THURSDAY NIGHT PREVIEW: CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-0) AT HOUSTON TEXANS (1-1)

Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season gets underway on Thursday, September 23 (8:20 PM ET, NFL Network) as the Houston Texans (1-1) host the Carolina Panthers (2-0) in an interconference matchup. This marks only the sixth all-time meeting between the two franchises, with the Panthers holding a 3-2 series advantage. Carolina has won each of the past three meetings, including a 16-10 victory in Houston in Week 4 of the 2019 season. Running back CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY led the way in the win, totaling 10 receptions, 179 scrimmage yards (93 rushing, 86 receiving) and a rushing touchdown.

Carolina enters this game with its first 2-0 record since 2017 and will look to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2015, when the Panthers started the season by winning their first 14 games and advanced to Super Bowl 50. Last week in their win over New Orleans, quarterback SAM DARNOLD passed for 305 yards, his fifth-career game with at least 300 passing yards, and two touchdowns for a 99.1 rating. Darnold will be looking to surpass 275 passing yards in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. His top target last week was wide receiver DJ MOORE, who had a team-high eight receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown. He has at least 90 receiving yards in two of his past three against the AFC South. Wide receiver ROBBY ANDERSON, who had a touchdown catch in Week 1, had seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown in his only career game against Houston (December 15, 2018 with the Jets).

McCaffrey enters Week 3 with a league-best 324 scrimmage yards (170 rushing, 154 receiving) and leads all running backs with 14 catches. In three career games on Thursday Night Football, he has 255 scrimmage yards (85 per game) and four touchdowns (three receiving, one rushing). Linebacker HAASON REDDICK has recorded 1.5 sacks in each of his first two career games as a Panther this season. Defensive end BRIAN BURNS also had a sack last week and aims for his fifth in a row with a sack, tied for the longest active streak in the league. Rookie cornerback JAYCEE HORN, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, recorded his first-career interception in Week 2.

Houston rookie quarterback DAVIS MILLS is expected to make his first-career start on Thursday. Mills, who was selected in the third round (67th overall) out of Stanford in the 2021 NFL Draft, passed for 102 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut last week. Wide receiver BRANDIN COOKS led the team with nine catches for 78 yards and a touchdown in Week 2 and is aiming for his fourth consecutive game with at least 75 receiving yards. He also has a touchdown reception in three of his past four games. Running back MARK INGRAM had two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) in his last game on Thursday Night Football (December 12, 2019 with Baltimore) and he leads all active running backs in career rushing yards (7,450) and rushing touchdowns (63). Running back DAVID JOHNSON has 487 scrimmage yards (121.8 per game) and three rushing touchdowns in four career games on Thursday Night Football. Running back PHILLIP LINDSAY had a touchdown catch in Week 2 and is one of two players in the league with both a rushing and receiving touchdown this season.

Linebacker ZACH CUNNINGHAM leads the Houston defense, as his 176 tackles since the start of the 2020 season are the most in the NFL. Fellow linebacker CHRISTIAN KIRKSEY recorded a fumble recovery last week and is one of three players in the league with both an interception and fumble recovery this season. Safety JUSTIN REID had an interception and forced fumble in Week 2 and is one of two players with an interception in each of the first two weeks of the season.

Thursday’s contest marks the second of eight games exclusively televised on NFL Network this season and will be produced by FOX. The game will feature Joe Buck, Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink on the call.

CAPSULE:

THURSDAY, SEPT. 23, 2021 // 8:20 PM ET // NRG STADIUM // REFEREE: ALEX KEMP

LEADER: Panthers lead all-time series, 3-2

STREAKS: Panthers have won past 3

LAST GAME: 9/29/19: Panthers 16 at Texans 10

LAST GAME AT SITE: 9/29/19

PANTHERS NOTES:

QB SAM DARNOLD had 305 pass yards & 2 TDs vs. INT for 99.1 rating in Week 2. Aims for his 3rd in row with 275+ pass yards & 95+ rating. Passed for 253 yards & 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 100 rating in only career start vs. Hou. (12/15/18 w/ NYJ). • RB CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY had 137 scrimmage yards (72 rush, 65 rec.) & rush TD in Week 2. Leads NFL with 324 scrimmage yards & all RBs in catches (14) in 2021. Had 10 receptions, 179 scrimmage yards (93 rush, 86 rec) & rush TD in last meeting. Has 255 scrimmage yards (85 per game) & 4 TDs (3 rec., 1 rush) in 3 career TNF games. • WR DJ MOORE had team-high 8 receptions for 79 yards & TD catch last week. Has 90+ rec. yards in 2 of his past 3 vs. AFC South. WR ROBBY ANDERSON had 7 catches for 96 yards & rec. TD in only career game vs. Hou. (12/15/18 w/ NYJ). Had 5+ catches in 6 of 8 road games last season. WR BRANDON ZYLSTRA had 1st-career TD catch in Week 2. TE DAN ARNOLD had 55 rec. yards last week. • LB SHAQ THOMPSON had 12 tackles & sack in last meeting. LB HAASON REDDICK had 1.5 sacks in Week 2 & aims for his 3rd in row with 1.5+ sacks. DE BRIAN BURNS had sack last week. Has sack in 6 of his past 7 on road. Aims for his 5th in row with sack. Has 2.5 sacks, FF & FR-TD in 4 career games vs. AFC South. S JEREMY CHINN had 6+ tackles in all 7 of his road games last season. Rookie CB JAYCEE HORN had 1st-career INT last week. CB JUSTON BURRIS had 6th-career INT in Week 2.

TEXANS NOTES:

QB DAVIS MILLS expected to make 1st NFL start. Passed for 102 yards & TD vs. INT last week in NFL debut. Selected in 3rd round (67th overall) in 2021 NFL Draft out of Stanford. • RB MARK INGRAM had 2 TDs (1 rush, 1 rec.) in his last game on TNF (12/12/19 vs. NYJ, w/ Bal.). Leads all active RBs in rush yards (7,450) & rush TDs (63). RB DAVID JOHNSON had TD catch in his last game vs. Car. (9/22/19 w/ Az.). Has TD in 5 of his past 6 vs. NFC South. Has 487 scrimmage yards (121.8 per game) & 3 rush TDs in 4 career games on TNF. RB PHILLIP LINDSAY had 1st TD catch of season last week. Is 1 of 2 in NFL (CORDARRELLE PATTERSON) with rush TD & rec. TD this season. • WR BRANDIN COOKS had 9 catches for 78 yards & TD in Week 2. Aims for 4th in row with 75+ rec. yards. Has TD catch in 3 of past 4. WR DANNY AMENDOLA has rec. TD in 2 of 3 career games vs. Car. Has 75+ rec. yards in 2 of his past 3 on TNF. • LB ZACH CUNNINGHAM had 6 tackles last week & leads NFL with 176 tackles since 2020. Had 14 tackles & TFL in last meeting. LB CHRISTIAN KIRKSEY had 6 tackles, TFL & FR in Week 2. Is 1 of 3 in NFL (JOURDAN LEWIS & XAVIEN HOWARD) with INT & FR this season. Has PD in 2 of 3 career games on TNF. LB KAMU GRUGIER-HILL led team with career-high 9 tackles & had 1st sack & FF of season last week. LB JACOB MARTIN had 1st sack of season in Week 2. Aims for his 4th in row on TNF with TFL. S JUSTIN REID had INT & FF last week. Is 1 of 2 in NFL (TREVON DIGGS) with INT in each of 1st 2 weeks of season.

ON THE AIRWAVES TV: NFLN (8:20 PM ET): Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, Kristina Pink (field reporters) NATIONAL RADIO: Westwood One: Dave Pasch, Mike Golic SIRIUS: 81 (Car.), 83 (Hou.) | XM: 226 (Car.), 225 (Hou.) | SXM App: 804 (Car.), 812 (Hou.)