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Week 2 preview: Texans at Panthers

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Houston Texans (0-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl

*Keys to the game: DT Star Lotulelei might be ready to play but the status of MLB Luke Kuechly is up in the air as the Panthers prepped for the Texans and QB Ryan Mallett. Houston didn’t get much going under Brian Hoyer in the first half of Week 1 and Carolina’s calling card is forcing turnovers. To rattle Mallett, gambling head coach Ron Rivera will find pressure points mixing blitz and base looks. The task for Mallett is to move the chains consistently, and to hold up if LT Duane Brown (thumb) is held out.

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart and QB Cam Newton are expecting eight and nine men in the box from Houston, as the Texans invite Newton to get the ball downfield to a suspect receiving corps. TE Greg Olsen, who led the team in catches the past two seasons, is Carolina’s best one-on-one option and the Texans were hammered by Chiefs TE Travis Kelce last week.

*Matchup to watch – Texans RB Alfred Blue vs. Panthers LBs: Kuechly might not be there to float laterally and sniff out the stretch plays, which would make A.J. Klein the guy inside stalking Blue. He averaged 4.7 yards on just nine carries in Week 1 and should get much more work this week.

*Player spotlight – Panthers RT Mike Remmers: With social media buzz over Texans DE J.J. Watt “scaring” Chiefs RT Eric Fisher into sitting out a week ago, Remmers left no doubt about his availability Sunday. “I’m really looking forward to this week because everyone talks about him so much,” Remmers said.

*Fast facts: The Panthers have allowed 48 fourth-quarter points in the past 11 regular-season games. … Watt had two sacks last week, giving him 13 in his past six games.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Without MLB Luke Keuchly, the Panthers aren’t the same dynamic bunch but there’s more than enough in reserve for Carolina to stymie Mallett in his third career start.

*Our pick: Panthers 24-15


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