Last updated: September 26th at 2:21pm ET.
Team Totals: Texans 25.5, Panthers 20.5
With Cam Newton (foot) still hobbled, Kyle Allen earned at very least a short-term commitment from the Panthers’ coaching staff after engineering a prolific four-score Week 3 win at Arizona, moving Allen’s record to 2-0 in spot starts since last Week 17 on 35-of-53 passing (66%) for 489 yards (9.23 YPA), six touchdowns, no picks, and an additional rushing score. Allen showed resiliency by rebounding from an opening-drive strip sack and was a colossal upgrade on Newton’s Weeks 1-2 passing performances. After the secondary-deficient Texans yielded QB1-ish fantasy results to Drew Brees (QB12), Gardner Minshew (QB13), and Philip Rivers (QB12) in Weeks 1-3, Allen remains firmly in low-end streamer and DFS-play contention with dynamic weapons in this friendly draw. The over on this game is my favorite sports bet of Week 4 so long as you can find it totaled below 47 points. … Christian McCaffrey broke the game open on his career-long 76-yard scoring sprint during last week’s third quarter in the desert and now ranks second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (450) behind Dalvin Cook (454). Playing 98% of the Panthers’ offensive snaps, game-script-proof McCaffrey now draws a Texans defense that’s been drilled for 48/249/1 (5.19 YPC) rushing by enemy running backs plus 24 receptions, second most in the league.
Allen’s Week 3 target distribution: Greg Olsen and Curtis Samuel 7; McCaffrey 4; D.J. Moore 2, Jarius Wright, and Chris Hogan 2; Alex Armah 1. … Of Allen’s 57 career attempts, 13 have gone to tight ends (23%). For perspective, that target share would have ranked No. 4 at the position last year. His chemistry with Allen immediately apparent against the Cardinals, Olsen should be treated as an every-week TE1 for as long as he’s healthy. Only Travis Kelce (279) has more Air Yards than Olsen (253) among tight ends. Allen went a superb 10-of-12 passing for 191 yards and three touchdowns on intermediate throws last week. … Dating back to last season, Allen is 8-of-13 for 134 yards (10.3 YPA) and two touchdowns when targeting Samuel. Houston was touched up by Keenan Allen (13/183/2), Michael Thomas (10/123/0), Ted Ginn (7/101/0), Chris Conley (4/73/0), D.J. Chark (7/55/1), and Tre’Quan Smith (2/26/1) in Weeks 1-3. … Painfully slow in the secondary, the Texans will inevitably have problems handling the speed of Samuel (4.31) and Moore (4.42), who turned on afterburners for his 52-yard catch-and-run touchdown in last week’s two-minute drill at the end of the first half. Allen is now 4-of-8 lifetime for 124 yards (15.5 YPA) and the score when targeting Moore. Samuel and Moore are upside WR2s in this gorgeous draw.
Back home after a monster comeback road win over the Chargers, the Texans host a dangerous Carolina defense that contained Jared Goff (QB29), Jameis Winston (QB21), and Kyler Murray (QB15) in Weeks 1-3 and ranks top four in sacks (12) and quarterback hits (25). The good news is Houston’s offensive-line reconfiguration – installing rookies RT Tytus Howard and LG Max Scharping into the starting lineup – sparked their Week 3 pass protection enough that Deshaun Watson took season lows in sacks (2) and hits (6) against a similarly talented Bolts defense. Fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring with two top-four weeks under his belt, Watson is a confidently elite Week 4 starter despite the Panthers’ strong to-date defensive play. … Carlos Hyde has formally overtaken Duke Johnson as the Texans’ lead back, last week out-snapping Johnson 53% to 47% and out-touching him 10 to 4 in a game where Houston played from behind. Hyde still has only one passing-game target on the year and is a highly touchdown- dependent flex play. Even in his season-best game – Hyde rushed 20 times for 90 yards in Week 2 versus Jacksonville – he managed nine fantasy points. Johnson should be downgraded to an RB4 stash for now.
Watson’s target distribution: DeAndre Hopkins 28; Will Fuller 17; Kenny Stills 12; Jordan Akins and Darren Fells 10; Johnson 9; Keke Coutee 4; Hyde 1. … Hopkins’ last two stat lines following back-to-back sub-70-yard games are 6/82/2 and 8/224/1. Despite his relatively slow start, Hopkins is a prime buy-low candidate based on talent and opportunity with the NFL’s seventh-most Air Yards (346). In a Matchups column, it remains notable that likely shadow adversary James Bradberry has a miniscule 29.2 passer rating allowed. … Fuller isn’t far behind in Air Yards (310) and has seven targets in consecutive games. Assuming Bradberry chases Hopkins, Fuller will draw speedy Panthers CB Donte Jackson, who has yet to allow a gain of 25 yards on 20 targets. Fuller remains a boom-bust WR3/flex who hasn’t boomed yet but has come close. It does help that Fuller is popping in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Week 4 Air Yards Buy Low Model. … Stills overtook Coutee as Houston’s main slot receiver in Week 3, out-snapping him 54% to 27% and delivering a team-high 89 yards in L.A. Stills is a DFS-tournament punt versus a Panthers secondary that is stingy on the perimeter but has conceded useful PPR games to interior WRs Chris Godwin (8/121/), Christian Kirk (10/59/0), Cooper Kupp (7/46/0), and Larry Fitzgerald (5/36/1). … Although Akins and Fells both capitalized on the Chargers’ sticky coverage of Fuller and Hopkins outside, they’re difficult to differentiate between with the exact same number of targets and nearly the same playing-time clips (60% for Fells, 59% Akins). Akins has run 66 routes to Fells’ 45, however, and the latter has historically been used to block. If I’m compelled to chase points, I’d take my chances on the former.
Score Prediction: Texans 27, Panthers 24