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.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram rushed 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown in Week 6 against the Bengals. The Ravens play a Seahawks Defense that has allowed 557 rushing yards and given up six touchdowns to opposing backs in 2019. In Week 6 Seattle allowed the Browns to rush for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Ingram has rushed for at least 44 yards in every game this season, but is becoming a touchdown-dependent option. He hasn't even come close to his outlier performance against Kansas City when he rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Baltimore still hosts a run-first offense so expect Ingram to get his touches, but he's in RB2 territory for Week 7.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson posted 236 passing yards, 152 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown against the Bengals in Week 6. Baltimore plays a Seahawks Defense in Week 7 that's allowed the eighth-most passing yards in the league through six games (1,602). Seattle has allowed at least 15 fantasy points every week to opposing quarterbacks in 2019 and let Baker Mayfield run for a touchdown in Week 6. Receiver Marquise Brown is still questionable to play with an ankle injury. If Hollywood is unable to go on Sunday, expect tight end Mark Andrews to get the bulk of targets and for Jackson to use his legs to get the ball moving. Jackson has firmly placed himself as a top-three QB start for the rest of the way.
New York Jets WR Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) was a limited participant in practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is questionable for Monday Night Football.
Fantasy Spin: Thomas may not get to face his former team in the New England Patriots. He's coming off his best game of the season in Week 6, catching all four of his targets for 62 yards. He's a flex option at best as a bye-week replacement if active.
New York Jets TE Chris Herndon (hamstring) didn't practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is considered doubtful for Monday, Oct. 21's game against the New England Patriots.
Fantasy Spin: Herndon is yet to play this season following suspension and now injury. WRs Jamison Crowder and Robby Anderson will remain the target hogs in New York's passing game.
New York Jets LB Albert McClellan (concussion) didn't practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is out for Monday, Oct. 21's game against the New England Patriots. DE Henry Anderson (shoulder), OL Kelvin Beachum (ankle), RB Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle), LB Neville Hewitt (neck/knee) and G Kelechi Osemele (shoulder) also didn't practice and are considered doubtful. OL Alex Lewis (neck), CB Nate Hairston (knee), LB C.J. Mosley (groin), DT Steve McLendon (hamstring), CB Darryl Roberts (ankle) and Brian Winters (shoulder/knee) were limited participants and are questionable. C Ryan Kalil (shoulder) didn't practice and is also questionable.
New England Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) was limited in practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is considered questionable for Monday, Oct. 21's games against the New York Jets.
Fantasy Spin: Dorsett is at risk of missing a second straight game after he left the Week 5 contest against the Washington Redskins with just four snaps played. WR Josh Gordon (ankle) has already been ruled out and WR Julian Edelman (chest) is also questionable. Expect plenty of work for RBs James White and Sony Michel in the passing game.
New England Patriots RB Rex Burkhead (foot) was a limited participant in practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is considered questionable for Monday Night Football against the New York Jets.
Fantasy Spin: Burkhead hasn't been noteworthy this season outside of a surprise Week 3 start with RBs James White and Sony Michel inactive. Expect his two teammates to see plenty of work this week.
New England Patriots TE Ryan Izzo (concussion) didn't practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and has been ruled out for Monday night's game against the New York Jets. TE Matt LaCosse (knee) also didn't practice and has been ruled out. S Patrick Chung (heel/chest) and WR Gunner Olszewski (hamstring) were limited and are questionable for Monday.
New England Patriots WR Josh Gordon (ankle) was ruled out for Monday, Oct. 21's game against the New York Jets.
Fantasy Spin: Gordon made just one seven-yard catch against the New York Giants last Thursday night. His absence should open up playing time and targets for Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers. Both are desperation flex plays as bye-week replacements.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (chest) was a limited participant in practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is considered questionable for Monday, Oct. 21's game against the New York Jets.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman had season highs with 15 targets, nine receptions and 113 yards last Thursday against the New York Giants. He should suit up Monday, but don't expect such high volume with added work for the running backs and WR Jakobi Meyers likely on the way.
Free-agent DT Mike Pennel was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday, Oct. 19. DT Terrell McClain was released in a corresponding move.
Despite being the starting tight end last week, Luke Willson was only able to scrape together three targets. Baltimore is a neutral-to-slightly bad matchup for TE's, but even in a plus matchup, Willson will only be relevant if he's able to break the plane. Until he builds a track record of decent usage, Willson isn't even worth a speculative add at this point.
Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson was added to the 53-man roster Saturday, Oct. 19, following his six-game suspension. OL Brett Toth (illness) was placed on the non-football injury list in a corresponding move.
No team in football has yielded more rushing yards per contest than the Cincinnati Bengals during 2019, who have allowed the opposition to storm down the field for over 184 yards per contest. What does all that mean? Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars unquestioned No. 1 option on the offensive side of the ball should be in line to feast. Not only has Fournette seen at least 20 carries in each of his last three contests, he has recorded at least four receptions in five of six games this year. While a lot of the talk surrounding Fournette has been focused on his aversion to finding the end zone through the first six weeks, the combination of one of the leagues top rushers facing the one of the leagues most permeable run defenses should equal big things for No. 27.
Jacksonville Jaguars second-year wide receiver D.J. Chark might wind up being the unlikeliest member of the Pro Bowl roster if he continues his dominant 2019 campaign. Through six games, Chark has totaled 528 yards and five touchdowns, bringing that hot stretch into a matchup against a Cincinnati Bengals Defense that has yielded the fewest points to opposing wide receivers entering this week. The 23-year-old has recorded four or fewer catches in two of his past three games, but the targets havent been an issue Chark has combined to see 26 balls thrown his way in that span. Hes a reasonably priced asset in DFS and should likely be roster in most traditional formats.
Houston Texas running back Duke Johnson is still drawing snaps and making the most of his time on the field, but has seen Carlos Hyde erupt over the past few weeks as a ball carrier. Johnson found the end zone as a receiver last week, his first receiving touchdown since Week 10 of last season. The former Miami (FL) standout is yet to record double-digit carries in a contest this season, limiting his fantasy value significantly. Despite averaging a gaudy 6.5 yards per carry through the first six weeks, owners will need to see Johnson consistently tip the scales as it pertains to a timeshare in the backfield before deploying him in lineups.
Houston Texans CB Bradley Roby (hamstring) on Saturday, Oct. 19, was downgraded to out for the Week 7 game against the Indianapolis Colts. Roby did not travel with the team.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller erupted onto the scene as a legitimate fantasy weapon in Week 5 with his 15-reception, three-touchdown game. He followed it up by a pedestrian outing last week, but he did see nine targets, with finding the end zone on multiple occasions very nearly coming to fruition. The Colts pass defense is nothing to be scoffed at, but Fullers boom/bust potential seems to be at its apex with his recent output. With quarterback Deshaun Watson under center, Fuller presents a definite traditional fantasy option and a great upside DFS play.
He may have been acquired in the wake of the Lamar Miller injury, but Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde is making his impact felt with his new franchise. Houston is fifth in the league with nearly 140 yards gained on the ground per game, with Hyde now having established himself as the bell cow of the group. He carried the ball a season-high 26 times last week, resulting in his first performance that exceeded 100 yards since Week 2 of the 2017 year. In addition, he has found the end zone in three of his past four games, aiming to continue that trend against a middle of the pack Colts rush defense.
The primary concern surrounding Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook is a shoulder ailment that has kept his status for Sundays contest up in the air. While owners wouldnt be blamed for shying away with the injury lingering enough to keep the questionable tag on him, Westbrook has seen a combined 19 targets from quarterback Gardner Minshew over the past two weeks. The former Oklahoma standout has only pulled in one touchdown reception this season but has had numerous opportunities since then. A matchup against a thin Cincinnati secondary could lead to a high-volume passing afternoon for all those involved in the Jacksonville offense.