Mon Dec 30 6:50pm ET
By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) talk after an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers reacts at a news conference following an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Chargers go into the offseason at a crossroads. Not only are they moving into a new stadium but they have to confront who will be their quarterback not only for next season but beyond.
Philip Rivers was at the team complex on Monday as teammates cleared out their lockers and coach Anthony Lynn gave his final speech of the season to players and staff. Rivers did not appear in the locker room during the hour it was open to reporters while his locker was mostly cleared out with the exception of a card and a pair of workout clothes.
Rivers was emotional after Sunday's 31-21 loss to Kansas City because it could have been his final game after 16 years wearing powder blue. He threw for 4,615 yards, which were fourth in the league, but his 20 interceptions were third most and just one off tying his career high.
The only stat that matters to Rivers is the team's 5-11 record and last-place finish in the AFC West.
''I didn't do enough this year to help us win more football games and I take responsibility for that in the plays and the mistakes I should be responsible for,'' he said.
The only thing certain for now is that Rivers intends on playing next season. Whether it is with the franchise he has called home for 16 years or another team will be sorted out over the next three months.
''Can I still do it? No question. Do I still want to? Absolutely,'' Rivers said. ''I've never been in this situation. We'll see. I'm thankful for the 16 years and if there's another one, I'll be thankful for that. I think with the uncertainty there comes that unknown.''
Lynn said he would like to have Rivers back, but he is not exactly waiting for a decision before running through all the scenarios. Tyrod Taylor is under contract next season and the Chargers have the sixth overall pick in what is expected to be a deep quarterbacks class in the draft.
''Who wouldn't want a guy with those intangibles and that production? I love what he represents and stands for,'' Lynn said. ''I have a lot of guys to look at, not just Phil. I'm sure it is going to happen sooner or later, but there's no rush.''
The Chargers tied for the most wins in the AFC last season by winning close games, having a balanced offense and limiting turnovers.
This season was the opposite. Los Angeles lost nine of its 11 games by one score, didn't have much of a running game and tied for the worst turnover differential in the league.
The seven-win decline was the worst dropoff in the league this season and the second biggest in franchise history. Lynn said he began the end of season evaluation process Sunday night and doesn't plan on taking any time off.
''You're 5-11, everything is on the table,'' he said. ''I can't rest. There is no vacation. I can't go on the golf course or the beach without solving this problem.''
Rivers, running back Melvin Gordon, tight end Hunter Henry, safety Adrian Phillips and fullback Derek Watt are the team's higher-profile unrestricted free agents. Running back Austin Ekeler is a restricted free agent.
Ekeler showed he could pick up the load with Gordon likely gone due to free agency. Ekeler was fourth in the AFC in touchdowns (11) and fourth in scrimmage yards (1,550) with most coming out of the backfield as a receiver. He finished 10 yards shy of becoming the fifth running back in league history to have a 1,000-yard receiving season.
Ekeler and Keenan Allen are the fist duo in franchise history to have 90 catches or more. Allen set a team record with 104 receptions, marking the second time in three seasons he has had 100 or more catches.
Mike Williams got his first 1,000-yard receiving season (1,001) and led the league in average yards per reception (20.1). Williams had a string of seven straight games when he had at least one catch of 25 yards or more, joining Anthony Miller and Isaac Bruce for the longest streak since 1981.
BOSA BOUNCES BACK
Joey Bosa played in every game after missing half of last season due to a foot injury. The Pro Bowl defensive end finished with 11 1-2 sacks and set a career high with 31 quarterback hits. Bosa also showed he is much more than a pass rusher by coming up with huge stops in the run game.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said Bosa's biggest growth has been in the mental aspects of the game in terms of not getting easily frustrated.
14 - Takeaways by the defense, the lowest in franchise history. This is the 24th time since the merger a defense has forced 14 or fewer turnovers.
HOW TO GET IT RIGHT
Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco will both be on the hot seat going into next year. Besides solving who will be the quarterback, the Chargers need to dramatically overhaul the offensive line, which struggled without left tackle Russell Okung and center Mike Pouncey.
Pouncey, who did not play in the final 11 games after having neck surgery, said he is optimistic about returning. If he does, both guard spots need to be addressed along with right tackle and finding depth at left tackle.
The Chargers also have needs at linebacker. Fourth-round pick Drue Tranquill was the team's best rookie, but they are still lacking depth at the position as well as at cornerback and defensive line.
The more immediate concern is who will be the offensive coordinator after Ken Whisenhunt was fired at midseason. Shane Steichen did a solid job, but the team was still beset by struggles in the run game.
With the Chargers moving into SoFI Stadium and already concerns about attendance, Telesco and Lynn are going to need a banner offseason to prove the franchise is more like the one that made the playoffs in 2018 instead of the one that consistently came up short in 2019.
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool has been successful on the traditional go route in the team's offense in the last few weeks. Entering Week 6, Claypool was targeted at the third-highest rate among wideouts on go routes -- six catches on 20 targets for a 30 percent rate. His percentage has dropped to 18.4 percent since then, showing that the Steelers continue to send him deep frequently. Pittsburgh has found success on passes of 10-plus air yards when targeting Claypool, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a completion percentage of 50 and a 3:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio when targeting Claypool for 10-plus air yards. The rookie has been the team's most efficient deep threat so far, but he's proven he can be a boom/bust WR3/flex with upside after catching seven passes for 110 yards and three touchdowns in Week 5 and then going for one catch for minus-two yards in Week 7.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (ankle) arrived to practice on Tuesday with a red non-contact jersey on, but he then took it off and put on a regular jersey. It signals that he at least got in a limited practice on Thursday, which could put him on track to return from Injured Reserve and play against the Falcons. The 24-year-old do-it-all back hasn't played since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 2, and fantasy managers will need to check back before game time on Thursday to see if he's been activated. It's hard to imagine the Panthers throwing him out there if he's not ready, so McCaffrey should be returned to all starting lineups if he's active. Mike Davis has been the workhorse back in his absence and might have just one more week of RB1 upside. He'll revert to being a McCaffrey handcuff once the Stanford product returns.
The San Francisco 49ers opened their 21-day practice window for running back Tevin Coleman (knee) and tight end Jordan Reed (knee) on Wednesday. Both players are still on the team's Injured Reserve, so they're not listed on the official injury report leading up to Week 8 against the Seahawks. If they make it through the week without any setbacks, there's a chance they could be activated from IR and play on Sunday. With both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. on IR as well, Coleman would return to a backfield currently occupied by Jerick McKinnon and rookie JaMycal Hasty. It's time to add Coleman if he's available in your league, although he'll be a risky starting option this week if he returns, as he'll be at risk of being eased back in. McKinnon and Hasty are both low-end RB2/high-end RB3 backs this week if Coleman isn't ready to return. Reed would simply be a backup to George Kittle and wouldn't have any standalone value.
Seattle Seahawks tight end Greg Olsen had a down game in Week 7 and could be on track for another poor performance in Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are allowing an average of just 5.1 fantasy points per game to the tight end position. On top of that, Olsen doesn't get an overwhelming amount of volume. He has just 22 targets on the year, which is fifth on the team, and it's less than half of what wide receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalfhave seen. If Olsen can get into the end zone, he could be worth the lineup spot, but that is far from a guarantee. He's in the TE2 conversation this week.
The Seattle Seahawks Defense has struggled mightily through the first six games of the season, and you should still be avoiding them in Week 8. The San Francisco 49ers offense has played well over the last couple of weeks, and the Seahawks are still dealing with a number of injuries in their secondary, including star safety Jamal Adams (groin). The 49ers offense takes care of the ball and Seattle still can't generate much of a pass rush. Until that changes, you should feel comfortable finding other defensive options to put into your lineups.
Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers hasn't been the top fantasy option at the kicker position this season, but he's certainly been on the streaming radar because of the offense he's in. He's playing with one of the best offenses in football, and they're giving him plenty of opportunities to score. However, this week he could make a bigger leap because of the matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are third in the NFL in terms of red-zone touchdown percentage. They have given up plenty of yards to opposing offenses, but they have been tough on teams once they enter the red zone. Seattle can score with the best of them, though. Either way, Myers could have a big game as long as quarterback Russell Wilson continues to play at an MVP level.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel is averaging just 2.3 air yards per target this year. In comparison, tight end George Kittle averages over six air yards per target, while rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk is averaging over 11 air yards per target as the team's preferred downfield weapon. Samuel makes his money by catching short passes and doing damage after the catch. Entering last week, the second-year wideout averaged 9.1 yards after the catch per reception in his first season and a half, which is tops among receivers since 2019. He's done that to the tune of 215 yards after the catch in four games this year. Samuel is expected to miss the next two games, however, due to a hamstring injury. Aiyuk and Kittle should be even busier in Samuel's absence, with Dante Pettis potentially serving as the underneath pass-catcher on short routes.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara has become the focal point of the team's passing offense with wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) out since Week 1. Emmanuel Sanders also missed the Week 7 game after going on the COVID-19 list. Kamara leads the league in target rate (35.6 percent) on his 149 total routes run, with a good chunk of those being screens (43). He's run more than twice as many screen routes as the next closest player on the list. Kamara has been targeted on 19 screens, catching 16 passes for 139 yards. His 448 yards after the catch go to show why the Saints star running back is a must-start, high-end RB1 each and every week, especially for as long as Thomas continues to sit out.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf had a brutal Week 7 against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, but he's poised for a bounce-back performance in Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers. He's gone over 90 yards in five out of six games this season and he's scored a touchdown in four out of his six games. Metcalf's combination of size and speed makes him a handful to cover for the majority of cornerbacks. The 49ers are a tough matchup because they're the sixth-best defense against the wide receiver position in terms of fantasy points allowed. He likely won't be in the WR1 conversation, but Metcalf is a solid WR2 play for the week in Seattle's high-scoring offense.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett put up one of the most spectacular performances we'll see all year in Week 7, and he'll be looking to put up another great performance in Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers. Lockett operates primarily out of the slot, and that's where he can do some serious damage. While the 49ers outside cornerbacks have been playing well, slot corner Jamar Taylor has been struggling through the first two months of the season. Lockett leads the team in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns and catch percentage. With the volume he receives, he's a WR1 for the week, regardless of the matchup.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (foot) did not take part in practice on Wednesday. The Bengals continue to say that Mixon is day-to-day, but everything else points to him being week-to-week and highly questionable for Sunday's matchup with the Titans. As of now, there's a good chance that Mixon will be questionable for Week 8, but continue to monitor his practice status the rest of the week. If he cannot suit up, Giovani Bernard would see the lion's share of the backfield touches and would present fantasy owners with RB2 value as a plug-and-play option, especially if you also own Mixon. Bernard ran the ball a season-high 13 times for 37 yards and also caught all five of his targets for 59 yards and a touchdown in last week's loss to the Browns.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (concussion) remains in the concussion protocol and did not practice on Wednesday. An independent neurologist is expected to determine whether Lindsay will be able to play in Week 8 against the Chargers. As of now, consider him questionable to face the Bolts on Sunday, making him an extremely risky RB3/flex option in PPR leagues. He's played in just three games this year due to turf toe that he suffered in the season-opener, but the 26-year-old has ran for 5.2 yards per carry on his 39 rushing attempts. The Chargers have allowed just four total touchdowns to RBs this year, so Lindsay isn't all that attractive, especially if he plays and shares touches with Melvin Gordon III. Gordon will have obvious RB2 upside if Lindsay is forced to miss yet another game.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram II (ankle) did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Ingram injured his ankle in Week 6 and had the Week 7 bye to heal up, but he's still in danger of missing his second straight game. A questionable tag could be coming this weekend against the Steelers, a team that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs this year. Ingram will need to get in at least a limited practice either Thursday or Friday to have a shot at playing, but he'll be a low-upside RB3/flex if he's active. Some combination of rookie J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards would work out of the Baltimore backfield if Ingram can't go.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is currently second in scoring on the year and he'll be looking to keep rolling in Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers. He's averaging over 30 fantasy points per game through six games and he's surrounded by outstanding weapons. The 49ers are going to be a tougher test than he's faced recently, as they're allowing 16.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, which is tied for the eighth-best mark in the league. With the pace that Russ is playing at, though, you can't afford to bench him and he's still a solid QB1 option for the week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette was tabbed as the 'nickel' back for head coach Bruce Arians, as he is expected to play in hurry-up and obvious passing situations. The role is a big reason he played more snaps in Week 7 against the Las Vegas Raiders, supplanting RB LeSean McCoy from the role.
Fantasy Spin: Ronald Jones is the bellcow back for the Bucs, but that's right now. The tailback picture has changed all season, and will continue to change. Jones is a decent RB2 in most fantasy formats, while Fournette is more of a low-end RB2 or flex fantasy option in PPR formats, with lesser appeal in standard play.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB LeSean McCoy did not play any snaps in Week 7 against the Las Vegas Raiders, as RBs Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette are solidly entrenched as the top two backs. If the Bucs elect to dress only three backs, McCoy or RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn might be inactive in Week 8.
Fantasy Spin: It hasn't taken long for McCoy to go from perennial high-round fantasy selection to role player worth using in deeper leagues to completely unusable Shady can be left to the waiver wire in all but the very, very deepest fantasy leagues at this point.
Free-agent DT Dontari Poe was released by the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, Oct. 28, after failing to find a trade partner for him. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the released had nothing to do with Poe being the only player to kneel during the national anthem ahead of games. 'When you're 30 pounds overweight and you're not doing anything about what's keeping you from performing well on the field, there is no reason to get into the other stuff,' Jones said. 'We have a platform here but the platform on the football field has a high standard, and (Poe) was not up to the standard. He needed to correct that and he did not. I'm going to leave it at that.'
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown arrived at the team's facility Wednesday, Oct. 28, and head coach Bruce Arians liked what he saw from the veteran receiver in his first day at the team's facility. 'He looks fantastic,' Arians said. 'I think we had really good conversations today, he and I. He was in the meetings and everything and he's working with Anthony Piroli and the strength staff. He looks in great shape and ready to go next week.'
Fantasy Spin: Brown is wrapping up an eight-game league suspension for multiple violations of the league's personal-conduct policy. He is worth stashing away in most fantasy leagues, as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have been gimpy all season, it seems. If Brown can stay healthy and keep his head screwed on straight, he could be a tremendous addition for fantasy owners at this juncture.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense has been playing good football all year, and they have the potential for another strong game in Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are starting rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the first time, and the Rams defense will be aggressive to try and force him to make mistakes. They have an advantage in the trenches with a defensive line that's sixth in sacks and sixth in adjusted sack rate. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are 15th in sacks allowed this year. If the Rams can generate a turnover or two, they can be a solid option for the week.
Updating a previous report, Seattle Seahawks RB Carlos Hyde (hamstring) is nursing a hamstring injury, but head coach Pete Carroll said the injury is 'not major'.
Fantasy Spin: Wait to see if Hyde is able to practice in full Friday before officially plugging him back into your fantasy lineup. Chris Carson is a game-time decision due to a foot injury, and Travis Homer is nursing a knee ailment, so Hyde could be the most effective fantasy back if he can get healthy. If not, DeeJay Dallas might be looking at a significant role.