Chargers debate who to sit, who to start

There is some debate over whether to sit the starters on Sunday when the San Diego Chargers host the Kansas City Chiefs or whether they should play. The game does not mean anything as far as playoff seeding as the Bolts are locked in at the fourth seed.

The playoffs commence the following week and it would benefit the Chargers to play their starters for a vast majority of the game. Sitting LaDainian Tomlinson and Jamal Williams is expected, but the team just suffered a loss after not playing a full sixty minutes. It is a time to reestablish the dedication that is necessary as the Bolts prepare for round one of the playoffs.

Veterans, such as Steve Foley and Donnie Edwards, don't necessarily need the time on the field, or do they?

The 3-4 defense is still a work in progress. During training camp, Foley – the only true veteran of this style of defense coming in – said it would take two years to master. That being said, and given the missed assignments this past weekend that is a direct result of not staying within the defense, the Chargers starting defense should remain on the field and work out the kinks before a playoff team comes in and steals a game on their home turf.

"We have to come back and prove that we can play with these guys," Foley said, although it was unclear whether he was talking about his teammates or the matchup this weekend.

And given the recent problems that the defense created for themselves, it may be prudent to stick with the starting unit.

"Something I've mentioned all season is you make mistakes when you try to be the guy on the front page making big plays," Foley added. "You're sacrificing the rest of the guys out there. It's going to hurt. Do your job and don't worry about the rest of what's going on.

"I don't think this is the time to sit back and let guys get out of the game. You have to get a feel for the game. You have to be there the whole game for things to happen. If it's up to me, put me in and let me play the whole game. You'll hear other guys say the same thing, but it is coach's decision."

The Chiefs have a great running game and that will be a test for the Chargers as they head into the playoffs where running teams generally rule. Especially since the Colts and Browns were able to establish some semblance of a running game against the number two ranked rush defense in the league.

Rather than risk further breakdowns, the Chargers may choose that option.

Another factor, which can't be overlooked is the roster limit, according to head coach Marty Schottenheimer. With only 45 players available, it would be impossible to get everyone off the field.

Then there is winning, an understated fact heading into the playoffs.

"I think, first and foremost, we want to win a football game," Schottenheimer said. "I think we've given evidence that when you win one, it makes it easier to win the subsequent one. We will approach it with the idea of winning. If we have players that may not be 100 percent healthy, and if there is any concern that they may be put at risk by playing, then I don't think we'd play them. Ultimately, what you have to do in our business is you have to go line up and play with the purpose of winning. That's what we'll do."

Kansas City head coach Dick Vermeil lends credence to the value of winning before heading into the postseason. He does have one bit of advice that bodes well for San Diego.

"Momentum is something you build through the whole season," Vermeil said. "It's not a value you turn on and off. It's something you acquire. You don't lose momentum because you lose a football game. Much better to lose a football game than lose a starting quarterback."

And that brings us to Drew Brees. He will start the game, but Schottenheimer did not rule out pulling him and possibly giving Philip Rivers some reps. That may be a ploy as Schottenheimer is more likely to put Doug Flutie in the game this weekend. The reason is Flutie will probably be his go-to guy in the playoffs if something were to happen to Drew. Flutie has in-game experience and throwing Rivers out there may not serve him as well as putting Flutie in.

Brees is one of those who want to play the entire game. He believes, and many pundits agree, that sustaining the offensive flow will provide them without any setbacks when they square off on January 8. Keeping the consistency and timing with receivers and working the offense as it normally would, may be the best thing to assure a fast start next Saturday.

Kansas City is also a team that is hungry for wins after crawling out of the gate. They have been exceptional of late and are looking to get back to .500 to end the year. Although the game has no real meaning, the Chiefs are a playoff-type team.

"Kansas City is playing really well right now," Brees said. "They haven't lost since we played last at their place. Even though they're not playing for a playoff spot, they've got some solid, veteran guy on their team and they know how to win. I expect them to come here and play very well, wanting to end their season on a high note; just like we want to go into the playoffs on a high note. I'm not sure how this game is going to play out as far as who's going to play, who's going to rest, that sort of thing since it doesn't have any playoff implications for us. I think it's important for us to go out and play well and win a football game."

Of course, it is still the coaches' decision and it likely means that Brees will only get a series or two before being pulled.

"It could be a big week for me," Rivers chimed.


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