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.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram have been cleared for Sunday's contest against the Cardinals and appear to be set to return to their full workloads. Both should immediately be inserted back into lineups with elite matchups against an over-matched Cardinals Defense. Engram's return does knock Golden Tate's value a bit for this week, and Barkley's return means Daniel Jones will be asked to throw the ball much less; however, this is great news overall for the Giants offense and perhaps the defense as well since the Giants will be able to sustain drives and give their defense a rest.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) suffered a right patellar dislocation in the second quarter during a QB sneak on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos, according to a source. He is undergoing an MRI exam on Friday to determine if there is any ligament damage, but the best-case timeline for Mahomes "would be around three weeks." Mahomes has been in good spirits about the injury, but he's definitely expected to miss some time. He had also been playing through an ankle injury he suffered in Week 1. Backup Matt Moore took over and went 10-for-19 for 117 yards and a touchdown. He has weapons around him but will be a low-end QB2 for however long Mahomes is out. You'll obviously need to stash last year's MVP on your bench and hope for a quick return.
Dallas Cowboys wide receivers Amari Cooper (ankle, quadriceps) and Randall Cobb (back) are both expected to return to practice on Friday and play against the Eagles in Week 7 on Sunday night, according to sources. The same can be said for offensive tackles Tyron Smith (ankle) and La'el Collins (knee). Cooper and Cobb were trending towards not playing, but it looks like both receivers will give it a go. With that said, both could be extremely limited, making them both risky fantasy plays this weekend despite the excellent matchup. Expect them both to be listed as questionable for this divisional tilt. Either way, Michael Gallup has an opportunity for a big game this Sunday.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders finished by hauling in five of his six targets for 60 yards in the loss to Kansas City on Thursday. After dealing with a knee injury coming into this one, Sanders played the role of innocent bystander after watching quarterback Joe Flacco get slaughtered for eight sacks by the Chiefs Defense. Though this performance was a step in the right direction after compiling just two catches for nine yards during his previous two outings, he will continue to remain at the mercy of Flacco's inability to get anything going this season in addition to Courtland Sutton stepping up as the go-to receiver in Denver.
Denver Broncos running back Royce Freeman managed to score a touchdown despite rushing for just 35 yards on 10 attempts during the loss to Kansas City. With the Chiefs Defense finally stepping up in this one, Freeman and backfield mate Phillip Lindsay were collectively held to just 71 yards on Thursday night. Both men should continue to split carries moving ahead, with the slight edge from a fantasy perspective going to Lindsay moving forward.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton played well in the loss to Kansas City on Thursday, finishing the night with 87 yards on six receptions. With the Chiefs Defense smothering Joe Flacco with eight sacks in this one while limiting backfield mates Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman for a combined 71 yards, Sutton played good enough considering how bad things would turn out. He continues to lead the way in the receiving department for the Broncos and will likely continue to get his looks in Week 8 against the Colts. He remains a must-start in all formats for the most part.
Denver Broncos running back Phillips Lindsay couldn't get anything going against a Chiefs Defense that stepped in the wake of the injury to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is expected to miss some time after suffering a knee injury in the second quarter. After accumulating four touchdowns over his last four games, Lindsay finished with just 36 yards on 11 carries in this one. Though Royce Freeman managed to rush for a touchdown, expect these two to continue to split carries, with a slight edge going to Lindsay moving forward.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (hip/calf) has been a limited participant in practice this week, after returning to action in a 17-16 Week 6 loss to the Washington Redskins. After missing virtually the entire season due to injury, Wilson caught 5-of-6 targets against the Redskins but only totaled 15 yards. While he has been limited leading up to a matchup on the road against the Buffalo Bills in Week 7, Wilson is still expected to be the Dolphins starting slot receiver. Unfortunately, it will come against a Buffalo Bills Defense that is allowing the fewest points per game to opposing wide receivers in 2019. Whether he's fully healthy or not, Wilson belongs on the waiver wire with the rest of his teammates.
Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco finished with 213 yards on 21-for-34 passing in the blowout loss to Kansas City on Thursday. The veteran wasn't able to get anything going as the Chiefs Defense recorded nine sacks on the night, with eight of them going to Flacco. Though the former Raven has maintained a career-best 65.7 completion percentage, he has thrown for just six touchdowns to go along with five picks on the year. With this loss in the books, the Broncos will look to get on track against the Colts in Week 8 but continue to expect to see Flacco as a free agent in a majority of fantasy leagues, and for a good reason.
After being benched following a Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named the starter for a Week 7 matchup in Buffalo. Fitzpatrick replaced starter Josh Rosen in the fourth quarter of Miami's loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 6, leading the Dolphins on two touchdown drives but ultimately falling short of victory. Facing his most recent former team, Fitzpatrick may find it tough sledding in Buffalo, as the Bills are allowing less than 10 points per game to opposing quarterbacks, a mark that is fourth-best in the league. Even having regained his starting position, Fitzpatrick doesn't belong anywhere but on the waiver wire until further notice.
Benched to start the fourth quarter after throwing two interceptions and completing 15-of-25 passes for just 85 yards in a 17-16 Week 6 loss to the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen will ride the pine again in Week 7. Claiming on Monday that he believed Rosen would still remain the starting quarterback going forward, head coach Brian Flores proved once again that the words of NFL coaches can rarely be trusted, announcing on Wednesday that Ryan Fitzpatrick would instead start against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. A first-round pick in 2018, Rosen has since been traded from the team that drafted him and been benched by league's worst team. If Rosen is still on your roster for some reason, now it the time to correct the mistake.
Following his first career start in a 17-16 loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 6, Miami Dolphins running back Mark Walton (thumb) has been limited in practice this week, but he should be good to go for Week 7. Even with the start, Walton is still clearly behind Kenyan Drake on the depth chart heading into a Week 7 matchup on the road against a tough Buffalo defense. While there is no reason to start Walton this week in any league, he would certainly become more interesting if Drake were to be dealt before the October 29 trade deadline. Until then Walton remains only a speculative stash.
The subject of trade rumors that have recently heated up, Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake continues to be a fantasy non-entity heading into a Week 7 matchup with the Buffalo Bills. Drake has only 290 total yards on the season, with 19 receptions and zero touchdowns, giving him just 25 points on the year in standard leagues and making him a poor option for a majority of fantasy teams. Things won't get any easier in Week 7 with Miami facing one of the league's stingiest defenses in regards to allowing fantasy points. While the Bills are not as effective at stopping the run as they are the pass, the 18 points per game they've allowed to running backs is still good for 12th-best in the NFL. Facing a tough defense on the road and with teammate Mark Walton continuing to see more action, Drake's owners can only hope that he's traded to a better situation. Until that happens, he remains a low-end RB3/flex in deep leagues only.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams was briefly trending up in the fantasy community after receiving 12 targets in a Week 3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but his arrow has since pointed right back down. Blanketed by cornerback Josh Norman for much of last week's 17-16 loss to the Washington Redskins, Williams finished with just 31 yards receiving, catching two of his six targets. Williams and the Dolphins travel to Buffalo on Sunday to face a Bills Defense that has allowed a league-low 71 points to opposing wide receivers in 2019. That mark is almost 20 points better than the 90 points allowed by the Chicago Bears, who sit in second place in the category. Like most of his Dolphin teammates, Williams is nothing but a desperate flex play and should remain on the waiver wire until Miami's offense proves it can be anything but awful.
He may have scored touchdowns in his past two games but Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker still isn't trending up and still doesn't belong on your fantasy roster. Even in a favorable matchup last week against the previously winless Washington Redskins, and with teammate Preston Wilson drawing most of cornerback Josh Norman's attention, Parker still only finished with 28 yards on three receptions, with his touchdown not coming until Miami's final drive. Heading into a Week 7 matchup with a Buffalo defense that's allowing the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on the season, Parker should only be a dart thrown at the flex position by desperate owners in deep leagues.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense should continue their dominant run in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. Entering the contest as the second-best defense by DVOA, the Niners should wreak havoc against quarterback Case Keenum and the woeful Skins. Operating as heavy favorites, the defense should steer Washington away from its stagnant run game and put constant pressure on an offensive line thats allowed 15 sacks. Facing one of the sloppier teams in the NFL, the 49ers make for a premium defensive unit this Sunday.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo enters Week 7 against the Washington Redskins with seven turnovers through five games (five picks, two fumbles). While he draws a cake matchup against the one-win Skins, Garoppolo is just an upside QB2 facing a weak pass defense. To climb the ranks of fantasy relevance, Garoppolo needs to stop committing mistakes and opposing teams must force the Niners away from their dominant rushing attack. That probably wont happen in Week 7 with the 49ers heavy favorites. While the run-heavy game plan partially offsets the juicy matchup, Garoppolo could finish the week a top-15 quarterback.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson was able to haul in a few receptions after a dud last week. Robinson didn't catch anything in the loss to the Colts during Week 6, but got back on the board in this one. He caught three of his five targets for 31 yards in the Week 7 victory over the Broncos. However, losing quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) is a big concern for the Chiefs offense. Robinson would only be a desperation flex option with veteran Matt Moore at quarterback in Week 8. Fantasy owners will have to wait and see what happens with Mahomes.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce continues to remain a strong and reliable fantasy option each and every week. He caught six of his eight targets for 44 yards in the Week 7 win over Denver. Kelce only has one touchdown this season, but continues to see a high volume of targets. It's unclear if quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) will suit up in Week 8 versus the Packers. However, Kelce is probably the only player on the Chiefs' offense that shouldn't lose value with Matt Moore at quarterback. Fantasy owners should continue to trust Kelce as a top five tight end.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill was having a slow game in the Thursday night matchup versus the Broncos, until one play changed it all. Hill caught a 57-yard touchdown from quarterback Matt Moore late in the third quarter. He finished with three receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown in the Week 7 victory. Patrick Mahomes (knee) going down will hurt the Chiefs offense, assuming he misses time. Hill would be downgraded to a high-end WR2 for Week 8, assuming Mahomes sits out at least one week.