NFL Thursday Night Football Preview: Panthers vs. Texans

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NFL Thursday Night Football Preview- Panthers vs. Texans

Last week we assumed the NFL gave its red-haired stepchild, also known as Thursday Night Football, the worst game on the slate, and we got a thriller from Daniel Jones and Tyler Heinicke. This week we get Darnold and Mills. We can hope. 

Darnold is an enigma, and my stance on him remains unchanged. If you read my divisional preview for the NFC South, you know that I am not down on Darnold. On the contrary, the overwhelming opinion on him was that he is a bad NFL quarterback. I advised caution and insisted that we simply had no idea what kind of player he is due to the coaching in New York. I was decidedly neutral. 

A lot has changed in two short weeks. A runaway train of vocal backers has the Panthers in the playoffs. The model is starting to agree with them as you can see in its weekly power rankings which were published today. I am still advising caution. I have the nagging feeling that the model is missing this early run on the Panthers. 

Houston has a quarterback issue, and now it is the Davis Mills show. Unlike Darnold, I was decidedly down on the Texans, and they have far exceeded my expectations through the first two weeks. That was with Taylor at quarterback.      

Carolina Panthers v Houston Texans (7.5, 44)

These two teams have low confidence ratings from the model. The Texans have exceeded the model’s expectations through two games. On top of that, they are starting Mills, a quarterback for whom there is very little data. Darnold continues to confound the model, it simply does not have a feel for him in this system. 

In those situations, I proceed with caution. 

Line Movement

This line has seen some significant movement since the start of the season. I am going to use the Draft Kings line because it is the most drastic.

At most books in Vegas, and Pinnacle 7.5 is available. Draft Kings is at 8. Now eight is not a key number, only 3.65% of NFL games are decided by eight, but it is at -110, while Pinnacle is -7.5 and -107. The under is juiced everywhere -115 at Draft Kings.     

What The Model Says About This Game

The model is in general agreement with the numbers the books have put out on the spread. The model sees this as a low-scoring ten point victory for the Panthers. With Mills starting I do not expect the Panther backers to get off the train now, though 7+ is going to scare some off. The model sees Carolina controlling the game throughout, but not burying the Texans. A late cover on a meaningless field looms. 

On the total, the model sees value in the under, but not enough to move just yet. The total prediction is influenced far too heavily by what we know, or rather do not know, about Mills. The model strangely likes Mills. It sees him as a smart player with plenty of arm talent. I do not think Houston will be afraid of letting him rip it on throws outside the numbers. He can make the throw if he is protected, and they have nothing to lose.

The Model’s Side

The model is leaning toward the under at 44, but it is not making a play yet. The path to the under with Mills starting is reasonably apparent, but with no accurate data on Mills the model is begging off for now. If the total goes down, as seems likely, it will be completely off the model’s board. 

It is possible that a side on a player proposition is added tomorrow or Thursday, so check back before kickoff. 

The model is not taking a side at this time.

About the author:

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I write about data and sports. I created my first model in 1997 using nothing more than Excel. Currently, I have data-driven models for the NFL, NBA, and World Cup Soccer.

Mathematics is the music of reason.
— James Joseph Sylvester, English mathematician

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