Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rolls out during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Inglewood, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley watches during the first half of his team's NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Inglewood, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Houston Texans safety Jalen Pitre (5) celebrates with Blake Cashman (53) and Grayland Arnold (35) after intercepting a pass against the Chicago Bears during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills warms up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
HOUSTON (AP) The Los Angeles Chargers' last visit to Houston ended in disappointment with a defeat last season that was a blow to their fading playoff chances.
Three games into what is quickly becoming a disappointing new season, the Chargers (1-2) are far less worried about what happened in that game and simply focused a new chance to beat the winless Texans and snap a two-game skid.
''Of course, the guys that were here on the team before ... they know the feeling that we have from that game,'' safety Derwin James Jr. said. ''We're just trying to get over what happened this last week and just get better from that.
''We're not trying to really dwell on too much of the bad that happened.''
Houston got a 41-29 victory over the Chargers last December as Los Angeles dropped three of its last four games to miss the postseason. This year, they won their opener against Las Vegas before losing the next two games, capped by a lopsided home defeat by the Jaguars last week.
The Chargers are dealing with numerous injuries to key players, including a rib injury that quarterback Justin Herbert is playing through and losing star defender Joey Bosa to groin surgery. But coach Brandon Staley knows they can't use injuries as an excuse for not winning.
''We're going to have to keep playing,'' he said. ''What you're trying to do is build a team that can absorb it. You have to be able to do that in the NFL because no team goes all the way through with their team intact. Every team is losing premium players.''
While the Chargers are looking to bounce back from a blowout loss, the Texans (0-2-1) are one of two winless teams after failing to finish three close games. The Texans have been outscored 30-0 in the fourth quarter this season as they opened with a tie followed by two losses to leave Lovie Smith without a win in his first season as the team's head coach.
''The only way to get the bad taste out of your mouth is to go back to work,'' Smith said. ''We've identified a lot of things. Of course, I'm not going to go over every one, (but) there's a lot of things we have to improve, with all three phases. That's what we're planning on doing.''
STATE OF HERBERT
Staley said Herbert remains day to day due to a rib injury, but that he passed a major step last week against Jacksonville. Herbert - who was 25 of 45 for 297 yards last week -- faced pressure on 14 out of 46 dropbacks and was sacked only once.
''He avoided a bunch of pressures on Sunday,'' Staley said. ''If you watched that tape, Justin's legs are still intact. He still has his legs underneath him, and that's what you need in order to get away from trouble. He still has his brain, which helps him, too. He did a really good job of evading pressure against Jacksonville.
''We need to make sure that we get off to a better start so that we're not facing some of the situations that we faced in the game.''
Herbert will likely get his center back this week as Corey Linsley is expected to return from a knee injury. Rookie Jamaree Salyer will line up at left tackle after Rashawn Slater suffered a season-ending biceps injury last week.
Herbert has thrown for at least 300 yards in his last six road games, including last season's Week 16 contest in Houston. Rich Gannon holds the record with eight for the Oakland Raiders in 2001-02.
Houston rookie second-round pick Jalen Pitre had the best game of his young career last week against the Bears, finishing with two interceptions and a sack. He has started each game this season and impressed the coaching staff with his professionalism and attention to detail.
But the defensive back is looking to do much more this season.
''My coaches are being hard on me every week,'' he said. ''I feel like they're not being complacent and they're making sure that I'm continuing to evolve as a player and continue to get better.''
ON THE DEFENSIVE
With Bosa on injured reserve after a torn groin, Khalil Mack will likely be double teamed. Mack had four sacks the first two games but was a non-factor as a pass rusher last week. All five of his tackles came in run support.
Chris Rumph II is expected to get the start in place of Bosa, but Kyle Van Noy will also see snaps due to his versatility at inside and outside linebacker.
The Chargers are expected to get back cornerback J.C. Jackson, who has missed two of the first three games after having ankle surgery in late August. The pleasant surprise has been second-year cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., who was targeted five times last week and allowed only two receptions.
HOME SWEET HOME
Texans QB Davis Mills has been a completely different player at home and on the road in his two-year career.
In eight career games in Houston, he has been solid with 14 touchdowns and just one interception. But he has struggled mightily on the road, with just five touchdowns and 11 interceptions in eight games, capped by the two he tossed last week.
Smith doesn't make too much of the home and road splits and is looking forward to Mills moving on from last week's tough game Sunday.
''I think it's a small body of work to start writing things in ink right now,'' he said. ''I'm anxious to see his second game at home (this season) and feeding off of the energy from his home crowd. He made improvements this past week and I expect him to take another jump this week.''
Denver Broncos defensive back K'Waun Williams (knee) has been downgraded to out for the Week 13 contest against the Baltimore Ravens, according to a source. Williams was listed as questionable on Friday but now won't travel with the team to Baltimore. The 31-year-old is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss his third straight game. The good news is he was able to return to limited practices this week, so Williams should have a shot to return in Week 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Denver's D has been good at limiting opponents total yards and points per game, but they don't have much fantasy upside, especially in a tough matchup against Ravens dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson this Sunday.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (illness) wasn't given an injury designation on Friday and will play in Week 13 against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. Goodwin was added to the injury report on Thursday, but he'll be good to go this weekend. The 32-year-old pass-catcher had a two-touchdown game in Week 7 and also scored a touchdown in Week 10 in the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but outside of those games he's done very little for fantasy managers. He caught all three of his targets for 48 yards in Week 12 and has 19 receptions for 265 yards and three TDs on 25 targets in nine games for Seattle in 2022. With both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett healthy, Goodwin has no business being in starting fantasy lineups in Week 13.
New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay (illness) was added to the injury report on Saturday and is now questionable to play in Week 13 against the Washington Commanders. The Giants could be short-handed at receiver on Sunday, as Darius Slayton (illness) and Richie James (knee) are also up in the air to play. The 29-year-old Golladay is nowhere near fantasy relevance this year, catching only four of 10 targets for 51 yards in seven games. Depending on which receivers can actually play for the Giants this weekend, Isaiah Hodgins, Marcus Johnson and David Sills could see expanded roles in the passing attack against the Commanders.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said that quarterback John Wolford will start in Week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, but rookie Bryce Perkins will also be available for the Rams, and there's "a chance" he could also play. Matthew Stafford (concussion, neck) will miss another game and may not return to play in 2022 with the Rams well out of playoff contention, so the Wolford-Perkins show could continue beyond this weekend. The 25-year-old Perkins has much more scrambling ability than Wolford, which probably makes him slightly more attractive as a desperation low-end QB2 in superflex leagues if he makes another start to close out the season. In his first career start last week, Perkins went 13-for-23 for 100 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while also carrying the ball nine times for 44 yards.
With New York Jets running back Michael Carter (ankle) doubtful to play in Week 13 against the Minnesota Vikings, the Jets are prepared to use a backfield by committee involving rookie Zonovan Knight, Ty Johnson and James Robinson on Sunday. Carter took over the starting gig when rookie Breece Hall (knee) was lost for the season in Week 7. The Jets are confident in Knight and Johnson, who combined for 131 rushing yards and a touchdown last week against the Chicago Bears. Knight had 103 yards from scrimmage, the most by a Jets rookie in his debut. Robinson was a healthy scratch last week. The Vikings run defense isn't anything special, so both Knight and Johnson could be productive again while sharing touches in New York's backfield this weekend.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle), who was placed on Injured Reserve before the Week 5 game due to a fractured ankle, is targeting a late-December return. Crowder suffered a clean break of his fibula and he began walking again a little under a month ago. He's been running on an underwater treadmill for the last two weeks and is intending to get back on the field to start jogging in "maybe like, two weeks." Getting Crowder back for the postseason would be big for the team's receiver depth, but they could also add free-agent Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) after they visit with him this weekend. Crowder would be an upgrade over normal slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie when working against zone coverage, but he's unlikely to have any fantasy appeal the rest of 2022.
There is "considerable doubt" around the league that free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) is healthy enough to play football this year, according to an NFC executive. It's a problem because Beckham has told teams he's seeking a multi-year deal that he hopes will end up being worth $20 million per season. He met with his old team, the New York Giants, on Thursday, but the Giants remain "the longest of long shots" to sign OBJ. The most likely team to sign him remains the Dallas Cowboys, who have been talking Beckham up for months. Beckham tore the ACL in his left knee twice in a 16-month span, with the last time less than 10 months ago in the Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills will also visit with Beckham this weekend. If he signs with a team soon, there's no guarantee he'll become fantasy relevant anytime soon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady threw for 190 yards and a touchdown while completing only 52.9% of his throws against the Saints in Week 2. In all fairness, the signal-caller was forced to navigate his way though that one without Chris Godwin and Julio Jones. Although the signal-caller will be without tackle Tristan Wirfs (ankle), he'll at least have most of his weapons on the offensive end. With New Orleans also banged up defensively, the 45-year-old garners fantasy attention and starting consideration, despite the potential for another lackluster outing.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Skyy Moore has totaled 10 catches for 99 yards in his previous two games. Although the rookie hasn't scored a touchdown, his increase in production has been a welcome sight, especially for those who'd thought he'd be hot right out of the gate in 2022-23. While Moore has a way to go before being a must-start fantasy option, he may continue to benefit without Kadarius Toney (hamstring), Mecole Hardman (abdomen), and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) for the Week 13 AFC Championship rematch versus Cincinnati. However, Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster (illness), and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (shoulder) will be on the field, so Moore will need to fight for targets from Patrick Mahomes. That said, the wideout has upside for those with nowhere else to turn, so he deserves starting considering for a likely high-scoring affair.
Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet had a slow start to the 2022-23 campaign. However, he turned things around by totaling five touchdowns over a three-game span, beginning in Week 8. Unfortunately, the 23-year-old couldn't find the end zone in his previous two games, although he didn't have Justin Fields (shoulder) for the Week 12 loss to the New York Jets. Fields will be back against the Packers on Sunday, which is a plus. At the same time, the season-ending injury to Darnell Mooney (knee) could open up more targets for Kmet in Week 13, so fantasy managers should consider him a starting option in all formats.
Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams had 11 carries in the Week 12 loss to the Chiefs, three more than Cam Akers. He finished with two fewer rushing yards than Akers (35), although he was more involved on the receiving end, catching all three targets for 25 yards. Both men should have a role in Week 13 for the NFC West showdown with Seattle. However, Williams may be the lead option against a horrendous Seahawks run-stop unit, especially since Akers was under the weather throughout the week. That said, L.A. has averaged a second-worst 79.7 rushing yards per game this season, so Williams' outlook isn't bright by any means. Yet, his pass-catching prowess could be somewhat beneficial for desperate managers in deeper PPR fantasy setups.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst caught six passes for a season-high 57 yards in Week 12 against the Titans. With Joe Mixon (concussion) and Ja'Marr Chase (hip, labrum) sidelined for that one, Hurst got some extra attention from Joe Burrow. However, the 29-year-old hasn't scored a touchdown since early October, leaving many frustrated with his lack of production. Yet, with David Njoku (knee), Kyle Pitts (knee), Dallas Goedert (shoulder), and Darren Waller (hamstring) out, fantasy managers are struggling to fill the tight end spot on the roster. While Hurst has had plenty of underwhelming performances in 2022-23, he certainly has a higher upside than others for Sunday's meeting with the Chiefs, even if Chase and Mixon are back in the lineup.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine got the start in Week 12 against the Titans, filling in for Joe Mixon (concussion). He played well, too, finishing the day with 58 yards and a touchdown off 17 attempts while catching four of his seven targets for 35 yards. With Mixon still in concussion protocol, Perine may lead the backfield once again on Sunday for the AFC Championship rematch versus the Chiefs. If that's the case, the 27-year-old, who has amassed four total touchdowns over the last two weeks, could be in store for another productive outing, so fantasy managers should keep him on the roster for now.
Los Angeles Chargers kicker Cameron Dicker was not asked to do much last week but projects as a great option in Week 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders. Dicker has proven himself to be reliable as he is perfect through his first five starts and could be busy on Sunday with the Raiders allowing over 25 points per game. Fantasy managers can start Dicker with full confidence in what could be a high-scoring divisional affair.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver DeAndre Carter posted a career performance last week and will hope to keep the momentum going in a Week 13 contest against the Las Vegas Raiders. Carter has finished as a top-30 fantasy WR in three of his last four games and should stay highly involved with Mike Williams (ankle) inactive once again. Both Keenan Allen and Joshua Palmer should be viewed as superior options, but Carter is worth a look as a flex option in deeper leagues as the Raiders' defense ranks as a bottom-10 unit against the pass.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Gerald Everett disappointed fantasy managers in a great matchup last week but will have an opportunity to redeem himself against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 13. The Raiders have allowed the sixth-most PPR fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season and surrendered a touchdown to Everett back in Week 1. His inconsistencies make him difficult to trust as a top fantasy option, but the list of reliable tight ends is so short that Everett should still be viewed as a low-end TE1 with solid upside.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer has been up-and-down for fantasy purposes this season but will have an excellent opportunity in Week 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders. Palmer exploded for over 100 yards and two scores in Week 11 but was outshined by DeAndre Carter last Sunday. Both should remain involved this week with Mike Williams (ankle) inactive, but Palmer will be the preferred fantasy option due to his more consistent target volume. With Las Vegas allowing over 25 points per game, Palmer has great upside and can be deployed as a WR3 or flex option in all formats on Sunday.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has found the end zone in seven of 11 games this season and should be able to find success against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 13. Ekeler leads all running backs with 98 targets and could easily feast as a PPR option against a Las Vegas defense allowing over 28 PPR fantasy points per game to opposing RBs. This divisional matchup has one of the highest projected point totals of the week, so fantasy managers should have supreme confidence deploying Ekeler as a high-end RB1 in all formats.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (illness) missed his second straight practice this week on Friday with an illness. If Brate doesn't return to practice on Saturday, there's a good chance he won't be available to play on Monday night against the New Orleans Saints. But even if the 31-year-old veteran tight end is out there in Week 13, he's not even much of a realistic TE2 streamer in fantasy with rookie Cade Otton's emergence. Brate is still searching for his first touchdown of the 2022 season in seven games and has only 16 receptions on 29 targets for 137 yards. In his last two games, he's hauled in three of his seven targets for 23 yards. Look elsewhere.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen has provided a much-needed spark to the team's offense since returning to the starting lineup and will have a great opportunity to produce in a Week 13 bout with the Las Vegas Raiders. With Mike Williams (ankle) ruled out once again, Allen will operate as the clear WR1 for the Chargers and should see a healthy number of targets from quarterback Justin Herbert. With the Raiders currently ranking as a bottom-10 pass defense in the NFL, Allen has obvious top-12 upside this week, especially in PPR formats. He projects as a great option in all lineups for what could be a divisional shootout.