After Sunday's 24-21 win over the Bills, LaDainian Tomlinson admits it's difficult not to think about the playoffs, first-round bye and home-field advantage.
"It's hard, it is very hard because you start to wonder what's going to happen," said Tomlinson, who has rushed for 1,324 yards, joining Eric Dickerson as the only other player to surpass 1,200 yards in his first six seasons.
"We are in this situation if this team losses, we win; that's just part of being a competitor and I think the business we're in. You look forward to it. At the same time, you have to take care of your business."
The Chargers have done that, collecting their second 10-win season in three years. They are clearly in the AFC West driver's seat, where they hold a cushion over their next two opponents, the Broncos and Chiefs.
"We, as players, like anybody, can do two things," Philip Rivers said. "You can get caught up in it and can realize we can't block out that we're tied. But it's something that we all are aware of, but there's a fine line to it.
"You can know the big picture, but not get involved in the big picture. I think that's where we stand. We understand where we are, we know where we are, but (we) don't get involved in it because Denver is coming to town and that's the only game that matters."
The Chargers got a big boost Sunday when Shawne Merriman returned from his four-game suspension for steroids.
"I'm just really happy to be back on the field, back out here with these guys and to be able to contribute," Merriman said. "There is nothing that can replace what you feel on Sunday. It's a 60-minute adrenaline rush."
Merriman, last year's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, terrorized the Bills with six tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
"Shawne is one of the best players in the league and having him on the field is always a plus," said linebacker Shaun Phillips, who added a sack, tying Merriman for a team-high 10.5. "He went out there and proved that he is still one of the best players in the league."
Linebacker Donnie Edwards, who had a season-high 18 tackles Sunday, said Merriman's presence can't be ignored.
"He always gives us a spark," Edwards said. "He's one of those big, old guys that causes havoc and is a great pass rusher. He really helped our defense."
Merriman did his "Lights Out" dance on a few occasions, which had Bills fans serenading him with chants of "ster-oids, ster-oids." That didn't faze Merriman.
"I expected that it was coming, especially on the road," he said. "I was half-mad, half-chuckling a little bit. I knew it was coming, but at the same time nobody can ever take away what I do out there on the field. Never."