Thu Nov 14 6:49pm ET
By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws a pass against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers waits to take part in a drill during an NFL football practice Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, at Air Force Academy, Colo. The Chargers are training at Air Force, which is at an elevation of 7,200 feet, to prepare for Monday night's game against Kansas City in Mexico City. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passes against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Everyone hopes the playing surface at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca will not be the main story of Monday night’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers.
Both coaches said they have received favorable updates about the turf going into the game. Last year’s game between the Chiefs and Rams was moved back to Los Angeles less than a week before the game when the field was deemed unplayable because of rain and the stadium hosting concerts less than a month before the game.
"Everything that I've been told has been positive," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
The teams have taken different approaches to preparing. The Chargers have spent the week at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to get acclimated to the altitude. The Chiefs have kept their same routine with the only adjustment being to hydrate more according to quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
It is an important AFC West matchup for both teams. Kansas City (6-4) won its first four games but has dropped four of its past six, allowing Oakland to get within a half-game of the division lead. Los Angeles (4-6) has struggled for most of the season but remains only two games out.
This is the first of two straight crucial division games for the Chiefs. After their bye week they will host the Raiders on Dec. 1.
“To say you are in control of your own destiny at 4-6 is pretty rare,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said.
Here are other things to watch as the Chargers play an international home game for the second straight season:
Rivers leads the league in passing yards (2,816) but is also third in interceptions (10). He had three last week against Oakland, including a pick-6 that loomed large in what turned out to be a 26-24 loss to the Raiders.
The Chargers were among the league’s better teams in not committing turnovers the past two seasons, but their 16 giveaways this season are tied for seventh in the league. Five have occurred in goal-to-go situations.
“We’ve made some critical mistakes and not being able to overcome them,” Rivers said.
Mahomes returned to the lineup last week after missing two games because of a knee injury. He threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s loss to Tennessee but said on Thursday that this is the best he has felt since early September.
“I would say going into the Jacksonville game,” he said. “Just not having to worry about the ankle or not have to worry about the knee and just being able to go out there and play football the way that I have been able to play it my whole career so far.”
Los Angeles defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa have been a handful for opposing offensive lines lately. They have combined for nine sacks over the past four games.
Bosa is third in the AFC with 8½ sacks on the season while Ingram has added 4½. Ingram had 1½ sacks against Mahomes in Week 15 last season.
ON THE MEND
Kansas City is beginning to get some of the pieces back on its offensive and defensive lines. Offensive tackles Eric Fisher (groin), Cam Erving (ankle) and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle) have been full participants this week while Mitchell Schartz (knee) is limited. Defensive end Frank Clark (neck) has also been a full participant.
The Chiefs though are likely to be without defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah (pectoral) and Alex Okafor (ankle).
KEEP AN EYE ON
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. He rushed for a season-high 108 yards last week and seems to be regaining his stride after missing the first four games because of a contract dispute. He had 166 scrimmage yards (102 receiving, 64 rushing) the previous time he faced Chiefs, who are ranked 31st in the league in run defense.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (shoulder) and tight end Austin Hooper (knee) are both practicing again on Thursday, which is a good sign for their availability in Week 14 against the Panthers. Jones missed the Thanksgiving game and Hooper has missed the last three contests, so getting them both back would be excellent news for quarterback Matt Ryan. Despite not scoring since Sept. 22, Jones will return to being a high-end WR1 if he's active. He had six catches for 91 yards against Carolina in the first meeting on Nov. 17. Hooper has been a breakout star this year with 56 receptions for 608 yards and six touchdowns, so he'll be a must-start TE1 if he's back this Sunday.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas will face the stingy San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. The 49ers have allowed only 134.2 passing yards per game this year, best in the NFL. Despite this, one receiver has posted at least 50 yards or scored a touchdown in eight games against the 49ers this year. Considering how involved Thomas is, he should be able to eclipse 50 yards. He has the lowest upside of virtually any WR1 this week and has some risk, given that Drew Brees may struggle to put up good numbers. Still, Thomas has been the best fantasy asset at wide receiver this year. It's realistic to expect him to at least reach 15 fantasy points, even against this defense.
Oakland Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder) wasn't seen at the start of practice on Thursday. Jacobs revealed on Tuesday that he's been playing through a fractured shoulder since Week 7, so back-to-back missed practices are now more concerning for anyone that owns Jacobs. Despite his injured shoulder, Jacobs has remained productive in his first season and is fourth in the NFL with 1,061 rushing yards in 2019. He'll be a bit more of a risky RB1 this weekend if he suits up, but his fantasy owners will have their minds more at ease if Jacobs returns to practice on Friday. If he cannot play this weekend, Deandre Washington would be the obvious plug and play, with Jalen Richard mixing in on passing downs.
Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (knee), who revealed he's dealing with an MCL injury, is in doubt for Week 14 against the Texans. "I'm already undersized. When you take away exotic movements that make me who I am it changes the type of player I am. I have to get that back to go out and play. If I don't have that back then I need to take time to get that right," Miller said. He was limited in practice on Wednesday, but that doesn't mean he'll play this weekend. Another Miller absence would be great news for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and the whole offense. Even if Miller suits up, the Broncos Defense should be avoided in fantasy.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead, who leads the team with 10 sacks this year, walked off the practice field on Thursday with an undisclosed injury. Armstead's 10 sacks in 2019 are more than his combined total (9.5) in his previous four seasons. The Niners pass rush has been a strength of their defense all year, but they've had key injuries in recent weeks, although Dee Ford (hamstring) is on track to return after missing two games. Armstead has played 73 percent of the defense's snaps this year on the edge and inside. Solomon Thomas would likely replace Armstead if needed. Drew Brees and the Saints offense would receive a boost if Armstead cannot play.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray will face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. San Francisco's defense ranks 22nd against the run despite being the best in the league against the pass, presenting Murray with a good matchup. The problem is, he's seen a steady decrease in snaps and touches over the last three games, including his second-lowest snap total of the season last week, 13. This usage makes Murray nothing more than flex play in deep leagues, even in a more run-friendly matchup.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (shoulder) has been ruled out for Week 14 against the Cardinals despite getting in some limited practice this week. It will be his third straight missed game, and fantasy owners shouldn't be holding out much hope that he can help you the rest of the way if you've made the fantasy playoffs. A Pro Bowler in 2018, Conner has disappointed with 390 rushing yards and five missed games. Benny Snell Jr. should continue to carry the load on early downs in Conner's absence. He'll be an upside RB3 in the good matchup with Arizona, but Jaylen Samuels should continue to see more work in the passing game.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis (knee) was back at practice on Thursday after being held out on Wednesday. Pettis is making progress, but he won't be back on the field for Week 14 against the Saints. The 24-year-old has been a second-year bust, catching only 11 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns in his 11 games in 2019. With several 49ers rookies possibly passing him on the depth chart in 2020, Pettis is no longer a must-hold in dynasty/keeper leagues either. He posted 27 catches for 467 yards and five scores in 12 games in his rookie season.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee) is unlikely to play in Week 14 against the Buccaneers after the team claimed kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers on Wednesday. Vinatieri will turn 47 years old this month and has missed 14 total kicks this year, so McLaughlin could take over for him this weekend and finish out the year as the team's kicker. McLaughlin made seven of his eight kicks in his time for the 49ers filling in for Robbie Gould, and he could become a viable kicking streamer down the stretch in fantasy. Vinatieri, who has been a legendary kicker in his career, could be nearing the end.
Washington Redskins wide receivers Paul Richardson (hamstring) and Trey Quinn (concussion) did not practice for the second straight day on Thursday. They're both unlikely to play in Week 14 against the Packers. Neither receiver has moved the fantasy needle in 2019 either, so they should both be firmly planted on the waiver wire in your league. Outside of rookie Terry McLaurin -- and he's a risky fantasy proposition these days as well -- no Washington receiver is worth your consideration for a lineup spot. If Richardson and Quinn are inactive this Sunday, rookies Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims Jr. will be in three-wide sets. That means all of the Redskins pass-catchers will be rookies with a rookie quarterback throwing them passes. Look elsewhere.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor (knee) did not take part in practice on Thursday. Agholor returned in the Week 13 loss to the Dolphins and had an underwhelming three catches for 41 yards in the embarrassing defeat. He's not a lock to play on Monday night against the Giants, and even if he does, he's a low-upside WR4/flex in deeper leagues. Agholor just hasn't proven to be much of a producer unless Alshon Jeffery misses time with injury. If Agholor can't go this week, rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who caught his first touchdown of his career last Sunday, would see an even bigger role in the passing game.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara will face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. The 49ers rank first in the league in passing yards allowed per game but only 22nd in rushing yards allowed per contest. They've also been somewhat susceptible to big running plays, as they've allowed the ninth-most rushing plays of 20 yards or more. That bodes well for Kamara, who has been a fantasy bust despite garnering at least 20 touches in two of his last three games. Expect New Orleans to lean on the running game, giving Kamara another chance at 20 touches- and his first touchdown since Week 3. He'll have slightly more upside in PPR, though volume will allow him to put up low-end RB1 numbers this week.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (concussion) is out of practice for the second straight day this week on Thursday. All signs are pointing towards Olsen sitting Week 14 out against the Falcons after suffering a serious head injury in Week 13. If you've been relying on Olsen in your tight end spot, it's time to make other plans for the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Ian Thomas should become the primary pass-catching tight end in Carolina if Olsen sits, and he'd have streaming TE2 appeal if that's the case.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs) remained out of practice for the second straight day on Thursday. Unless Williams gets in at least a limited practice on Friday, he's headed for his second straight missed game after getting injured in Week 11. With Darrel Williams (hamstring) on Injured Reserve, we could be looking at a committee approach with LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson and Spencer Ware in Week 14 against the Patriots. Even if Williams is able to play, he'd be an RB3/flex to fade in the fantasy playoffs. Thompson might have the most fantasy upside this weekend with the Chiefs limiting McCoy's touches down the stretch.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) is not practicing for the second straight day this week on Thursday. As of now, it's looking like Thielen can't be trusted to return in Week 14 against the Lions in a good matchup. Keep him locked to your bench unless something changes with his status on Friday. Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Olabisi Johnson should remain the top three passing targets if Thielen misses another contest. Diggs went for seven catches and 143 yards in the last matchup with Detroit, so he'll be a high-end WR2 regardless of whether Thielen plays. Rudolph has become a touchdown hog with Thielen out of the lineup.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will face an extremely tough test in Week 14 against the San Francisco 49ers. Here's where the 49ers Defense ranks in several key categories: 45 sacks, second in the league, 134.2 pass yards allowed per game, first in the league and 29.4 pass attempts allowed, second in the league. Brees will potentially have to take on this fearsome pass rush without his starting offensive tackles, Andrus Peat (forearm) and Terron Armstead (ankle). Even in the offensive-friendly Superdome, Brees isn't dropping back to pass 40 times against this defense. Expect a more run-oriented gameplan from New Orleans, making Brees more of a QB2 this week.
Updating a previous report, New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate (concussion) is practicing in full on Thursday. Tate looks ready to return in Week 14 against the Eagles on Monday night after sitting out last week. With tight end Evan Engram (foot) also on track to make his return, Tate will be more of a PPR WR3 for fantasy owners with Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton also being involved. Quarterback Eli Manning is also expected to get the start under center with rookie Daniel Jones (ankle) not expected to play.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett (knee) did not practice on Wednesday. Everett missed the game last week and is in danger of sitting again in Week 14 against the Seahawks on Sunday night. If that is the case, Tyler Higbee, who caught seven of eight targets for 107 yards and a touchdown in Week 13, would be a low-end TE1 option again for fantasy owners struggling at the position in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Everett will need to at least get in a limited practice on Thursday or Friday to have a shot at returning to the field this weekend.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee) is on the injury report for Week 14 against the Buccaneers after his knee flared up in warmups this past Sunday. Vinatieri missed all three of his attempts from 55, 52 and 46 yards on Sunday, with two of them getting blocked. With Indy claiming kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers on Wednesday, Vinatieri's status is very much up in the air for this Sunday. Vinatieri was limited in practice on Wednesday and isn't a good fantasy option, even if he's active this weekend. McLaughlin could become a worthy streaming consideration if he fills in at all for Vinatieri in the last four games.
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack (knee) is going on season-ending Injured Reserve on Thursday, according to a source. It's a big blow to Jacksonville's already weak run defense, especially with Chargers running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler coming to town in Week 14. The 24-year-old Jack totaled 66 tackles, half a sack and one interception in his 11 games this year for Jacksonville. Fantasy owners shouldn't be using the Jaguars Defense in the first round of the fantasy playoffs despite facing a slumping Chargers offense.