Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws the ball during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Landover, Md. Herbert threw for 337 yards to beat Washington 20-16. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates with wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) after a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
LOS ANGELES (AP) Chargers QB Justin Herbert found out less than a minute before last season's Week 2 game against the Kansas City Chiefs that he would take his first NFL snap.
Nearly a year later, Herbert has emerged as one of the top young quarterbacks in the league, going into another big Week 2 game as Los Angeles hosts Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.
''I haven't spent too much time looking back on that. I think we're always looking forward,'' Herbert said about the upcoming anniversary. ''We have a great opportunity against the Cowboys on Sunday, and we're doing everything we can to prepare to give ourselves a shot.''
Herbert and the offense delivered on expectations in last Sunday's 20-16 victory over Washington that they would be better. He threw for 337 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, with his 31 completions going to eight players. The new-look offensive line also allowed only eight pressures and two sacks.
Herbert also directed an offense that made 14 third-down conversions and ran out the final 6:43 with a 15-play drive. He will face a Dallas defense that allowed 379 passing yards in its 31-29 loss to Tampa Bay.
The one area that Herbert will prioritize is ball security after the Cowboys forced three turnovers last week.
Prescott didn't show any rust in his first game back from last season's season-ending ankle injury. He threw for more than 400 yards for the eighth time in his career and tied a career high with 32 completions.
Prescott though isn't looking at individual numbers. Most important to him is trying to help Dallas avoid dropping its first two games to open a season since 2010.
''You have to help your team out and do whatever it takes to get the win,'' he said. ''There's a lot of plays in that game that I can go back and say I could have done better or I could have done this or that, that I think results in us winning the game.''
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN?
The Cowboys could be without four starters from the Tampa Bay game, headlined by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence being out at least six weeks after breaking a foot in practice Wednesday.
Receiver Michael Gallup strained a calf against the Bucs and is on injured reserve for at least three weeks. The day after the game, right tackle La'el Collins was suspended five games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. And Randy Gregory tested positive for COVID-19, leaving his status in doubt.
It's an ominous start for coach Mike McCarthy after injuries marred his Dallas debut in 2020. Prescott didn't play after Week 5 because of his broken right ankle. His top three linemen in Collins, left tackle Tyron Smith, and right guard Zack Martin didn't play together last season and won't do it this year before the seventh game.
THE GOOD NEWS FOR DALLAS
Martin will make his season debut. He missed the opener while dealing with COVID-19 symptoms for about a week. As with last year when the Cowboys had issues with injuries at both tackle spots, there is talk of moving Martin to right tackle and filling in at guard.
Last year, the Cowboys did that briefly, and Martin played well in his first action at tackle since his Notre Dame days. But he continues to make it clear he considers himself a guard.
''I think that was different circumstances last year,'' Martin said. ''I play right guard, and that's what I'm going to do.''
BEHIND THE STATS
Ezekiel Elliott had just 11 carries for 33 yards against the Buccaneers as the Cowboys appeared to have little interest in testing last year's No. 1 run defense. But it was still an active game for the two-time NFL rushing champion. Elliott was solid as usual in pass protection, with several key blocks that helped Prescott complete passes, and McCarthy says he never complains about carries.
Elliott, a 2016 All-Pro as a rookie, would prefer fans look beyond the stats with him coming off a career-low 979 yards in 2020.
''If you know football, if you're in this building, you can tell someone can have a solid game without having the best statistics,'' Elliott said. ''If you're the one that's saying that, then you probably should study a little more.''
THE HEAT IS ON
The Chargers' defense put consistent pressure on Washington's quarterbacks last week, but they could be in for a more formidable challenge on Sunday, facing a Dallas offense with many playmakers.
Los Angeles got pressure on eight of 26 Washington drop-backs last week, but it might be hard-pressed to equal that against Dallas.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley knows it's difficult trying to anticipate against Prescott and the Cowboys offense
''We have to play a complementary game defensively because they can hurt you in a lot of different ways. It's not like you go into a game plan against this team saying, `Well, pass, run, whatever.' They can beat you in a lot of different ways,'' Staley said. ''When you're playing against a complete offense, you have to play complete defense.''
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins caught 7-of-15 targets for 62 yards in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He led the team in targets (15) but was only able to haul in seven of them on Sunday. Bengals QB Joe Burrow looks Higgins way in most games, but it hasn't generated much fantasy success. The 22-year-old has a catch rate of 41.9% on 43 targets in 2021. Higgins hasn't found the end zone since Week 2 and has only eclipsed 50 yards receiving just three times this season. The Clemson product is a boom-or-bust WR3 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
New York Jets running back Ty Johnson put together arguably his best game of the season against the New England Patriots in Week 7. He rushed five times for six yards, but also hauled in six of his seven targets for 65 yards in the loss. It was an active day for the Jets running backs in this game. Both Johnson and Michael Carter were the two leading receivers for New York on Sunday. However, neither player carries much fantasy value through the rest of the season. Carter has a bit more upside because he gets a significant amount of carries. Johnson can remain on the waiver wire for their battle with the Cincinnati Bengals next week.
New York Jets wide receiver Corey Davis has been starting to heat up with his new team. Sadly, most of his momentum is gone with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) expected to miss some time. In Week 7, Davis hauled in four of his six targets for 47 yards and one touchdown in the blowout loss to the New England Patriots. Fantasy managers can usually count on Davis as a solid WR3, but those days might be numbered. Backup quarterback Mike White is likely to take over, which means Davis could see his value take a significant hit.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon rushed for 59 yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He salvaged his fantasy day by busting out a 21-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. The 25-year-old has rushed for 539 yards and four touchdowns while catching 13 passes for 90 yards and over seven games in 2021. Mixon continues to lead the Bengals backfield and is a solid fantasy option against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah caught all three targets for 92 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The 28-year-old exploded for two scores, including a 52-yard touchdown reception. He has now hit pay dirt in three of his last four games. The Bengals' tight end has reeled in 17 catches for 256 yards and five touchdowns across seven games in 2021. Uzomah is a boom-or-bust low-end TE1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase caught eight passes on 10 targets for 201 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 rout of the Ravens. He led the team in catches and receiving yards in Week 7. Bengals QB Joe Burrow and Chase showed great chemistry on Sunday, connecting for an 82-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The 21-year-old has had an impressive rookie campaign, hauling in 35 receptions, 754 yards, and six touchdowns over seven games. Chase is a borderline WR1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 23-of-38 pass attempts for 416 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He connected with tight end C.J. Uzomah for two touchdowns and fired an 82-yard score to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. In his sophomore campaign, the 24-year-old has been excellent, throwing for 1.956 yards and a 17:8 TD: INT ratio over seven games in 2021. Burrow is a borderline QB1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
The Philadelphia Eagles defense struggled again in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. In a 33-22 loss, the Eagles defensive unit allowed Derek Carr to throw for 323 yards and let multiple Raiders runners combine for over 100 yards on the ground. They did not record a sack or force a fumble, but they did end up with one interception. All of that made for a fantasy score of -2.0 in standard scoring, the fourth time this season where they've scored one point or less. This is not a defense worth starting in fantasy, regardless of their opponent. They can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins made two catches in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Watkins saw four targets, catching half of them for 37 yards. Watkins is playing an important role on the Eagles offense, but this is not a passing game that can support multiple fantasy-relevant wide receivers. With tight end Dallas Goedert and rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith ahead of Watkins on the passing tree, Watkins is not much more than a hold-and-hope asset in most fantasy formats.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (ankle) is undergoing X-rays on his injured ankle, but head coach Nick Sirianni doesn't think Sanders suffered a broken ankle in the Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. Sanders was carted off the field and was quickly ruled out with his ankle injury. While he may have avoided a broken ankle, it doesn't mean that he won't be forced to miss time moving forward. The 24-year-old has been a huge disappointment so far this year and had six carries for 30 yards before his injury, adding one catch for minus-three yards. Quarterback Jalen Hurts led the team with 13 carries for 61 yards, but Boston Scott had seven carries (two more than rookie Kenneth Gainwell) for 24 yards and a rushing score after Sanders left the contest. Gainwell was second on the team with eight targets, catching four of them for 41 yards and a touchdown. If Sanders misses time, Scott and Gainwell figure to share the backfield, with Scott being the early down back and Gainwell playing in passing situations.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor finally did something useful in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Reagor was targeted twice, catching both for 25 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on a 17-yard catch in the fourth quarter to bring the Eagles within two scores. Last year's first round pick has two touchdowns on the year and hasn't totaled more than 25 yards since Week 3. He's been jumped on the receiver hierarchy by Quez Watkins and does not need to be rostered in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott attempted and made two extra points in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Elliott did not get a chance to attempt a field goal, leaving him with just two fantasy points in most scoring formats. Elliott is a decent enough NFL kicker, but he's kicking at a very low volume in this offense and doesn't have the big leg upside to make him worth starting in any formats. He can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell scored a touchdown in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. With starter Miles Sanders (ankle) forced to leave the game early, Gainwell and Boston Scott took over in the Eagles backfield. Both of them worked behind quarterback Jalen Hurts, however, who once again led the Eagles in rushing yards and attempts. Gainwell ran the ball five times for 20 yards and added four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. He saw eight targets and scored on a 13 yard catch in the first quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Gainwell should get the first crack at leading the Eagles running back room with Scott working behind him. Gainwell is likely to be one of the top waiver wire adds heading into Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert led the Eagles in receiving yards in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. After the Eagles traded Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals, Goedert worked in an alpha-TE1 role in this one. He was the only Eagles tight end to see a target. He was thrown to five times, catching three for 70 yards. It was a decent game for Goedert, but more importantly it was a sign of things to come. Without Ertz around, Goedert should be an easy TE1 every week.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught five passes in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Smith led the Eagles in targets, seeing nine balls thrown his way. He came down with five, gaining 61 yards. Smith continues to see WR1 usage but just hasn't done much with his plentiful targets of late. He gained 122 yards in Week 4 but has gained just 169 total since then. He may be a decent buy-low target in redraft leagues right now, there should be big weeks ahead for the rookie.
The Las Vegas Raiders ruled running back Josh Jacobs (chest) out of the Week 7 game against the Philadelphia Eagles after he was injured during the game, but early indications are that he avoided a major injury, according to a source. The Raiders are on bye next week as well, so Jacobs will have extra time to recover and may not have to miss a game. The 23-year-old had six carries for 29 yards and managed to find the end zone before leaving the game, so at least it wasn't all bad for his fantasy managers on Sunday. He also caught all three of his targets for 39 yards. Jacobs has scored in three straight games after a rough start to the season, and it sounds like he won't have to miss much time, if any. With Peyton Barber a healthy scratch, Kenyan Drake led the team with 14 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown with Jacobs leaving the game against Philly.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts had another solid fantasy performance in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Hurts attempted 34 passes, completing 18 of them for 236 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he led the team in rushes and yards, running 13 times for 61 yards. It was another up-and-down performance on the field for Hurts, but he's the only quarterback in fantasy to score 20 points or more every week of the season (in standard scoring formats). Hurts has shown that he's probably not the long-term answer on the NFL field for the Eagles, but he's a valuable QB1 in all formats as long as he keeps running the ball.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott shows up on offense in Week 7 and scored a touchdown, his first of the season. Starting running back Miles Sanders (ankle) was forced to leave with an injury, leaving backfield duties to rookie Kenneth Gainwell and Scott. Scott had been playing exclusively on special teams this season, but ran the ball seven times in this game, gaining 24 yards and scoring a touchdown. His score came on a one-yard plunge at the end of the third quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Scott will likely find his way into a role on offense, but he's unlikely to develop much if any fantasy value.
New York Jets running back Michael Carter has seemingly run away with the lead back job over the last few weeks. The fourth round rookie continued his success against the New England Patriots in Week 7. Carter rushed 11 times for 37 times, but hauled in a team-high eight receptions and 67 yards through the air. The rookie back hasn't surpassed 40 rushing yards in a game since Week 2. Despite that, Carter has continued to have fantasy value in PPR formats. Although, it's uncertain if his fantasy value will continue with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) likely sidelined next week. Fantasy managers in deep leagues might need to look for another option if Carter's touches decrease.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (finger, shoulder) is in danger of missing more time moving ahead. The veteran has reportedly been playing through multiple fractures in his finger, and even worse, a torn rotator cuff. However, he didn't appear to be injured by any means in Week 7, at least on the statistical end, as he would record two sacks during the win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Nonetheless, while it's apparent that the 32-year-old isn't as effective as he once was, any further absences would certainly be unfortunate for any fantasy manager participating in formats that utilize individual defensive positions.