The Dolphins are still alive in the AFC East title race, but they must learn how to start games better. They have been outscored 77-30 in the first quarter, which is a dangerous combination with the Chargers outscoring opponents 69-29 in the opening frame.
San Diego's offensive balance should prove difficult for Miami to handle, although Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson could be slowed by a rib injury that forced him out of last Sunday's game briefly.
But the big question is, can the Dolphins score enough to keep it competitive? QB Gus Frerotte is expected to start despite being knocked out of last Sunday's game and backup Sage Rosenfels heroics in leading a dramatic come-from-behind victory. WR Chris Chambers has 21 receptions for 339 yards over the past two games, providing a desperately needed threat downfield. But he won't be effective unless the Dolphins' shaky offensive line can handle the Chargers' aggressive pass rush.
Chargers: Tomlinson needs one touchdown to break Chuck Muncie's single-season franchise record of 19 set in 1981. Are 3-0 against the AFC East this season.
Shawne Merriman didn't practice Thursday as he was having the pins removed from his fractured wrist and missed Friday's workout, coming to practice with his arm in a sling. He will play on Sunday.
LaDainian Tomlinson needs one touchdown to set the team's single-season record at 20. He is tied with Chuck Muncie.
Tomlinson (ribs) returned to practice on Friday and may choose to wrap the area to keep it protected on Sunday.
"I've learned over the years pretty much how to deal with injuries and playing with injuries," Tomlinson said. "I just think you need to be a little more focused, and if you are doing it for the first time, it can be a problem because you really don't know what to expect. You are kind of thinking about your injury. But with me, that's not really my problem."
Keith Traylor didn't practice this week and isn't expected to play Sunday at San Diego. Traylor, who underwent surgery Tuesday to debride his right knee, remains listed as doubtful.
Bryan Gilmore didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a shoulder injury suffered in last Sunday's 24-23 victory over Buffalo. Gilmore, whose first start of the season was cut short by the injury, remains listed as questionable for the Chargers game.
Marty Booker (calf) was upgraded Thursday from questionable to probable for the Chargers game. Booker participated in all of Thursday's practice session.
Donnie Spragan registered his first sack of the season against Buffalo while also finishing with six tackles. Spragan has notched 11 tackles in the past two games since replacing the injured Junior Seau (Achilles tendon).
Eddie Jackson no longer plays a regular role in Miami's nickel or dime packages, but he made a nice special teams play for the second consecutive game against Buffalo by recovering a Roscoe Parrish fumble on a punt return. The previous week in a 33-21 victory over Oakland, Jackson helped Miami down a Donnie Jones punt on the Raiders 2-yard line, putting DE Jason Taylor in position to sack QB Kerry Collins for a safety.
PREDICTION: Chargers 27-23