Bolts ready to roll

The Cleveland Browns will bring their 2-5 record and their depleted roster to San Diego this weekend, and the temptation is to label this game a potential trap. However, the Chargers do not play down to the level of their inferior opponents, they merely level them.

The Chargers have faced their fair share of struggling opponents this season and have been merciless in dismantling each of them. The Raiders were beaten 27-0 in their home opener; the Titans fell 40-7 a week later; and the 49ers were shellacked by 29 points in week six.

Although they are hardly a daunting foe, the Browns may not roll over as easily as the aforementioned trio. They possess talent on offense, as Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow are legitimate game-breaking talents. The Cleveland defense isn't too bad either, and is a top-five unit against the pass.

"We respect every opponent," Philip Rivers said. "Games at home are the ones you need to win. Cleveland is coming off a big win against the Jets. Their defense is top-ten in scoring in the league. You take no team lightly in this league. We understand that. There is no gimmie."

The Chargers injury report may give the Browns some hope, too. Igor Olshansky and Shaun Phillips, two key defensive stalwarts, are both recovering from injuries and may not be able to go on Sunday.

The team will also be without Shawne Merriman, the league's leading sacker. It should be noted, though, that if the Browns were a Broncos-caliber opponent Merriman would have been far less inclined to drop his appeal prematurely.

While the cliché is true, anything can happen on any given Sunday, not many outside the Cleveland area are predicting an upset. It appears the Chargers higher-ups identified this game as a laugher before the season even started. Why else sync up alumni weekend - and the popular Powder Blues that go along with it - with this otherwise mundane contest?

The task at hand for taskmaster Marty Schottenheimer is to keep his team's full attention on Browns game.

"You win on Sunday based on what you do on Tuesday through Saturday," he said. "That is what our focus will be."

"They are a very disciplined group," added LaDainian Tomlinson. "Coach Crennel has those guys playing the way he wants them to."

There should be no problem keeping focus this week. The team took its preparations lightly prior to playing the 49ers, and the players ears are still ringing from the tongue lashing Schottenheimer laid on them as a result.

The Browns may not be an elite squad, but the NFL does not offer extra credit for degree of difficulty. A win over Cleveland, a conference opponent, counts just as much a win over the Bengals or Broncos. Hopefully for the Chargers, one can lead to the other.


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