Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) walks off the field in the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. Detroit won 13-10. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) signals after Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) was held short of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws in the first half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
CARSON, Calif. (AP) In a week in which one of his 2004 draft classmates suffered a season-ending elbow injury and the other was benched, Philip Rivers continues to be old reliable for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Rivers will make his 209th consecutive start on Sunday when the Chargers host the Houston Texans in a key early season matchup. That ties him with Eli Manning for the second-longest QB starting streak in NFL history.
Manning, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft, was benched this week by the Giants for rookie Daniel Jones and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the No. 11 overall selection, will miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury.
''I don't think you ever take it for granted, no question. I think even more-so now, you just realize that it doesn't last forever,'' Rivers said.
Longevity though is not what Rivers is focusing on this week. It is trying to bounce back from a disappointing 13-10 loss at Detroit where the Chargers' hope for a comeback ended when he threw an interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
The pick capped a day that saw the Chargers have two touchdowns called back because of penalties, two missed field goals and a turnover in the red zone. The loss leaves LA at 1-1 and facing a fellow playoff participant from last season.
''I think that we've shown the ability to bounce back over the years when we've lost some tough ones,'' Rivers said. ''Usually, you never take any satisfaction in losing, obviously, but most of our losses are going to be tough ones - at least I hope.''
Rivers is very much a pocket passer who is not fleet of foot, Deshaun Watson is the opposite. The third-year quarterback is two touchdown passes away from 50 in his career and needs 35 rushing yards to become the seventh QB in NFL history with 900 yards or more in his first 26 games.
While the Chargers are coming off a close loss, the Texans survived a missed 2-point conversion to beat Jacksonville 13-12.
''Everyone is making sure that as far as I go, the offense goes and the whole team goes,'' Watson said. ''It just kind of grows on itself and the more I play, the more reps I get, the more games I start as a quarterback here, the more it grows.''
Here is what else to watch for during Sunday's game:
STILL RUNNING WELL
There hasn't been any decline in the Chargers' running game despite Melvin Gordon's holdout. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson have combined to average 5.7 yards per carry.
Ekeler leads the AFC in scrimmage yards (287) and is tied for sixth in the league in offensive touches (46). However, he did fumble near the goal line in last Sunday's 13-10 loss to Detroit.
Jackson has been a nice change-of-pace back with seven of his 13 carries going for 10 yards or more.
Houston outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week this week after he had two sacks, forced two fumbles and had two quarterback hits in a win over the Jaguars last Sunday. His second strip sack was recovered by J.J. Watt and the Texans scored their only touchdown of the game four plays later. Mercilus is the only player in the NFL to force more than one fumble this season.
It was his second straight big game this season after he had a sack, an interception, five tackles, including one for a loss and a quarterback hit in Houston's opener.
''Whitney has been a very productive player for us over the years,'' coach Bill O'Brien said. ''He's been a guy that really is just known for doing his job. He just does a good job of setting the edge in the running game and then rushing the passer.''
Running backs Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson have filled in nicely in the first two games after Lamar Miller, who was Houston's featured back for the past three seasons, sustained a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game. The duo has helped the Texans average 153 yards rushing a game, which ranks fifth in the NFL. Hyde has carried a bigger load than Johnson so far and he is fifth in the league with 173 yards rushing.
Their success is impressive considering that neither player started camp with the team. Johnson came to Houston in a trade with Cleveland on Aug. 9 and Hyde joined the Texans on Aug. 31 in a deal with Kansas City.
PASS RUSHERS ON PARADE
The game will feature three of the top pass rushers in the AFC. Houston's J.J. Watt is still looking for his first sack this season and has never taken down Rivers.
Los Angeles' Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have combined for two sacks, both coming in the opener against Indianapolis.
The Chargers are hoping to get placekicker Michael Badgley back after he has missed two games because of a groin injury. Ty Long has handled both kicking and punting duties, but missed a pair of field-goal attempts last week.
The Texans have brought back punter Bryan Anger after Trevor Daniel struggled.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is coming off a solid game in Week 7 as he tallied five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown against the Detroit Lions. It was his first touchdown and his first time exceeding 36 receiving yards on the season. Rudolph may see a slight increase in targets due to receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) being out, but he still shouldn't be trusted in standard leagues. Rudolph remains an unexciting touchdown-dependent TE2 in Week 8's home matchup against the Washington Redskins.
Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison has gotten at least seven carries in 5-of-7 games this year, though he hasn't quite emerged as a player to consider starting as he's still the clear backup to Dalvin Cook. That being said, Mattison could be in line for a sizeable workload this week as the Vikings are favored by 16 points in a home matchup against the Washington Redskins. The Redskins Defense is more vulnerable through the air, but the Vikings will undoubtedly lean on the rushing attack as they still run at the second-highest rate in the league. Start Mattison if you're in desperate need of a deep-league FLEX option as there's a good chance that he sees at least 10 carries and does something meaningful with them. He's also not the worst dart-throw in daily formats if you're multi-entering into tournaments.
Denver Broncos TE Jake Butt (knee) and Theo Riddick (shoulder) are eligible to return to practice this week, but head coach Vic Fangio said Wednesday, Oct. 23 that he isn't going to practice either of them this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (neck, shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday. Marqise Lee (ankle), who missed Week 7, was limited. Westbrook was questionable for last Sunday's game but played and went over 100 yards against the Bengals injured and ineffective secondary. He'll have a good chance of playing this Sunday as long as he practices later this week. The matchup will be just as nice, too, as the Jags will face off with Gang Green's struggling defense. If he plays, Westbrook has clear WR2 upside. If he's inactive, Chris Conley would be on the DFS and deep league streaming radar.
The Vikings Defense gave up 30 points in a win over the Detroit Lions in Week 7 but still rank sixth in yards per game allowed and points per game allowed. They also have seven interceptions, 19 sacks, four fumble recoveries, and a safety on the season. They're presented with a golden matchup against Case Keenum and the Washington Redskins on Thursday night in Week 8. The Redskins are averaging a miserable 12.9 points per game and their offensive line is no match for Danielle Hunter and the Vikings imposing defensive front. Look for the Vikings to force mistakes and pick up plenty of sacks and start them with confidence in Week 8.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said he's not optimistic that wide receivers Trent Taylor (foot) and Jalen Hurd (back) will make it back this season after they both had "a couple setbacks." Obviously neither wideout should be stashed in season-long leagues, but Hurd has appeal to those in dynasty/keeper setups. The 49ers just traded for Emmanuel Sanders on Monday, too, so it would've been unrealistic to expect either Taylor or Hurd to make an impact in single-year leagues even if they returned. Sanders is expected to be in three-wide sets immediately with Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis in Week 8 against the Panthers.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been silencing his critics the past three weeks, throwing for 977 yards and an impressive 10/1 TD/INT ratio. He's also coming off back-to-back outings with four touchdowns in wins over the Lions and Eagles. Cousins will be missing Adam Thielen (hamstring) this week, but it shouldn't matter much in an exploitable matchup against the Washington Redskins at home. The Redskins Defense has already given up 14 passing touchdowns and they've been absolutely shredded by competent passing offenses all season. The only reason for pause is the potential cap of Cousins' volume as the Vikings are favored by a whopping 16 points. Start Cousins as a low-end QB1 option as he should be able to keep the streak going through the air in a soft matchup.
New York Giants TE Evan Engram is a possible player to be moved at the NFL trade deadline next week, but an AFC scout believes the fact Engram cannot stay healthy hurts his value. 'He's hurt way too much, but he's a big problem when he's healthy,' the scout said. 'His speed makes him a matchup nightmare. I don't know if (the Giants are) using him right, but another team could.'
Fantasy Spin: Engram is just 25 years old and the team could pick up his fifth-year option, which would put him under control through 2021. But if they decide not to pick up the option and move Engram, there would likely be plenty of takers. He has wide receiver ability in a tight end body, again, when healthy.
New York Giants CB Janoris Jenkins remains the most valuable and likely piece the team has to sell because cornerbacks are prized possessions, beat writer Ralph Vacchiano suggests. 'He's still good. And in this pass-happy league, everyone needs cornerbacks,' one NFL scout said last week.
New York Giants TE Rhett Ellison could move up to the top spot on the depth chart if the team elects to move TE Evan Engram at the NFL trade deadline. Ellison is reportedly a favorite of head coach Pat Shurmur, and the team could deal Engram and use Ellison in a limited pass-catching role where he's been effective at times.
Fantasy Spin: Even if Ellison were to slide up to the top spot of the depth chart, he has proven to have limitations. Expect 40-50 yards per game with an occasional touchdown, and that might be the ceiling of his fantasy production. That all hinges on whether or not the team parts with Engram, which isn't a certainty.
Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher (hernia) and defensive tackle Chris Jones (groin) both were limited in practice on Wednesday. Fisher has been out the last five game, while Jones has missed two straight. Fisher's return would be a positive development, as he might be blocking the blind side of backup Matt Moore if the Chiefs hold Patrick Mahomes (knee) out for another week. Jones' return would also be a welcomed addition with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coming into town on Sunday night. The 25-year-old has 11 total tackles, two sacks and one fumble recovery in five games after setting a career high with 15.5 QB takedowns a year ago.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is leading the league with 725 rushing yards, a 5.5 yards per carry average, and eight rushing touchdowns. He's RB2 in half-ppr scoring (Christian McCaffrey). You're starting him without hesitation in Week 8 against the Washington Redskins, who are allowing 134.4 yards per game on the ground. Cook could easily finish as the top running back of the week with the Vikings favored by 16 points at home (and with McCaffrey facing the 49ers Defense). The Vikings still run at the second-highest rate in the NFL and could lean on Cook even more in the absence of stud receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring). Cook remains an RB1 and he should be a priority play in daily formats as well.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron saw his stock rise last week when he caught four of his five targets for 70 yards and one touchdown. He had 49 more yards than fellow tight end Jack Doyle, and he's been out-playing him all year. The Denver Broncos have some good safeties, but Ebron is better than he's been this year. As quarterback Jacoby Brissett continues to look his way, he maintains some value every week. Consistency is key for tight ends, and you can have some faith in Ebron this week.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle had high hopes coming into the season. Heading into Week 8, it's becoming more clear that he won't be having the bounce-back season he was hoping for. Doyle has 25 targets on the year, but he has just 17 catches for 149 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett looks his way on a regular basis, but it's not down the field. It's also not in the red zone. Doyle gives you a safe option to score more than zero every week, but he's not going to light it up, especially in a bad matchup with the Denver Broncos. Teammate Eric Ebron has been the better option at the position. Doyle should be avoided this week.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Olabisi Johnson had a productive game stepping in for Adam Thielen (hamstring) in Week 7, catching 4-of-8 targets for 40 yards and a touchdown in the win. The rookie out of Colorado State is now in line for a spot-start as the second receiver in Week 8 as Thielen has been ruled out against the Washington Redskins and their forgiving defense. It's not crazy to project a usable target share again in an advantageous matchup at home, especially considering Johnson has received at least four targets in three of his last four games played. It's also worth noting that Kirk Cousins and the Vikings passing game has been on fire for three games straight. Johnson can be considered a WR3/WR4 and should be in consideration for deep leagues this week.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle leads the team in receptions and receiving yards by a wide margin, but he now has some company with the addition of WR Emmanuel Sanders. QB Jimmy Garoppolo believes the addition of Sanders could take some pressure off of Kittle, who opposing defenses have keyed on. 'Yeah, it'll be interesting to see how defenses line up,' Garoppolo said Wednesday, Oct. 23. 'If they change anything, tilt the safeties toward him, whatever it is. Yeah, we'll have to adjust during the game and see how that goes.'
Fantasy Spin: Kittle's production isn't expected to take a hit with the addition of Sanders as the team's No. 1 wideout. In fact, there might be fewer double teams on the star tight end, if Sanders can stay healthy and be the type of receiver he was in Denver.
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo is excited about the addition of WR Emmanuel Sanders, and he said he is willing to help get the receiver up to speed quickly. 'I'll do my best to, but receiver-quarterback is a little bit different in what you have to learn, specifics and that nature,' Garoppolo said Wednesday, Oct. 23. 'But yeah, anything I can do to help him. I'm going to put in the extra time with him, whatever it takes, really.'
Fantasy Spin: The addition of Sanders gives the team an NFL-caliber No. 1 receiver, something they have honestly been lacking, with perhaps a bunch of secondary or tertiary options trying to fill the role. George Kittle is the team's leading receiver in catches and yardage by a wide margin. The addition of Sanders is great for the fantasy appeal of Garoppolo, although he still remains more of a QB2 in most fantasy leagues of 12 or more teams.
New York Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas is on the verge of being streamable this week against the Lions. The former Pro Bowler hasn't had much success this year and has yet to make more than one field goal in a game all season. However, he's in a good matchup. The Giants figure to move the ball against a banged-up Lions Defense, and they will need to push the tempo to keep up with quarterbackMatthew Stafford and the Lions offense. Rosas still isn't a recommended option, but he can be considered in deep leagues.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal has seen his stock consistently grow over the past few weeks. He's still not a player that you can have a ton of confidence in starting, but he does have some flex consideration this week. His size allows him to be a mismatch against most corners, and the Denver Broncos don't have a guy that can match up with him consistently in that regard if cornerback Chris Harris Jr. shadows wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. If you're missing wideouts due to injuries or bye weeks, Pascal gives you upside thanks to his touchdown production and big-play ability.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett went off on the Houston Texans in Week 7. In Week 8, his matchup gets more difficult against the Denver Broncos. Through seven games, Denver has yet to allow a player to clear 300 passing yards, and no quarterback has thrown for more than two touchdowns against them. The Colts have a lot of pieces on offense, especially with the emergence of wide receiver Zach Pascal, but expectations for Brissett should be tempered this week. He's still a starter in two-quarterback leagues, but you have better options at QB in standard formats.