I'm going to get this post up quickly before news breaks of Rick Dennison contracting Ebola, or Brian Cushing getting yellow fever, or Marc Vandermeer coming down with a case of typhus, or whatever biblical plague will next be visited upon those connected to the local football team. The predictions that appear after the jump are only good as long as those involved are actually healthy enough to play on Sunday when the Panthers visit the 2011 AFC South Champions at Reliant Stadium.
Which is to say that they are probably already worthless. Well, they were always worthless, so now they're probably worthlesser. Jump, friends!
1. The absence of Wade Phillips matters. I know Wade installed the game plan, but we will feel the effect of living in a Wadeless world. Maybe not in the first half, but in the second half, should the Panthers manage to keep it close in the opening stanza (and I believe they will, thanks to a Cam Newton rushing TD on a busted play). One of the highly underrated facets of Wade's excellence is his ability to adjust at halftime; you saw it last week in Cincinnati, when the Texans rendered Cedric Benson a total non-factor after the break. As much as we love Wade Phillips, we will love him even more after this week. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that jazz.
2. You know all about Carolina's run defense, so it's hardly a bold prediction for me to say that Arian Foster and Ben Tate will combine for 179 rushing yards and two TDs. Thus, I shall reveal my boldness via this prediction of the passing game: Owen Daniels narrowly misses his second consecutive 100 yard receiving day of the season, catching seven balls for 93 yards; those numbers will make him the leading receiver in the entire game.
3. Yes, I said entire game, because I do believe that Johnathan Joseph will bottle up Steve Smith. Joseph will pick Newton off on one such pass intended for Smith, and Smith will finish with five catches for 63 yards.
PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: This game screams TRAP, doesn't it? The Texans are missing their brilliant defensive coordinator, Cam Newton's a wild card, the Texans could be primed for a letdown after clinching the first division title/playoff berth in franchise history, the continuity on the OL has been disrupted with Mike Brisiel's injury...it reeks of an upset. And yet, I cannot pick against this team. They continue to defy the odds. Texans 23, Panthers 20.Panthers vs Texans coverage