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.
Indianapolis Colts tight endJack Doyle hasn't had the resurgent season he was hoping for after dealing with a hip injury last season. In Week 7, it's unlikely for that to change. He's had no more than 46 receiving yards in any game this season, and in four out of the five he's gone for 22 or fewer yards. After the top echelon of tight ends, it becomes mostly a dart throw at the position. However, when selecting your dart, you'll want to reach for a different player than Doyle for this week.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal has seen a surge in his workload over the past few weeks. Thanks to his size and athleticism, he's been able to get onto the field and he makes big plays happen, as he's had catches for 53 and 72 yards in the last three weeks. Against a Houston Texans offense that figures to score a fair amount of points, the Colts could use a big night out of him. The Texans are giving up over 250 passing yards per game, and Pascal should be on the receiving end of a few of those. If he can break one for a long touchdown, it could win you your week in deeper leagues.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron has struggled this year. He's caught just one ball in three out of the five games he's played, and he's been plagued with drops thus far. The key for him is getting into the end zone. Last season when he was a top-five tight end, he scored 14 total touchdowns. The Colts don't have another elite threat in the red zone, and he just has to come down with the ball when it's thrown to him. He's seen at least four targets in all but one game, so the opportunity is there. If he can come down with at least one touchdown, that will give him a solid stat line for the week.
The Indianapolis Colts Defense doesn't do anything all that exciting, and they aren't loaded with star power. However, they are well-coached and disciplined in their scheme. Despite that, you should still look to start a different defense in Week 7. The Houston Texans offense is sixth in the NFL in yards per game, and they've been heating up in recent weeks. Moving forward, the Colts may have some streaming upside in certain weeks, but Week 7 is not the right one.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has shaken off the struggles from the beginning of the season, and he's been rolling as of late. The Colts offense does a great job of moving the ball down the field, but they can struggle to put the ball into the end zone at times, which is where Vinny shines. He's not going to get you a lot of the long balls that you'll get from other younger kickers, but on the shorter end of things he's the best to ever do it.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack was a workhorse in Week 5 with 29 carries and 32 total touches. However, he wasn't able to punch the ball into the end zone. In Week 7, he should get some opportunities to carry the ball, but his workload is almost guaranteed to be lower. The Houston Texans are allowing just 88 yards on the ground at 4.4 yards per carry. They have a stout front and their team has been rolling as of late. Mack is the clear lead back for Indianapolis, and he belongs in your lineup. However, it is wise to temper expectations on his upside this week.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett is coming off the bye with a good matchup awaiting him. The Houston Texans are allowing the 24th most passing yards in the NFL. In the team's last game prior to the bye, Brissett had a quiet game because the team chose to ride running back Marlon Mack against the Kansas City Chiefs. With how the Houston offense has been putting up points, Brissett will likely be given more opportunities to air it out. This gives him his usual safe floor as a QB2 with some upside.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (quadriceps) is off of the injury report and he needs to be in your lineups for Week 7. Despite not playing with quarterback Andrew Luck, Hilton is proving that he is a must-start every week. He's scored four touchdowns in the four games that he has played, and he gets a juicy matchup against the 24th ranked passing defense of the Houston Texans. Additionally, this game is at home for Indianapolis, which will give the offense less of a struggle with crowd noise. In his eight-year career, he's had just one season in which he didn't put up at least one 100-yard game against Houston.
Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Kirk (ankle) will not play until his ankle is 100 percent, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who added that Kirk's ankle is not there yet.
Fantasy Spin: Kirk hasn't played since Week 4, and though Kingsbury added that the receiver is closer to playing than he was last week it certainly looks possible that Kirk will miss his third straight game this Sunday.
Houston Texans QB Alex McGough was waived Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Los Angeles Rams CB Aqib Talib (rib) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Dallas Cowboys DE Tyrone Crawford (hip) was officially placed on the Reserve/Injured list on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
The Oakland Raiders worked out free-agent RB Bo Scarbrough (Cowboys) on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Free-agent RB LeGarrette Blount (Lions) worked out for the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Oakland Raiders TE Darren Waller was signed to a three-year contract extension through the 2023 season, a source said Wednesday, Oct. 16. He was slated to be a restricted free agent in March 2020. His deal is around $9 million annually.
Fantasy Spin: Waller has emerged as a low-end TE1 in most fantasy leagues, as he is a legit option in the passing game in Oakland. The Raiders head to Green Bay to tangle with the Packers in Week 7.
Oakland Raiders WR Tyrell Williams (foot) has yet to return to practice, and head coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday, Oct. 16 that the wideout is dealing with plantar fasciitis. 'Whatever that is, he has,' Gruden said. 'It's not getting much better.''
Fantasy Spin: It's uncertain when the de facto No. 1 receiver for Oakland will be able to return to the practice field or game action. Plantar fasciitis can take a lot of time to heal, even with aggressive treatment. Fantasy owners will want to make alternate plans for Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard will not be traded at the deadline, according to a source. The organization can also have him under control for two to three more years depending on franchise or transition tags, too.
Fantasy Spin: Howard is having a down year statistically, as head coach Bruce Arians has relied upon the tight end more for his blocking ability. At this point he has devolved into a TE2 in most fantasy formats, but at least it appears he won't be changing organizations anytime soon.
Green Bay Packers SS Ibraheim Campbell (knee) and TE Jace Sternberger (ankle) were able to practice Wednesday, Oct. 16. The team has 21 days to let them practice to decide upon activating them and having the players count against the 53-man roster.
Miami Dolphins DE Robert Nkemdiche (undisclosed) and CB Cordrea Tankersley (undisclosed) returned to practice Wednesday, Oct. 16. Both players started on the Physically Unable to Practice (PUP) list. The two players can practice up to 21 days before the team has to decide to activate them and count against the 53-man roster.
Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard (knee) was able to practice Wednesday, Oct. 16. He remains on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, and he can practice up to 21 days without counting against the 53-man roster. The hope is that he can return as soon as Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars with CBs Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and William Jackson III (shoulder) out.