Texans QB CJ Stroud looks to take advantage of Panthers injury-riddled secondary

HOUSTON (3-3) at CAROLINA (0-6)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, FOX


AGAINST THE SPREAD: Houston 4-2; Carolina 0-5-1

SERIES RECORD: Panthers lead 4-2

LAST MEETING: Panthers beat Texans 24-9 on Sept. 23, 2021, at Houston.

LAST WEEK: Both teams had a bye last weekend. Prior to that the Texans beat the Saints 20-13 in Week 6; the Panthers lost to the Dolphins 42-21.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Texans plus-6; Panthers minus-3.

TEXANS PLAYER TO WATCH: TE Dalton Schultz has taken on a more prominent role in the passing game the past three games with 20 receptions for 168 yards and three touchdowns. He could present matchup problems for the Panthers, who haven't been particularly strong defending tight ends. Schultz's stock could increase even more with Jeremy Chinn placed on injured reserve this week.

PANTHERS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Adam Thielen has been on a roll with 47 catches for 497 yards and four touchdowns in the past five games. Thielen has clearly become rookie QB Bryce Young's most reliable option, catching 49 of the 59 passes thrown his way this season. Thielen had 11 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins before the bye week. It was his third 11-catch game this season.

KEY MATCHUP: Texans QB C.J. Stroud vs. Panthers banged-up secondary: Stroud is off to a strong start with the rookie having thrown for 1,660 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception in six starts. He’ll face a Panthers secondary that has been decimated by injuries. Defensive backs Vonn Bell, Xavier Woods and Jeremy Chinn all could miss the game with injuries. It remains uncertain if cornerback Jaycee Horn is ready to return from a hamstring injury. Horn, considered the team’s top cornerback, has been out since Week 1. Carolina has allowed Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and Detroit’s Jared Goff each to throw for three TDs in the past two games.

KEY INJURIES: The Texans are expected to get WR Tank Dell back this week after he sat out Week 6 with a concussion. The Panthers activated guard Austin Corbett from injured reserve, but it's uncertain if he'll be ready to play this week. Corbett hasn't played since tearing his ACL in the final game of the 2022 season.

SERIES NOTES: The Panthers have won the past four meetings.

STATS AND STUFF: The game features a matchup of the top two picks in the NFL draft — QB Bryce Young (Alabama) and QB C.J. Stroud (Ohio State). ... Stroud passed for 199 yards and two TDs in Week 6. He leads all rookies with 1,660 yards passing and nine TD passes. ... WR Nico Collins led the Texans with 80 yards receiving against the Saints. He leads the team with a career-high 547 yards receiving. ... WR Robert Woods caught his first TD in Week 6. ... LB Blake Cashman had 15 tackles against the Saints. ... The Texans defense has an NFL-low nine sacks this season and is 27th in third down efficiency. Carolina QBs have been sacked 19 times. ... The Panthers are the NFL's only winless team. ... Young led the Panthers to two touchdowns on his first two possessions for a 14-0 lead against Miami in Week 6, but the Panthers still lost 42-21 as the offense sputtered the rest of the way. ... Panthers offensive coordinator Thomas Brown will take over play-calling duties from head coach Frank Reich this week. ... Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard is averaging 4.5 yards per carry compared to Miles Sanders' 3.1 yards per carry and has taken on a larger role in the offense. Hubbard started against the Dolphins in Week 6 with Sanders out with an injury. ... TE Hayden Hurst has been a non-factor of late with only nine catches for 75 yards and no TDs in the past five games. ... The Panthers have allowed 84 points in their past two games. That includes 12 touchdowns allowed — six passing and six rushing. Detroit and Miami each scored 42 points against the Panthers in the past two games.

FANTASY TIP: Texans RB Devin Singletary has outperformed Dameon Pierce and his playing time is on the rise. Singletary had 12 carries for 58 yards in the Texans' Week 6 win over New Orleans, while Pierce was limited to 34 yards on 13 carries. Whoever ends up getting the bulk of carries on Sunday could be in for a big day. The Panthers run defense has struggled most of the season and allowed the Dolphins to run for 162 yards and three touchdowns before the bye week. Carolina has allowed six TDs rushing in the past two games.


AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed.