Play to win

The San Diego Chargers have one game left before the real season begins, the playoffs. That doesn't mean it is Philip Rivers time. Drew Brees will start...

Just how do the Chargers approach Sunday game with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The outcome of the regular-season finale has no bearing on the Chargers playoff seeding. They have secured the No. 4 seed and what happens on Sunday won't change that.

So why play the starters and risk injury if it means squat?

"I don't think you can go into a game like this and say you're not going to play these guys because they might get hurt," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "You know they might get hurt in any number of ways. So I think you have to make sure you are getting yourself ready to play and win. And when you win, it makes it easier to win the next one. "

That would likely be Jan. 8 when the Chargers host either the Jets, Bills or Broncos.

But Schottenheimer -- at least that is what he is saying on Monday -- said the best way to prepare for the playoffs is to play the final game like it does mean something.

"It's important for us to all understand is that we only play 16 of these in the regular season and we've got an opportunity to go 12-4," he said.

Schottenheimer did leave himself with some wiggle room.

"Now if we have players that may not be 100 percent healthy, and if there is any concern they will be put at risk by playing, I don't think you would play them," he said.

So look LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees to start, but when the clock reaches 00:00 it's doubtful they will still be on the field.

In fact, Schottenheimer declined to rule out rookie quarterback Philip Rivers seeing action on Sunday. It would be the first meaningful snaps he took, after seeing duty in a mop-up role on Nov. 7.

So while the NFL calendar will soon turn to January, look for Sunday's game at least on the Chargers' side to resemble a game played in August.

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