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.
Los Angeles Chargers backup kicker Chase McLaughlin did about as well as could be expected on Sunday as he was able to knock through one of the two field goal tries he was given. His other attempt glanced off the left upright, skittering across the end zone. McLaughlin shouldn't be expected to have much of a future with LA, but with primary kicker Michael Badgley still considered week-to-week with a groin injury, he may have a little play. Unfortunately, LA's offense has struggled mightily as of late, so even if McLaughlin does get the job for a while, he's probably not interesting to the vast majority of the fantasy community.
Coming off of a bye and facing one of the league's most generous defenses, the stars seemed to be aligned for Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen to show his true talent in Week 6. Rosen was instead benched to start the fourth quarter after throwing for just 85 yards on 15-of-25 passing, leading Miami to only three points before departing with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. While head coach Brian Flores did confirm after the game that Rosen is still the starter, the second-year quarterback on his second team just simply isn't viable in any format. Rosen should be left on the waiver wire again next week, as he and the Dolphins have a tough matchup against a stingy Buffalo defense.
For the third straight week, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen was effectively neutralized. Allen caught just three passes for 33 yards as Pittsburgh basically removed him from the action. This now makes three straight games in which Allen has been held under 50 yards receiving, and LA has gone on to lose two of those matchups. It appears opposing defenses are starting to key in on Allen as a catalyst for the offense, and the Chargers haven't been able to make them pay in the process. Allen got off to a quick start this season and looked like he'd be in the running for the top wideout in the league, but now it's just up in the air whether he's worthy of starting week in and week out.
Los Angeles Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins was able to provide a moment of happiness for Chargers fans on Sunday when he made a beautiful diving stab to snatch an interception away on a deep pass. Jenkins' play helped act as a catalyst to allow LA to get back into the game when they were down by three touchdowns, and the offense was able to turn the change in possession into a touchdown a few minutes later. Jenkins and the rest of the Chargers Defense played a decent game against Pittsburgh and their third-string quarterback getting his first ever start, but they still struggled to generate any pressure on the quarterback. After a second straight loss, they'll need to step it up over the next few weeks if they want to stop the slide.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams was Philip Rivers' favorite target on Sunday night, but he was only able to haul in half the throws. Rivers struggled mightily from the pocket, but Williams worked well as an outlet while No. 1 wideout Keenan Allen seemed to be focused on by the defense. Williams finished with 72 yards receiving, and while he didn't find the end zone, he came up just short on multiple occasions. The return of Hunter Henry will only further cut into Williams' targets in most games, but now that teams have seen LA's offense struggle two weeks in a row when Allen was neutralized, Williams may see an uptick as a way to try to counteract how teams scheme for the Chargers.
The Denver Broncos Defense had their best game of the season so far, as they blanked the Tennessee Titans in a shutout win. The Broncos were all over the field, forcing seven sacks and three interceptions while holding the Titans to just over 200 yards. This is has been the most impressive performance from the Denver Defense this year, but they have no easy task ahead of them as they face the lethal Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was already expected to see a drop in usage due to the full return of Melvin Gordon, but he was further buried when the team was suddenly down 14 points before the end of the first quarter. While Ekeler has the ability to be a star, and he showed that ability in the first few games of the season, he's held down by the situation he's in. Gordon will see the majority of carries, and Ekeler will easily become a victim of circumstances. This game isn't enough to predict his entire future since the whole team played terribly, but anyone still holding on to Ekeler should be very concerned about what lies ahead.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry was everything people thought he would be and more. Henry was basically the only bright spot for the Chargers on Sunday night as he snagged eight of the nine passes sent in his direction and tallied 100 yards and two touchdowns. Henry showed off some incredible awareness on his first touchdown catch, getting his second foot down just centimeters from the back line of the end zone. His second was a bit easier, mostly because Pittsburgh went into a very soft defense since LA was down by two touchdowns with less than 90 seconds left in the game. It's highly unlikely Henry can put up these kinds of numbers every week, but Philip Rivers has wonderful history with his tight ends. Henry is a good target for fantasy owners.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had his game shortened this afternoon as he exited with a knee injury. Before leaving the contest, Sanders only managed to haul in one catch for zero yards. It is not believed that the veteran receiver's injury is serious, and despite having a short week ahead of him there is a chance that Sanders returns to action next week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers played poorly on Sunday as the Chargers lost to the Steelers. Rivers was responsible for turnovers on back-to-back drives in the first quarter when he overthrew Melvin Gordon on a backwards pass that was recovered and returned for a touchdown and had a tipped pass intercepted four plays later. With the Chargers in a 14-0 hole before the end of the first quarter, Rivers settled down and racked up a ton of yards through the air, finishing with 320. Unfortunately, the team wouldn't actually get on the board until the end of the third quarter, and Rivers would float a desperation pass at the end of the fourth quarter that would be intercepted to end the comeback. Rivers did tally a pair of passing touchdowns on the day, but his poor play was a major reason why LA lost on Sunday.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was a bit of an afterthought in Sunday's game against the Steelers. He was likely a major part of the original gameplan, but before the offense could run their 11th play from scrimmage, they had already turned the ball over twice and were down 14 points. At that point, the gameplan changed and Philip Rivers was tapped to air it out. Gordon would only touch the ball seven more times for the rest of the game. To compound his uselessness, Gordon wasn't very productive in his limited touches, but it's hard to figure out who to pin the blame on when the offensive line is a mix of bad players and backups who are in because of injuries and the running back is still getting his sea legs under him. Don't be surprised if there are more growing pains ahead.
Called upon in the fourth quarter to take over an offense that had thus far been stagnant, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick almost pulled out Miami's first win of the season in Week 6 before ultimately losing to the Washington Redskins 17-16. Fitzpatrick entered the game and led the Dolphins on two touchdown drives, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Devante Parker with six seconds left in the game that put the Dolphins down just 17-16. Electing to go for two, Fitzpatrick found an open Kenyan Drake in the flat but Drake was unable to haul the pass in, ensuring that Miami keeps on rolling towards 0-16 and the number-one pick in the draft. Even with the near-heroics, head coach Randy Flores says Josh Rosen will remain the starter going forward, making Fitzpatrick unplayable in fantasy until further notice.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant disappointed against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon, posting an abysmal stat line. The rookie tight end managed only two catches for 16 yards on the game, a part of what has been a lackluster rookie season thus far for the first-round draft pick. Fant has struggled to find a consistent role in Denver's lacking passing attack, but the volume and playing time continues to be present. Fant lines up against the Kansas City Chiefs next week on Thursday night.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus had his best game to date this afternoon against the Tennessee Titans. The seasoned Bronco connected on all three of his field-goal attempts, hitting from 31, 48, and 53 yards out. He also hit on his lone extra-point try. McManus continues to be a solid option on a weekly basis to leave in your kicker spot and you can trust him to get you points.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton continues to see high volume in the Broncos offensive scheme and is becoming the clear number one receiver in the team's system. Life, Death, and Courtland Sutton receiving over seven targets, this narrative stayed true in Week 6 as Sutton had eight balls thrown his way and hauled four in for 76 yards receiving. The young buck hopes to continue his successes next week against the Kansas City Chiefs in a divisional matchup on Thursday night.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee caught three balls for 25 yards in the Week 6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams only threw for 78 yards in a miserable game. Higbee actually led the team with those 25 yards receiving. He just doesn't produce enough to crack the lineup. Keep him on the bench against the Atlanta Falcons next week.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett caught just two passes for nine yards in the Week 6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams only threw for 78 yards as a team. Everett was targeted five times. He'll have a better matchup against the Atlanta Falcons next week, but he falls back to a high-end TE2 that may not make the fantasy lineup.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense allowed 20 points, recorded two sacks and picked off one pass against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6. The Rams will have a so-so matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7. However, the Rams' unit hasn't been productive enough to hold onto at this point.
Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco posted one of his worst fantasy performances of the season thus far in Week 6, continuing his struggles this season. Denver has seemed to figure out how to win games in the last two weeks, and unfortunately for Joe Flacco owners, the passing game doesn't seem to be that solution. The veteran signal-caller threw for only 177 yards and zero touchdowns alongside one interception. The Broncos continue to lean on the run game, leaving a daunting matchup for Flacco's stock as they face off against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday evening.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds had five carries for 34 yards and caught two balls for 33 yards and a touchdown in the Week 6 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Edmonds pitched in even with running back David Johnson (back) handling a full workload. Edmonds needs to be owned, but he's not likely to see enough work to continue to be in the flex discussion. The Cards have a solid matchup against the New York Giants next week, which could give Edmonds another chance to contribute.