Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers reacts during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Denver. Denver Broncos won 23-20. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Los Angeles Chargers fans watch during the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Sam Acho, left, forces a fumble as he sacks Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack sits on the bench late in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. The Titans won 42-20. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Close losses have defined the Los Angeles Chargers' season. The Jacksonville Jaguars would take one of those right now.
The Jaguars (4-8) have been blown out in four straight, trailing by as many as 25, 32, 24 and 23 points in lopsided affairs that crushed the team's playoffs hopes and turned the final month of the season into an endless debate about the futures of coach Doug Marrone, personnel chief Tom Coughlin, general manager Dave Caldwell and quarterback Nick Foles.
Jacksonville will try to end the skid Sunday at home against the Chargers (4-8), who have dropped three in a row. Each of those losses - just like the previous five - was by seven points or less.
''It's been tough,'' said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who turns 38 on Sunday. ''Obviously, to be on the losing end of eight one-score games is tough. ... It has been a tough go, but we have the fourth quarter (of the season) left. We can only control what we have left.''
Rivers has played a huge role in LA's problems. The veteran has 17 turnovers, including the second-most interceptions (15) in the league.
But he could find refuge against Jacksonville, a team he's tormented over the years. Rivers has thrown for 2,354 yards and 21 touchdowns in eight career starts against the Jaguars. He has 13 TD passes and an interception in his last four against Jacksonville.
''He's a guy that if you make the small mistakes or if you're half a yard off your assignment, he's going to make you pay for it,'' Jaguars defensive tackle Abry Jones said. ''He's a guy that likes to talk a lot of trash and is always willing to back it up. I don't want to hear him talk all day, so we're going to have to go out there defensively and do our job.''
What kind of smack?
''Very wholesome, Godly talk,'' Jones added. ''Very impressive. I don't think I can go that long without cussing.''
The Jaguars have given fans reason to swear in recent weeks. The offensive line is a mess. The tight end situation is even worse. The defense can't stop the run and could be down four starters from the opener. Teammates had to be separated in the locker room following last week's home loss to Tampa Bay.
Maybe rookie sensation Gardner Minshew will fix everything.
Marrone benched Foles after three lackluster starts - he had twice as many turnovers (four) as touchdowns and was sacked eight times in 10 quarters - and switched back to Minshew for the remainder of the season. Minshew is considerably more mobile than Foles and is at his best while improvising. He has 14 touchdown passes and five interceptions, but also has lost seven of his 12 fumbles.
''He has done some really good things for a rookie,'' Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. ''It just seems like that team is inspired by him when he comes in the game. ... It's not fluff. If you watch the tape, the guy makes plays. He extends plays, he's creative. He throws with some accuracy and he runs; he's mobile.''
Here are some other things to know about the Chargers and Jaguars:
Former Jaguars coach Gus Bradley returns to Jacksonville for the second time in three seasons as the Chargers' defensive coordinator. Bradley still has a home and plenty of friends in Jacksonville. Marrone, defensive coordinator Todd Wash, tight ends coach Ron Middleton and assistant special teams coordinator Mike Mallory all worked under Bradley, who lost in overtime his first game back two years ago.
The Chargers are allowing a league-low 259 yards from scrimmage since Week 6, but they are 0-2 against rookie quarterbacks. Pittsburgh's Devlin Hodges and Denver's Drew Lock won their first NFL starts against Los Angeles. Next rookie up: Minshew.
END ZONE WATCH
Chargers reciever Mike Williams, who has at least one reception of 40 or more yards in five consecutive games, is still looking for his first touchdown of the season. It's an odd drought considering he had 11 touchdowns (10 receiving, one rushing) last year.
Marrone pretty much discovered Chargers veteran linebacker Thomas Davis. Marrone was Georgia's offensive line coach in 2000 when he was tasked with scouting a quarterback/free safety at Randolph Clay High in Cuthbert, Georgia. Marrone watched him play, invited him to camps, met his parents and ended up getting a commitment.
''You don't realize what they're going to be, but Thomas is a story that's one I'll always look back on and be really appreciative of, knowing how hard he's worked and what happened and how he's changed everything,'' said Marrone, who ended up leaving for Tennessee before Davis signed with the Bulldogs.
Buffalo Bills DE Jerry Hughes (wrist) had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his wrist this week.
Miami Dolphins QB Josh Rosen hasn't been written off, according to general manager Chris Grier, and Grier said he saw improvement in Rosen during practice throughout the year.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. Mid-week downgrades aren't good, but we still have another full week before the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, so Kelce should be just fine to play in the big game against the 49ers. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (illness) returned to a full practice after sitting out on Wednesday. Although Kelce had just three catches for 30 yards in the AFC Championship against Tennessee, he busted out for 10 grabs, 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Divisional Round against Houston. Kelce was the top-scoring fantasy tight end in 2019 and could easily have a big game in the Super Bowl against San Francisco.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) is expected to turn himself in to police but hadn't done so as of the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 23, according to a public information officer for the Hollywood Police Department in Florida. 'I believe they've given him ample opportunity to turn himself in,'' Christian Lata told USA TODAY Sports. An arrest warrant was issued against Brown following an incident with a moving truck driver Tuesday, Jan. 21. 'I'm sure it's going to be within today or tomorrow, but I'm not sure exactly when,'' Lata said late Thursday afternoon. 'I would assume it would be sooner than later.''
Fantasy Spin: There's less and less reason to hold out hope of Brown finding his way onto an NFL roster and becoming fantasy relevant in 2020. Dynasty owners should be looking to move on.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman did some solo work as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder. Expect him to play in Super Bowl LIV Sunday, Feb. 2.
Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones (calf) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 23. CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and C Austin Reiter (wrist) practiced in full. DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (hand) was removed from the injury report. S Jordan Lucas (illness) didn't practice.
San Francisco 49ers WR Dante Pettis (illness) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 23. LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral), DL Dee Ford (quad, hamstring) and S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) were limited. LB Dre Greenlaw (ankle) practiced in full.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce and the Chiefs have a long way to go until Super Bowl LIV Sunday, Feb. 2. He should be fully expected to be on the field.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Demarcus Robinson (illness) returned to a full practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Robinson has scored just one touchdown since Week 3, and he hasn't recorded 100 or more receiving yards since Week 2. He's a risky flier without a guaranteed role in the offense.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) was seen running on a side field ahead of the team's practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: It appears Coleman will be able to suit up for Super Bowl LIV after dislocating his shoulder in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. He'll continue splitting work with Raheem Mostert and, to a lesser degree, Matt Breida. Any or all of the three could have a big game, but it's Mostert with the hot hand following the NFC Championship.
Houston Texans CB Gareon Conley (ankle) recently underwent a procedure to have a screw removed from his right ankle but is expected to be recovered in full for the beginning of the team's offseason workout program, according to a league source Thursday, Jan. 23.
Oakland Raiders CB Nevin Lawson signed a one-year contract extension Thursday, Jan. 23. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) is doing some running on a side field at the team's practice on Thursday. Despite sitting out of practice, Coleman appears very much in play to suit up for the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2. He suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship win over the Packers, but Coleman has an extra week to heal up and should be good to go for the big game. He will continue to serve as a change-of-pace back for Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers.
The Atlanta Falcons plan to tender a contract to impending exclusive-rights free-agent kicker Younghoe Koo. The 25-year-old place kicker solidified the team's kicking position in the final eight games of the season, making 23 of his 26 field-goal tries and 15 of his 16 extra points. Koo went 7-for-9 on kicks from 40-49 yards and hit his only attempt of 50-plus yards. While he should enter the 2020 season as the favorite to kick for Atlanta, the Falcons will also bring in some competition to push him. With an offense that can be explosive and put up points, Koo will have some fantasy appeal if he sticks around.
Houston Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2020, said he'd be happy to stay with the team for the long-term. "Whatever coach decides to do, I'm happy. I'd be happy to stay there with Deshaun (Watson) and help win games," Tunsil said. He was traded to the Texans from the Dolphins last season and was a massive upgrade for Houston's offensive line and quarterback Deshaun Watson. It remains to be seen if the team will offer Tunsil a long-term deal, but one thing that is certain is that Tunsil's presence on Watson's blind side is great news heading into next season as the Texans look to get back to the postseason.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert gained 158 of his 220 rushing yards after contact in the NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Jan. 19. It was the most yards after contact by a running back in the postseason since 2006.
Fantasy Spin: Next up is a Chiefs run defense that surrendered 128.2 yards per game during the regular season -- seventh most in the league -- but the larger fantasy question is whether Mostert will enter 2020 as the Niners' lead back. A standout game on the Super Bowl stage surely will go a long way toward cementing that.
The Dallas Cowboys haven't had contract discussions with wide receiver Amari Cooper, but he said that he wants to be in Dallas for a long time. Cooper will become a free agent in March, but he is the team's No. 2 priority this offseason behind quarterback Dak Prescott. Despite dealing with nagging injuries for most of the season, Cooper had 79 receptions for a career-high 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns over a full season in 2019. It's hard to imagine Dallas letting him walk in free agency, and his fantasy value would remain the highest as a high-end WR1 if he stays with the Cowboys moving forward. If he goes elsewhere, Michael Gallup would become the team's No. 1 wideout.
Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr is tiring of the quarterback rumors surrounding the team -- the latest resulting from a photo taken of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, a pending free agent, and Raiders owner Mark Davis talking at Jan. 18 UFC fight in Las Vegas. 'C'mon man, when's it going to end?' Carr asked.
Fantasy Spin: Carr, who set career highs in passing yards (4,054) and completion percentage (70.4) in 2019, is entering the third year of a five-year, $125 million contract but his release would save the Raiders $16.5 million against the 2020 salary cap. It's likely he sticks with the Raiders for another season -- the franchise's first in Las Vegas -- but he remains an up-and-down QB2 for fantasy purposes.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees isn't rushing his decision on whether he'll return for another season. I wanted to give it at least a few weeks, months, postseason, just to take a deep breath and decompress a little bit and get some time with the family and then just reassess,' Brees said Wednesday, Jan. 22, during an interview at the Pro Bowl.
Fantasy Spin: Brees just turned 41 and is coming off a season where he missed five games due to a thumb injury, but he still finished eighth among fantasy QBs with an average of 23.9 fantasy points per game while helping guide the Saints to another NFC South title. He'll be in the low-end QB1 discussion once again if he's back for his 15th season in the Big Easy.
Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, a pending free agent, could receive the franchise tag from the Bengals this offseason. 'The franchise tag is not the best thing,' Green said in a TV interview. 'But like I said, I'm not turning down 18 million dollars. It just happens. When you run a business, you have to make difficult decisions. But I feel like when you put that on me, then that's what you're showing me, you only want me for one year. And I always play with a chip on my shoulder.'
Fantasy Spin: Green's situation will be one of the intriguing offseason storylines -- in fantasy and reality -- to follow, but keep in mind he'll turn 31 in July and, more importantly, has played a total of 17 actual snaps since Week 8 of the 2018 season. That sets up a fantasy sleeper situation, rife with boom or bust potential.