Chargers primed for playoff action

It is time to put the game face on. In a shortened week, the San Diego Chargers don't have time for a day off as they will move up their schedules by a day to prepare for the New York Jets – their first playoff game since the 1995 season.

"Primetime," wide receiver Keenan McCardell boomed. "Let's go!"

The Chargers head into uncharted water this week when they not only play a postseason game but host one.

The buzz in the locker room is already evident early in the week and it will be a chore to bottle up that energy in preparation for a 5 PM kickoff. The Chargers have not played a late game this year and are used to going from the breakfast table directly to the field.

"The biggest adjustment is just not to get too excited too quick during the day," linebacker Ben Leber said. "When you wake up normally on Sunday for a 1 o'clock game, you wake up and you're getting mentally prepared right then and there and getting fired up. If you do that too early you're going to burn out by the time kickoff happens. For us, just stay relaxed and stayed poised until a certain point of the day the charge it up."

"You're used to just to getting up eating breakfast and heading to the game," quarterback Drew Brees said. "The prime-time slot, you can sit around all day and you kind of twiddle your thumbs waiting for that thing to come around. I think that probably will be the biggest challenge, trying to control ourselves and hold it all in until game time."

As the Chargers embark from their usual losing port into the blue waters of a winner, there are new challenges that present themselves. The emotional rollercoaster that this week brings will be a burden on this young team.

The Chargers may have an advantage of hunger over a more playoff-experienced Jets team but it will be a test for the Bolts to hold that adrenaline in or burn out before the game begins.

"Emotions have been flying all week," fullback Lorenzo Neal said. "That is just the nature of the game. You are in the dance and you have the opportunity to keep dancing. Each week gets bigger and bigger. You just tell everyone that it is a football game. Win or lose, life still goes on."

One of the benefits of having a core group of veterans around is the ability to keep everything in perspective. If you work through the week as if it was just another week, you have a better chance of not succumbing to the jitters of playoff action.

While some of the veterans on the team have playoff experience, others have none and they too realize that their window of opportunity is closing.

These are moments to be cherished.

"Maximize this opportunity," says Neal. "You don't get to the playoffs that much. I have been in the league 12 years now and have been there three times. It doesn't come that often, so you have to savor theses moments.

"This is a big week for us. We have to go out there and prepare and do the small things. Don't try to change your game plan. Don't try to be the hero. It's about taking care of the small things and the big things take care of themselves."

While there is some finality to the upcoming game, it is still just another football game. This week surely has bigger implications since if they lose they go home but the Chargers are confident after winning 12 games during the regular season.

If they can carry over that attitude and desire this week it should be smooth sailing but if they rise early on Saturday and expend too much energy before the game it could be the Jets who come in and steal one.

Luckily, this isn't the same Chargers team that lost to New York in week two. This is a team that is well-prepared and battle-tested. Saturday is just another battle on the quest to become Champion.

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