PREDICTION: Chargers 20-14
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers offense would suffer a serious blow if TE Antonio Gates' sprained foot keeps him sidelined. His presence takes attention away from RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who will be going up against a Redskins defense that has been solid against the run the past three weeks.
Like the Redskins, the Chargers' defense has been burned by big plays this season and must be concerned about the speed of WR Santana Moss going against CB Quentin Jammer. If Jammer lets Moss get off the line clean, he doesn't have the burst to keep up.
San Diego's best weapon against Moss is its strong pass rush bolstered by impressive rookie OLB Shawne Merriman. As long as the Chargers don't give QB Mark Brunell time to step up they should be alright. The difference could be the ability -- or inability -- of RB Clinton Portis to be effective against the league's top run defense. If he's shut down, San Diego can key in on coming after Brunell.
Chargers: RB LaDainian Tomlinson needs 98 rushing yards to become the seventh player with five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. WR Keenan McCardell needs six receptions to reach 800 for his career.
Redskins: Lead the series 6-1. They are on pace to force just 13 turnovers. The NFL record low for a non-strike season is 15. They are 0-3 against the AFC West this season.
Steve Foley (strained abdominal) has practiced all week and appears primed to return to the starting lineup.
Shawne Merriman, who has a team-high seven sacks, is nearly halfway to the rookie sack record set by Jevon Kearse in 1999, when he recorded 14 1/2 for Tennessee.
Ben Leber (foot) didn't practice this week and it appears his season is close to being over. He will undergo foot surgery next week, which will likely land him on injured reserve.
Shaun Phillips might see his playing time diminish slightly with the return of Steve Foley. But Phillips has learned both outside linebacker spots, so they could be on the field at the same time. Phillips has five sacks, second only to Shawne Merriman among the Chargers.
Ladell Betts hasn't been on the field since spraining his knee at Tampa Bay on Nov. 13. Betts didn't practice this week and isn't expected to play on Sunday against San Diego.
Cornelius Griffin, out since re-straining a hip flexor on the first series of the 36-0 loss to the Giants on Oct. 30, practiced Thursday and could return against the Chargers. Otherwise, Demetric Evans would start a fourth straight game in his place.
LaVar Arrington returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with a pulled thigh muscle. He'll play on Sunday.
Chris Samuels returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the knee he sprained against the Giants. Samuels hasn't missed a game, and he will play against San Diego.
Sean Taylor returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the sprained ankle that kept him out at Tampa Bay. Taylor will play Sunday.
Ryan Clark returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the sprained knee he suffered against Oakland. Clark is expected to play Sunday.
Clinton Portis was ill and did miss practice Thursday but should be ready for the Chargers.
Nic Clemons didn't practice Thursday because of an ailing knee but should be ready for Sunday.