With their defense playing as well as they have all season, and rookie QB T.J. Yates beginning to take charge of the offense, the 10-3 Houston Texans are -6.5 home favorites against the 4-9 Carolina Panthers.
However, the Panthers, with an explosive offense headlined by likely NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton, are not your typical 4-9 squad already looking forward to their tee times this late in the season.
Their point differential of -49 compares favorably with 8-5 Denver's -33 and 7-6 Oakland's -64. Just last week, they blew a huge half-time lead against the 8-5 Atlanta Falcons, eventually losing 31-23.
Unlike Yates, Newton has been given total control of the Panthers' offense. He's made a lot of huge plays, throwing for 3,573 yards and 15 TD's while also rushing for 554 yards and 13 TD's. However, he's also made a lot of mistakes as well, throwing 16 INT's.
Carolina's explosive offense, ranked 8th in the NFL in total passing and 5th in total rushing, will be another test for Houston's highly-touted defense, which completely shut down a similarly high-ranked Atlanta offense two weeks ago.
The Panthers defense, meanwhile, has been uniformly porous, ranking 19th in passing yards allowed and 24th in rush yards allowed.
Carolina would love to turn the game into a shoot-out between Newton and Yates, which is why the odds makers have set the over/under for Sunday's game at 46.5.