Giving thanks

With an 8-2 record and in sole possession of first place in the AFC West, the San Diego Chargers have plenty to be thankful for this holiday season. With that in mind, here is a look at the top five reasons for the Bolts to be thankful.

LaDainian Tomlinson's play: It is hard for a three-time Pro Bowl player to have a breakthrough season, but L.T. is doing exactly that. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards in just 10 games, and his 22 touchdowns are more than 18 entire teams have scored.

"You guys are getting to see every aspect of the game that I am able to do on the football field," Tomlinson said. "I see things clearly out on the football field."

Defensive Depth: The Chargers came into the season with the league's deepest defense; they've needed every bit of it. Shaun Phillips, Carlos Polk and Jacques Cesaire were all pegged for reserve roles during the offseason, but each has been forced to play extensively. They have responded, as the defense is still a top-10 unit despite numerous absences.

"Our guys in the second half, they ratcheted it up," coach Marty Schottenheimer of his depleted defensive unit after the win in Denver. "If we don't play well in the second half defensively, we don't get back in the game."

Growing up quickly: Quarterback Philip Rivers is in just his first season as a starter. Left tackle Marcus McNeill is still a rookie. The Chargers are the league's highest scoring offense – by far. That is an amazing feat.

"That's a credit to our team, our maturity, and we're a special bunch," Rivers said.

Receivers Standing Tall: If a critic stands alone in the forest and knocks the Chargers for not drafting a receiver, can he now pretend he never said it? The duo of Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson has combined for 341 receiving yards and six touchdowns. That's two more scores than Santonio Holmes and Chad Jackson – the two top receivers in the draft – have combined.

"I know we have a lot of weapons in our offense and I can't be selfish about my stats," Jackson said. "Some games you get no balls thrown at you and sometimes you get a lot. My job is just to go out there every Sunday and be ready to catch some balls."

Kicking Strong: If Nate Kaeding and Mike Scifres don't both make the Pro Bowl, a Bush-Kerry type recount will be in order. Kaeding has connected on 17-of-18 field goal attempts, and on all of his extra points. Then there's Scifres, who averages over 44 yards per kick and whose punts are as unlikely to be returned as a lost $100 bill.

"Field position was critical," said Schottenheimer of the Broncos game. "It was very important to the outcome of the game."

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