Fri Nov 23 3:38pm ET
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
In this Nov. 11, 2018, file photo, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota throws a pass against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football game in Nashville, Tenn. The Titans play the Houston Texans, who have won seven games in a row, Monday night. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)
In this Oct. 14, 2018, file photo, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) scrambles during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, in Houston. Allen returns after missing four games with a sprained right throwing elbow when the Bills host the Jaguars on Sunday, Nov. 25. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, File)
In this Nov. 18, 2018, file photo, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson looks around the field before the team's NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md. The Texans will be going for their eighth win in a row when they host the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. "We understand that it's going to be tough each and every week, and we understand that all 31 other teams don't really care what we've done in the past," Watson said. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans have matched a franchise record for most consecutive wins and are the first team since the 1925 New York Giants to win seven straight games after opening a season 0-3.
Despite this impressive streak, they're far from satisfied and know they'll have to continue to improve to get their eighth win in a row when they host the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
''We understand that it's going to be tough each and every week, and we understand that all 31 other teams don't really care what we've done in the past,'' Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson said. ''It's about what we do this week. We don't believe in the hype. We just grind and go out there and prepare and try to play our hardest to get a win.''
Coach Bill O'Brien agreed with Watson and said he stresses to his players that things could go downhill quickly if they focus on what they've already done instead of worrying about their next opponent.
''You're always looking to improve. No doubt about it,'' he said. ''I think that's what the league's all about. Who can get better the fastest, who can be the team that improves the fastest as the year goes on? I think every game there's going to be chances for improvement, and we definitely have to improve.''
The Texans, who lost to Tennessee in Week 2, have a two-game lead in the AFC South over the Titans and Colts, who are both 5-5.
Houston beat the Redskins 23-21 last week for its second straight two-point win after downing the Broncos 19-17 on Nov. 4 before its bye. The Titans have had an up-and-down two weeks after beating New England 34-10 on Nov. 11 before Indianapolis routed them 38-10 last week.
''The Houston Texans are a true example of handling adversity and moving forward. They lost 3 in a row early on, everybody thought their season was over and all of a sudden they're on top of the division and might be fighting for a bye depending on where they're going,'' Tennessee linebacker Brian Orakpo said. ''They're on our schedule now. We lost one, chance to redeem ourselves.''
Some things to know about Tennessee's Monday night visit to Houston:
PROTECT THE QB
Marcus Mariota was sacked four times in the first half alone before being knocked out of the game last week just before halftime with a stinger. Now the Titans face the Texans with Houston defensive end Jadeveon Clowney healthy instead of watching from the sideline as Clowney did in Week 2 when these teams met.
Mariota and the Titans hope the quarterback will be available Monday night, though he's waiting for a nerve in his throwing arm to settle down.
If Mariota doesn't start, that would mean Blaine Gabbert gets his third start this season and second against the Texans.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas hasn't made much of an impact since being traded to the Texans from Denver on Oct. 30 after Will Fuller suffered a season-ending knee injury. The nine-year veteran had three receptions for 61 yards in his debut, but didn't have a catch on two targets on Sunday. O'Brien took the blame for his limited work.
''It's not Demaryius,'' O'Brien said. ''I have to do a better job of getting him more involved. He's working hard, he's a good pro and we need to do a better job of getting him the ball a little more.''
Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees rejoined the team Tuesday after leaving the team's last game with a medical issue. Coach Mike Vrabel is trying to limit the 69-year-old coach's hours at the team headquarters in Pees' return to work.
Having Pees available and calling blitzes and coverages from the coach's box in Houston could provide a nice boost to a defense that was dissected by Andrew Luck last week. The Titans allowed a season-high 38 points, dropping from the NFL's top scoring defense to second overall.
Orakpo said hearing Pees had been taken to a hospital shook the Titans.
''Man, that was definitely a scary scene to be a part of,'' Orakpo said.
WATT AND CLOWNEY
Clowney and J.J. Watt have combined to be one of the league's most feared defensive duos this season. Clowney has 12 tackles for losses, 14 quarterback hits, 6 1/2 sacks and two fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown. Watt has 10 sacks, 12 tackles for losses, 17 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles and has swatted down two passes.
Vrabel is very familiar with Clowney and Watt after working as an assistant with the Texans from 2014-17. But he rarely had both players on the field at the same time when he coached in Houston because of various injuries to the two players. He was asked if he's happy to see that they're finally both healthy and playing so well this season.
''I think 14 games out of the year, I'd probably feel pretty good for them, but there will be two of them when I don't,'' Vrabel said. ''They're good people. I thought I had a good relationship with both of those guys.''
The Detroit Lions released wide receiver Bruce Ellington, safety Glover Quinn and linebacker Nicholas Grigsby on Friday. Ellington signed with the Lions after they traded Golden Tate to the Eagles and became their slot receiver until he landed on Injured Reserve on Dec. 22. He had 23 catches for 132 yards in four games for Detroit. Ellington's best year came in 2017 with the Texans when he had 29 catches for 330 yards and two touchdowns. Wherever he signs, he'll battle for a roster spot in training camp.
The Buffalo Bills released tight end Charles Clay on Friday. Clay provided only 21 catches (36 targets) for 184 yards (career-low 8.8 yards per catch) and no touchdowns in 13 games for Buffalo in 2018. He was rarely in the game plan for the Bills the last two seasons and won't be a very popular target on the free-agent market. His best season came in 2013 with the Dolphins when he had 69 receptions (103 targets) for 759 yards and six scores over a full season. The days of Clay being on fantasy rosters is over.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles would "probably" be interested in playing for the New York Giants if they decide to move on from Eli Manning, according to one person with knowledge of Foles' thinking. Foles landing with the Giants would be less likely if the Eagles place the franchise tag on him, which is unlikely. The Jaguars are another team to watch out for, and there is mutual interest between them and Foles. After winning Super Bowl MVP two years ago and playing well as a starter again in 2018 when Carson Wentz was injured, Foles should earn a starting gig on the open market with several teams looking for a signal caller. While Foles has QB1 upside in the right matchups, his 2019 fantasy value will ultimately depend on where he winds up.
All indications are that the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to use the transition tag on running back Le'Veon Bell by the deadline on March 5. It's expected to have a value of $9.5 million to $14.5 million for one season and gives the Steelers a chance to match any offer he'd receive on the open market. Pittsburgh doesn't plan on matching any offer to retain Bell, but only to trade him. However, even if the Steelers find a taker in a trade, they'd need Bell to sign the transition tag first, which is highly unlikely. This situation continues to get uglier, but Bell won't be playing in Pittsburgh in 2019 no matter what. Despite having 1,229 rushing attempts in five seasons, Bell is in the prime of his career and has reached the 1,000-yard mark three times. He's one of the more versatile backs in the NFL and should remain an RB1 in his next home.
Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson will return to shadowing the top opposing wide receivers in 2019, according to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
Free-agent RB Mike Gillislee (Saints) worked out for the Detroit Lions Thursday, Feb. 14.
Miami Dolphins WR Danny Amendola could fill the slot receiver role for the Detroit Lions in 2019 because of his connection to head coach Matt Patricia, in the opinion of Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com.
Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles') said he is no longer wearing a walking boot but still has a 'slight limp' when walking around.
Fantasy Spin: After suffering an Achilles' injury late in the year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Sanders miss time in 2019. He showed last year that he can be a WR2 as the top option in Denver's passing attack, but fantasy owners will need to be patient as he returns to form.
Arizona Cardinals WR Chad Williams caught 37 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2018 and had two catches or less in all but two games.
Minnesota Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell averaged 5.7 yards per target last year, the fourth-worst mark among receivers with at least 50 targets, and Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com expects Treadwell's fifth-year option to be declined.
Fantasy Spin: The former first-round pick has been a bust, and he didn't show any signs of righting the ship despite a bigger role in 2018. Even in dynasty formats, it may be time to give up on Treadwell.
Philadelphia Eagles impending free-agent WR Golden Tate and Washington Redskins impending free-agent WR Jamison Crowder are options to fill the need the Green Bay Packers have at slot receiver, according to Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: The Packers need a dependable option to support Davante Adams, and both Tate and Crowder would quickly become potential WR3 options if Aaron Rodgers is throwing them the ball.
Atlanta Falcons SS Keanu Neal (knee) posted a video of himself going through agility drills without a brace on his injured left knee.
Washington Redskins QB Colt McCoy (leg) was seen without any braces or supports for his injured leg.
Los Angeles Chargers impending free-agent LB Denzel Perryman will be re-signed this offseason if the Chargers have their way, according to a source.
Updating a previous report, free-agent QB Colin Kaepernick (49ers) desired at least $20 million to play in the Alliance of American Football, according to a source.
Free-agent QB Nick Foles (Eagles) is expected to 'keep tabs on' the New York Giants this offseason, according to NJ.com's Zack Rosenblatt. A source with knowledge of Foles' thinking said the former Super Bowl MVP would 'probably' be interested in starting for the Giants if they were to release QB Eli Manning.
Fantasy Spin: There are many pieces that must fall in order for Foles to the Giants to work out. It's a sensible destination, though, with Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley leading one of the most talented offenses in the NFL. Foles could be the piece that makes them take a forward step. Were this signing to come to fruition, Foles would demand QB1 consideration given the pieces that would be around him.
Free-agent QB Nick Foles (Eagles) is not expected to return to the Philadelphia Eagles as the backup to Carson Wentz.
Fantasy Spin: Foles deserves a starting job. He won't want to play as a backup and make less money when there are teams willing to pay him to be their starter. He can be a part of the QB1 conversation if he lands in the right spot. Of course, when Wentz is healthy he too has QB1 appeal.
Free-agent QB Colin Kaepernick (49ers) and former NFL QB Tim Tebow were asked if they wanted to join the Alliance of American Football, according to league co-founder Bill Polian. Polian said he doesn't know what transpired with Kaepernick, but added that he spoke personally with Tebow, who declined.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown and Steelers impending free-agent RB Le'Veon Bell are not expected to be intensely pursued by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. The Colts will have the most salary cap space in the league this offseason and will do their due diligence, but Brown's off-field drama and Bell's asking price may be too much for the Colts.
Fantasy Spin: The Colts did just fine last year without the services of Brown or Bell. Brown seems like more of an immediate need, but general manager Chris Ballard wants a cohesive and cooperative locker room. While the fantasy marriage of Brown and/or Bell with the Colts might be ideal, don't get your hopes up.
Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee is considered a strong candidate to be cut this offseason, in the opinion of NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. Lee's extensive injury history, $10 million cap hit and the presence of fellow LBs Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith don't bode well for a possible return.