie Taylor Moton will try to show he can step into that starting role if his number is called.

Defensively, Carolina won’t play many of its stars. Veterans, like Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson, and Mario Addison won’t see the field likely at all. Kawann Short has been dealing with hamstring tightness and lower back soreness for the past week, so don’t expect to see him on the field either. Carolina, however, will want to see some young players like Daeshon Hall and Bryan Cox on the edge. Vernon Butler may get some reps since he saw limited play last year because of injury. Carolina doesn’t have a ton of guys on the defensive line who need to prove themselves, so the younger players or bubble guys like Wes Horton, will get extensive play time likely.

The secondary will be an interesting group to watch. James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, Captain Munnerlyn, Kurt Coleman, and Mike Adams are all critical to the defense and will be lucky to see the field. Carolina will probably throw Bradberry and Worley out there for a series or two to see them matchup against the Texans 1s and 2s. Carolina will be hoping to learn more about URFA, Luke Cole, and how LJ McCray looks at the safety position. Zack Sanchez will get extensive playing time to show if he can man that nickel corner spot if something were to happen to Captain Munnerlyn throughout the season.

Special teams will be a great area of interest as well. Rivera has preached to the young guys that special teams is where a guy can prove his worth to the team. From afar, we’ll be watching who will be returning punts and kickoffs. I have a hard time believing Carolina will trot out Christian McCaffrey, who is listed on the unofficial depth-chart as the starting punt returner.  Carolina will instead look to see what Damiere Byrd and Kaelin Clay have to offer now that Ted Ginn, Jr is no longer around. On the field, the coaches will be watching to see which players are the most disciplined in their assignments, filling the proper lanes, and who can get down in the field in a hurry and shed a block to make a play.

The kicking game will be an area of interest as well. Carolina drafted Harrison Butker to offer some competition to Graham Gano who struggled last season. Gano has been the better of the two this preseason, but Rivera will be watching to see how both deal with game pressure.  Andy Lee and Michael Palardy are both vying to be the Panthers punter. Palardy played well last year when Lee suffered an injury, but Lee is the heavy favorite to win the job.

What match-ups will you be watching? Would you bet the spread or the points? Let us know.

Prediction: 24-17 Texans and the over

By Tony Dunn
Follow @Cat_Chronicles for the latest Panthers news and opinions from the fan perspective.