KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
2006 RANKINGS: Rams: offense 8th (22nd rush, 4th pass); defense 24th (23rd rush, 22nd pass). Chargers: offense 4th (3rd rush, 13th pass); defense 1st (5th rush, 2nd pass)
PREDICTION: Chargers 24-20
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Many experts are pointing to this game as a litmus test for the Rams, but the Chargers have an identical record and an opponents' combined record for 13-24 compared to St. Louis' 15-23.
With San Diego failing to rush for 100 yards in either of its past two games, expect the Chargers to lean more on RB LaDainian Tomlinson and attack an undersized Rams defense allowing an average of 121 rushing yards.
One of St. Louis' goals over its bye week was preventing big plays, and the Rams are excited to have CB Fakhir Brown back in the lineup. Another focus was tightening up the pass protection. QB Marc Bulger has been sacked 19 times through four games and the offensive line will have to deal with its first true 3-4 opponent this season.
The Chargers are without injured OLB Shaun Phillips, who leads the team in sacks, but have plenty of other athletes who can rush the passer from various spot. Bulger has thrown just one interception and if he can make the right reads he can burn San Diego's mediocre secondary.
FAST FACTS: Rams: Are 6-2 in games immediately following a bye since 1998. ... RB Steven Jackson has three consecutive 100-yard rushing games against AFC teams. Chargers: Tomlinson has 7,834 yards in 85 games. Only seven players have reached 8,000 in fewer than 90. ... QB Philip Rivers is second in the AFC with a 116.0 fourth-quarter passer rating.
--LB Pisa Tinoisamoa will play Sunday despite breaking a small bone in his hand during Wednesday's practice. The hand injury is on the same arm as the dislocated elbow Tinoisamoa has been playing with for several weeks. A small cast will be put on his hand. He practiced Thursday, although the hand was sore.
--CB Fakhir Brown experienced some soreness in an injured ankle that has kept him out for the past two games, but he will play Sunday against San Diego. Brown was held out of a few plays Thursday in practice to make sure the injury isn't aggravated.
--FB Paul Smith has practiced this week without an issue or problems with an eye that had surgery Oct.10.
--FB Madison Hedgecock has continued to practice without incident, wearing a cast on his right hand to protect a broken hand. Hedgecock is expected to play Sunday against San Diego.
--RG Mike Goff had surgery Monday on his left middle finger. He was able to practice Thursday and will start Sunday.
--LT Marcus McNeill likely will not have a cumbersome bandage on his right hand this week. He broke a bone in the hand against the 49ers on Oct. 15 and played with a heavy bandage on it last Sunday.
--S Bhawoh Jue (knee) practiced Thursday and could be active Sunday.
--LB Shaun Phillips remains down with a strained calf. Although he was thought to be out two to four weeks, he said he has a shot of playing next week against the Browns.
--LB Shawne Merriman continues to practice as he awaits his appear hearing regarding a positive steroid test.