Six Points: Texans vs. Panthers
While much of the conversation about the Week 2 matchup between the Houston Texans (0-1) and Carolina Panthers (1-0), will involve J.J. Watt and Cam Newton, there’s plenty of other action to watch for as well. The Texans have already made a change at quarterback, moving from Brian Hoyer to Ryan Mallett, while the Panthers may be without star linebacker Luke Kuechly, who suffered a Week 1 concussion. Will the Texans get in the win column this week, or will Carolina move to 2-0?
Here are three keys to the game for both the Texans and the Panthers.
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1. Don’t make Ryan Mallett do too much
Bill O’Brien proved last week he has his quarterbacks on a short leash, pulling Brian Hoyer in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Chiefs. Mallett must avoid trying to do it all himself in his first week as the starter. Getting the running game going with Alfred Blue to help keep the defense honest would help the young quarterback.
2. Make Cam Newton throw
In the 20-9 win over the Jaguars, Newton completed 18-of-31 passes for 175 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. If the Texans can hold him to that kind of performance in Week 2, they’ll likely be satisfied. Without star receiver Kelvin Benjamin to help the Texans need to force Newton to stay in the pocket and put the ball in the air.
3. Cover Greg Olsen
Last week against the Chiefs, the Texans allowed tight end Travis Kelce to catch six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. That can’t happen again. The Panthers have a talented tight end of their own in Olsen. Romeo Crennel’s defense needs to come up with a plan to handle him.
1. Get the run game going
It’s pretty simple for the Panthers on Sunday. If they want to have success and win their home opener, this team is going to need to get its run game going. Sure, the Panthers beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 20-9, but offense was an issue. Carolina had a grand total of 35 rushes for 105 yards in Week 1, which needs to be improved in Week 2. Jonathan Stewart led the charge with 18 carries for 56 yards, but if he’s unsuccessful early on, the team will need to turn to someone who can ease the pressure off Cam Newton and the passing game.
2. Make Greg Olsen a priority
One catch for 11 yards is all Olsen could put together in Week 1. With that said, he had a touchdown called back for offensive pass interference, and was only targeted three total times. No, Newton shouldn’t force the ball to Olsen, but the wide receivers need to begin stepping up in order to help Olsen see more openings in opposing defenses. The talented tight end should be a focal point of the offense against the Texans, who allowed Kelce to have a massive day.
3. Don’t let DeAndre Hopkins go wild
Hopkins is one of the rising stars in the NFL, and he’s probably the only reason why the Texans’ loss to the Chiefs looked as close as it did. Last week, Hopkins caught nine balls for 98 yards, two scores and a two-point conversion. If you think Mallett isn’t going to do anything and everything to get the ball to Hopkins, then you’re crazy. The Panthers have to lock in on Hopkins and keep him contained as much as they possibly can.