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.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor is not a great starting option for Week 7. The Eagles hit the road to take on the Dallas Cowboys and their strong pass defense on Sunday Night Football. Agholor managed to catch four of his seven targets in Week 6, but caught only one pass in Weeks 4 and 5. He simply does not possess NFL-level hands and will always battle with drops and fumbles. The Eagles passing game will likely run through Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz, leaving Agholor far behind.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins is not a fantasy option in Week 7. The Eagles will take on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, and even if DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is forced to miss another game, Hollins will only play a bit role. Hollins saw seven targets in Week 3, but has seen just five total targets since then. He's playing plenty of snaps in three-wide sets, but just isn't seeing much of the ball going his way. He's droppable in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has not seen a pass thrown his way since Week 3. The hyped rookie saw four targets in Week 2 and three in Week 3, but hasn't seen any since then. He's been mostly working on special teams even without DeSean Jackson (abdomen) available on offense. The Eagles have been rolling with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins in three-wide sets, and that's not likely to change any time soon. Arcega-Whiteside is a dynasty hold for sure, but seems unlikely to develop much redraft value this season.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and tight end Evan Engram (knee) were both full participants in practice on Wednesday. Barkley and Engram are both on track to return for a mouthwatering Week 7 matchup against the Cardinals. Barkley's owners have to be ecstatic that he will wind up missing just two games after suffering a mild high right ankle sprain. Barkley and Engram will be high-end fantasy options at their respective positions this weekend. The Cardinals allow the most fantasy points per game to the tight end position. The return of both players should also boost rookie quarterback Daniel Jones' appeal as a QB streamer.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Devin Smith could be back in the starting lineup for a key Week 7 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. With Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) both questionable at best for Sunday Night Football, Smith could play the biggest role he's played all season against an Eagles pass defense that barely exists. Smith, as usual, will be a boom-or-bust play in fantasy, but could be a solid DFS value if Cooper and Cobb are both out.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cedrick Wilson could be elevated to a starting role on Sunday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles. With wide receivers Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) not sure things for Sunday's matchup, the Cowboys could be forced to roll with Michael Gallup, Devin Smith, and Wilson in three-wide sets. Wilson appeared out of nowhere onto the Cowboys box score in Week 6, catching five passes for 48 yards. He'll get an easy Eagles secondary to contend with, so Wilson could be a near zero-cost moderate upside value in DFS leagues this week.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Tavon Austin could have a legitimate role on offense in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles and their porous, generous pass defense. With Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) not sure things for Sunday night, Austin should see more snaps than usual. He somehow led the Cowboys in receiving last week, catching five passes for 64 yards. He's not a huge-upside play, but could end up as a decent bye week filler if Cooper and Cobb are both out.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery should have another solid performance in Week 7 despite a tough matchup. DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is questionable at best for Sunday and would likely be limited even if he were able to play, making Jeffery once again the top target in the passing game. The Cowboys defend well against the pass, but the Eagles will have to move the ball and Jeffery will likely be the one to do it. He's been solid this season although he hasn't shown a ton of upside. He's settled in as an every-week WR2.
Dallas Cowboys wide receivers Amari Cooper (thigh) and Randall Cobb (back) will not practice on Wednesday. Offensive tackles Tyron Smith (ankle) and La'el Collins (back) also aren't practicing. Consider all of them questionable to play on Sunday night in a big divisional showdown against the Eagles. Cooper was in serious pain after the Week 6 loss to the Jets and is in serious danger of sitting out this weekend. With Cobb also banged up and sitting out on Sunday, the Cowboys could be looking at three-wide sets of Michael Gallup, Devin Smith and Cedrick Wilson against the Eagles beatable secondary.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup should see an increased role in Week 7 and has a good matchup to exploit. The Cowboys will host the division rival Philadelphia Eagles and their struggling pass defense. Gallup could be playing as the top receiving option as Amari Cooper (quad) is not a sure thing for Sunday. With Gallup likely running as the top target through the air, he'll be a low-end WR1 if Cooper is out.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard could struggle in Week 7. The Eagles travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in a battle for first place, and Howard will face off against a tough Dallas run defense. While he has become the head of the Philly backfield, Howard is still a zero in the passing game, limiting his upside to touchdowns. He's right on the RB2/3 border, but his goal line role will always give him some upside in any matchup.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders is not an exciting choice for a Week 7 fantasy lineup. Sanders is playing passing downs behind early-down lead back Jordan Howard and isn't doing much in the red zone, severely limiting his upside. The Eagles travel to Dallas to take on a strong Cowboys Defense and could have some trouble moving the ball. Sanders shapes up as an unexciting RB3 with not too much upside for the Sunday Night Football contest.
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores announced on Wednesday that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will start over Josh Rosen in Week 7 against the Bills. Rosen failed against the Redskins in Week 6 and was benched in favor of the veteran late in the game. Fitzpatrick has had his ups and downs this year. He likely gives Miami a better chance to win in the short term, but he'll be an unappealing QB2 in a terrifying matchup against Buffalo's strong defense on the road this Sunday.
Buffalo Bills rookie running back Devin Singletary (hamstring) will practice in full on Wednesday. It looks like Singletary will return to action in Week 7 against the Dolphins after resting up during the bye week. The 22-year-old rookie has just 10 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown in two games this year and hasn't played since Sept. 15. Even if he's active in a great matchup with Miami, Singletary will be a low-end RB3/flex that should continue to play second fiddle to veteran Frank Gore in the backfield.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will face a difficult challenge in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles in a winner-takes-first-place-for-now battle on Sunday Night Football. The Eagles Defense has essentially been non-existent against the pass but has actually been very strong against the run. Elliott should still put up numbers, especially since he can play a role in the passing game if necessary, but his upside could be a little limited. He's absolutely an RB1 as always, but he's more top-five than top-two for this week.
Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (leg), who suffered a gruesome leg injury in November of last year, said he wound up having 17 surgeries on his right leg. Smith developed an infection following an operation to fix the broken fibula and tibia he suffered against the Texans. The 35-year-old recently resumed throwing and hopes to return to the field again eventually, but it's a long shot that he'll be back in 2019. The fact that Smith has made it this far is even a minor miracle, and there's no guarantee he'll play another down in the NFL again. The 'Skins will move forward with Case Keenum under center for another week after getting their first win against the Dolphins in Week 6.
Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard won't likely have too big of a role in Week 7. The Cowboys will welcome the Eagles into town for Sunday Night Football, and starter Ezekiel Elliott will almost certainly see a monster workload in what should be a close game. Pollard remains a handcuff with league-winning upside, but his own value is completely game flow dependent and too difficult to predict.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is set up well for a strong performance on Sunday Night Football in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the division rival Philadelphia Eagles in what should be one of the better games of the week. The Eagles Defense has been awful at limiting opposing quarterbacks, so Prescott has a chance to go off this week to make up for the losses that are starting to pile up. He may be without his top receiver though, as Amari Cooper is recovering from a thigh bruise that forced him to make an early exit in the loss against the Jets. Still, Prescott is a solid mid-range QB1 for the first-place matchup against the Eagles.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen) said he is doing well and is "on track," but he will not practice on Wednesday. Jackson will instead run on a side field on Wednesday. The Eagles are optimistic that D-Jax can return on Sunday night against the Cowboys in Week 7, but it's not a certainty. The Eagles desperately need the return of their deep threat, and quarterback Carson Wentz's fantasy stock would receive a big boost if Jackson returns. As of now, though, he's a risky fantasy option this weekend with the game being on Sunday night. If Jackson misses another game, it'll be Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins remaining in three-wide sets.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said that left tackle Jason Peters (knee) is "week-to-week." Peters, 37, injured his knee in the Week 6 loss to the Vikings. Rookie first-rounder Andre Dillard will likely slide into the starting lineup and protect quarterback Carson Wentz's blind side, beginning on Sunday night in Week 7 against the Cowboys in a big divisional tilt. The move to Dillard might not necessarily be a downgrade, but it's something to watch moving forward.