Gates hurt his right foot and left the field on a cart Sunday, and his availability for the team's meeting with the Redskins won't be known until later this week. Initial X-rays showed he no break.
"It's a sprain," said Gates, the team's leading receiver who was injured in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Bills. "My foot feels a lot better. I am preparing to play this week."
Gates' status is about the only negative for an offense that is playing with poise and confidence. And a big reason for its strut is the play of quarterback Drew Brees. He's coming off the seventh 300-yard game of his career, one in which his 84.8 completion percentage nearly broke his team record of 88 percent.
"When you're confident with your game plan and you're executing, you get in a rhythm, and that is the way the game is supposed to be," Brees said.
As Brees builds on his Pro Bowl season of last year, many speculate he's done more than enough to win a multiyear contract from the Chargers. But Brees said the team's decision to go with him or Philip Rivers, as the long-term quarterback isn't up to him.
"I don't think there is any doubt in my mind and my heart," Brees said. "All I can do is go out and worry about the things that I can control and try to do the best I can each week, which is to help us win."
Rival defenses once dared Brees to beat them, as they focused on stopping LaDainian Tomlinson. But with an accurate Brees (18 touchdowns, eight interceptions) throwing to targets such as Gates, Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker and Reche Caldwell, that's a risky proposition.
"He's very underrated," McCardell said. "But I think he likes to fly under the radar a little bit. At the end of the year you look up and see his numbers and you're like, 'Wow, he had a great year, an excellent year.'"
If Gates is out Sunday, he would be replaced by Justin Peelle, who's more of a run blocker than a pass catcher. But Peelle exited Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, although it's not considered serious.