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.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst had one reception for 10 yards on two targets in Sunday's Week 7 win against the Seahawks. Hurst has 14 receptions for 141 yards and one touchdown in 2019 and hasn't seen the end zone since Week 2. With Mark Andrews seeing the bulk of Lamar Jackson's targets, Hurst is best left off your bench unless Andrews misses time.
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards carried the ball 8 times for 35 yards in Sunday's Week 7 win against Seattle. Edwards has 52 rushing attempts for 234 yards but has failed to get into the end zone in 2019. Edwards is the clear handcuff to Mark Ingram with Justice Hill barely getting touches, but he isn't worth a spot in your lineup unless Ingram misses time.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead did not record a catch on his only target and rushed once for two yards in Sunday's Week 7 win against the Seattle Seahawks. Snead has 15 receptions for 223 yards and two touchdowns in 2019. Even with receiver Marquise Brown recovering from an ankle injury, Snead hasn't proven himself to be fantasy relevant at this point in the season. Leave him off your rosters for now.
Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill returned two kicks for 21 yards but did not record a carry in Sunday's Week 7 win against the Seahawks. Hill has 18 rushing attempts for 78 yards in 2019 and has been a non-factor in fantasy. In the event that running back Mark Ingram misses time, it will be Gus Edwards who will see the bulk of carries. Keep the rookie off your rosters moving forward.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) is unlikely to suit up for Thursday Night Football against the Washington Redskins in Week 8. The 29-year-old seems to think he is capable of playing, but the Vikings will likely rest their ailing star against a mediocre opponent on a short week. In his absence, rookie Olabisi Johnson will likely serve as the WR2. Johnson, who had 40 yards and a touchdown in Week 7, is a viable streaming option for fantasy managers that are desperate for a receiver in Week 8.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller is expected to miss several weeks with a significant hamstring strain, per Ian Rapoport. Fuller suffered the injury against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7. With Fuller sidelined, Kenny Stills becomes a must-add asset in almost all formats. The 27-year-old produced 105 yards on four catches against the Colts after Fuller exited the game. Stills can be considered a mid-tier WR3 against the Oakland Raiders in Week 8.
Seattle Seahawks S Bradley McDougald (back) sat out of practice all week after suffering from back spasms and was unable to play in Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens, but head coach Pete Carroll told reporters during his postgame press conference that he believes McDougald will be able to make it back for Week 8 versus the Atlanta Falcons.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen only hauled in 4-of-11 targets for 61 yards during a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. Despite having a positive pass-catching game script, Allen and Philip Rivers failed to connect on several deep balls. Luckily, due to the Chargers' uninspiring defensive unit, the game script is almost always positive for the passing attack. Allen remains a mid-tier WR1 against the Chicago Bears in Week 8.
Updating a previous report, New Orleans Saints CB Eli Apple (knee) likely suffered a hyperextended knee late in the team's Week 7 game versus the Chicago Bears, although more tests are scheduled to determine the extent of his injury Monday, Oct. 21.
Updating previous reports, Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (hamstring) is expected to miss 'several weeks' after suffering 'a rather significant hamstring pull,' according to a source via NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller hasn't come close to playing a full season in four years in the NFL, so fantasy owners can't exactly be shocked by this development. While the Texans will miss his ability to stretch the field, Fuller's lack of durability was probably one of the biggest reasons Houston made sure to land Kenny Stills in the Laremy Tunsil trade this summer. Stills should be able to fill in nicely and serve as a high-upside WR3 for however long Fuller is sidelined.
Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins S Montae Nicholson (ankle) was seen walking around in a boot Monday, Oct. 21, after injuring his right ankle in Week 7 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Free-agent CB Kayvon Webster (Saints) worked out for the New Orleans Saints on Monday, Oct. 21.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry caught six passes for 97 yards during a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. The 24-year-old has seen 17 targets over his past two games. Now fully healthy, Henry is unquestionably a top-tier tight end for the remainder of the season. He has a tougher matchup against the Chicago Bears in Week 8, but he is still an undisputed TE1 for the contest.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert pulled in just two receptions for 10 yards against Jacksonville in Week 7. The veteran has been a huge fantasy disappointment this season, and with rumblings of a trade before the deadline, Eifert's days in Cincy may be over soon. He has the potential to produce, and if you're able, he is worth a stash in deeper formats, at least for now.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt (abdomen) has been cleared by the NFL to rejoin the team and begin practicing with them Monday, Oct. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Hunt has been sidelined all season recovering from sports hernia surgery and serving an eight-game suspension for domestic abuse for an incident that occurred during his time with the Kansas City Chiefs. The former rushing champion is not eligible to return to game action until Week 10, so Nick Chubb will serve as a team's featured back for at least two more weeks. It's expected Hunt will serve as the change-of-pace back when he returns.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler only produced seven rushing yards on five carries in Week 7, but he salvaged the day by catching seven passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. Melvin Gordon had 16 carries in the contest despite being outplayed by Ekeler, but the Chargers continue to let Gordon dominate the ground game. Nevertheless, Ekeler's ability as a receiver continues to give him value as a fantasy asset. He is an above-average flex option against the dominant Chicago Bears' defense in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate finished with three catches (six targets) for 65 yards against Jacksonville in Week 7. After getting 11 looks from quarterback Andy Dalton against the Ravens in Week 6, Tate's production was yielded by Alex Erickson, who hauled in eight receptions for 137 yards on the day. With A.J. Green (ankle) expected to return soon, Tate will likely be relegated to backing up Green and Tyler Boyd moving forward. Keep an eye on Green's status for Week 8 and plan accordingly.
Updating previous reports, Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday, Oct. 21, but he faces the 'real possibility' of not playing in Week 8 against the Washington Redskins.
Fantasy Spin: While everyone around the team believes the injury is not serious, the Vikings play on Thursday, making it an almost impossible turnaround for Thielen. In theory, Minnesota should not need him against the Redskins, but the Vikings' passing attack is not so deep and talented that it can just assume it will thrive without Kirk Cousins' favorite receiver. If Thielen sits, it will be the first game he's missed in his NFL career. Fantasy owners should feel free to bump up Stefon Diggs in their weekly rankings as well.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon produced 32 yards on 16 carries during a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. While he caught a one-yard touchdown pass, he also lost a fumble at the goal line in the final seconds of the game to drop the Chargers to 2-4 on the season. The 26-year-old continues to be outplayed by Austin Ekeler, but Gordon continues to get the majority of the touches. As long as he remains the workhorse in the offense, he is a worthy RB2 in fantasy formats. Unfortunately, he has a tough matchup in Week 8 against the daunting Chicago Bears Defense, which likely makes him a flex play at best.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd finished with five receptions for 55 yards against Jacksonville on Sunday. With 14 targets on the day, which was tied with Alex Erickson, who hauled in eight catches for 137 yards, Boyd wasn't able to get anything going against a Jaguars Defense that was all over quarterback Andy Dalton. A.J. Green (ankle) is expected to return within the next week or so, and while it may decrease Boyd's looks, Green's presence back in the lineup may open things up for 24-year-old moving forward.