Chargers, Raiders want a win

The San Diego Chargers can secure the number one overall draft pick in the 2004 NFL Draft with a loss to the Oakland Raiders this weekend. A loss would put them into the driver's seat in April and give them a chance to work on any number of scenarios. <br><br> But make no mistake about it; the Bolts and Raiders want a win in the worst way.

The Chargers could fall as low as the seventh slot in the draft if they beat the Raiders.

"I don't care," Marty Schottenheimer said when confronted with the news. "I want to win a football game."

Logically if they win they would drop no further than fifth overall based on opponents' strength of schedule, but there is a small chance to drop to seventh.

Going into the final weekend, here's how they stand: San Diego (.524), Detroit (.524), Oakland (.533), Cleveland (.542), Arizona (.547), New York (.556) and Atlanta (.560). A win to drop even four slots could be a big price to pay for this team. No longer would they be in the driver's seat. The trade down option would disappear because they need a top-flight player or six. It would also hound them in the second round on.

Still, for the Chargers, it is about much more. A win to cap the season, with Drew Brees at the helm, would give them renewed hope or next season.

It could potentially sway the Chargers brass into thinking Brees is, in fact, the answer at quarterback. Another loss would bring those questions regarding Brees not being the answer even further to the forefront.

No matter how small that ray of sunshine, it would be something in an otherwise gloomy setting.

"More important than anything else, you need validation that all the hard work and all the preparation and everything is going to provide you some benefit," said Schottenheimer

A win would also lend credence to AJ Smith and his support of Schottenheimer during a turbulent time.

Thus far this year, there is nothing that says the teaching that has transpired has been received well. For Marty Schottenheimer that eats away his insides. He believes in his methods and knowing he will return in 2004, he will find it hard to muster the strength of mind to focus on the offseason when the questions from 2003 still loom.

The starters will continue to play and the team will not look to insert youth just to get "a looksie". The NFL is about wins and losses and this last game is no different.

"We play our starters all the time," said Schottenheimer. "Training camp is when you evaluate players, and the offseason is when you evaluate players."

On the other side, the Raiders feel the same way. They want a win to put some sort of positive light on their dreary season.

"At this point, you've got to suck it up," said linebacker Eric Barton. "There's one game left. Just lay it all on the line one more time."

Raider Coach Bill Callahan agrees, but his tune may have more to do with the uncertainty that he will return to the sidelines in 2004.

"My approach is that we're professionals, and we're going out there to compete," said Coach Bill Callahan. "It's a serious game. We take pride in that."

So, it is the Chargers against the Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. A win will cost each team in its own way, while a loss will cost a team their pride and a jump on next season.

The debate could go on forever regarding the benefit of a win this week versus a loss. Professionals are paid to win games. Quitting in the final game of the season says a lot more about the state of a team than one measly win and dropping from the top spot in the draft.

One team will make the choice this Sunday. Who wants it more? Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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