The Carolina Panthers look to win their second straight game with Kyle Allen at the helm.
Beating the Arizona Cardinals is one thing. Going on the road and beating a Super Bowl contender in the Houston Texans is a whole different ball game. That’s the challenge that faces starting quarterback Kyle Allen on Sunday, as he’ll try to build off last week’s performance against the Cardinals.
Earning a win would push the Panthers to 2-2 on the year and make Allen 3-0 as an NFL starter. That’s an insane record for an undrafted free agent.
To prepare for the big game, we caught up with Stephen Forsha at Toro Times to get his thoughts on the Texans-Panthers match-up.
1. The Texans have had massive struggles along the offensive line. It seemed like that improved in the win over the Chargers as yet another line combination was used. Do you have faith they can hold up against a Panthers pass rush that is tied for third in the league in sacks?
The offensive line combo used by the Texans in Week 3 against the Chargers was the best yet used this season, and probably at any point in 2018. Having Laremy Tunsil has helped take some of the pressure off of Deshaun Watson, and last Sunday the Texans used two rookies as part of their o-line as well.
Granted the o-line is still a work in progress for the Texans, last Sunday was the first step of that unit going in the right direction. No, the question can the Texans o-line stand up against the strong Carolina defensive, that is a tough one, but I don’t see that unit and Watson coming out of this game unscathed. Watson has been sacked no less than two times in each game this season, with last weeks being just two times. Some of the sacks are the fault of Watson, but if the Panthers don’t have at least two-to-three sacks in this game I’d be surprised because until the Texans prove on a consistent basis they can stop a pass rush week-in, week-out then there is no reason to think otherwise that the sacks will keep coming.
2. Deshaun Watson seems to be playing on an elite level this year. What has contributed to his success and how can the Panthers slow him down?
The reason I see for the increased improvement of Watson in 2019 is the fact he wasn’t coming off an ACL tear like he was last season, and this being his third season in the league and with head coach Bill O’Brien he knows the system, and he plays with great confidence and skill.
Watson is one of the more exciting quarterbacks in the league, and in my opinion, he’s a Top 10 quarterback that will eventually work his way even higher in that conversation. Watson is playing at an elite level because not only of his skill but his wide receivers are some of the best in the NFL when they are playing at a high level as well. For example, having DeAndre Hopkins to throw the football to doesn’t hurt matters plus Will Fuller is back, and the addition of Kenny Stills have been excellent too.
The Panthers can stop him by getting a heavy pass rush and collapsing the pocket. Watson does have a tendency to hold onto the football for a tad too long, and if Carolina can disrupt his rhythm, they can take Watson off his game a bit and that could be the difference between a win and a loss.
3. The Panthers are 1-2 and starting back-up quarterback Kyle Allen for a second straight game. What is the feeling in Houston about the Texans’ upcoming opponent?
This will be the second time this season he Texans have faced a quarterback who was the original starter as the same thing happened when they faced the Jacksonville Jaguars Week 2 by a 13-12 score. This is a bit of a tough task for Kyle Allen as he will be having J.J. Watt who turned up his level of play last week, and the resurgence of Whitney Mercilus has been outstanding to watch this season. Mercilus in three games has totaled four sacks and 13 tackled, plus has a pass defense and gained his first career interception this season.
As for the upcoming opponent in Allen and the Panthers, the Texans better give this team the respect they deserve. Even without Cam Newton playing in this game on Sunday, the Panthers are still eighth in the league in scoring per game and are in the Top half of major offensive categories like yards per game, passing yards per game and rushing yards per game.
Also, Allen completed 73 percent of his passes this season and has thrown for 261 yards, so he’s not a quarterback to look past at all.
4. Who is one Texan that Panthers fans might not know but should be aware of?
Last week tight end Jordan Akins had a career-best two touchdown receptions as this is just his second season in the NFL. Akins has six receptions for 115 yards this season, averaging 19.2 yards per game. Akins has improved his receiving numbers each game this season with 17 yards on one reception in Week 1, 25 yards on two receptions in Week 2 and last Sunday he had three receptions for 73 yards and two touchdowns, including one catch for a 53-yard score.
Akins is 27 yards old and played for Central Florida, but if last week is any indication he’s starting to take the next step or two in the progression of his NFL career. Last season Akins totaled 17 receptions in 16 games for 225 yards and no touchdowns.
5. Prediction for the game?
This is a tough one because looking at the final results both teams in five of the six games combined both teams have had final results in games of seven or less points except for the Panthers’ win last week against the Arizona Cardinals.
In Vegas, the Texans are favorites at -4.5 and to be honest, if they do win it won’t be by more than a full touchdown and extra point because that is how most games have gone for the Texans this season and dating back to last year.
For the Panthers to win they have to take advantage of the suspect offensive line of the Texans and even more so don’t let the team get their rushing game going because that can set the tone for log drives. Houston on defense has a chance to put a lot of pressure on Kyle Allen — which could also slow down the production of Christian McCaffery — with Carolina allowing eight sacks in three games thus far in ’19, so if Watt and Co. continued to surge they built up last week the Texans can win this game.