Fanning the Flames from the Desert

The location of Sunday's game remains in question, but the Chargers are getting answers on the field. The arrival of go-to receiver Chris Chambers puts a budding offense over the top, while the defense is finally hitting on all cylinders.

The Chargers are on the move.

The team is flying to Phoenix on Tuesday and will practice the rest of the week at the Arizona Cardinals' facility in Tempe.

While they know where they'll practice, where they'll play on Sunday against the Houston Texans hasn't been determined.

Among the possibilities is the University of Phoenix Stadium. Although there is a hiccup in that there is a motorcycle event there this weekend, with the Cardinals off on their bye.

So if that's the venue, the game would likely be played Monday night.

That is similar to the scenario four years ago when wild fires chased the team out of San Diego. The Chargers ended up losing to the Miami Dolphins on Monday night at Sun Devil Stadium.

The Chargers will be off five days before returning to the practice field on Wednesday. The team's last practice was Thursday, as it has been off because of the bye since then.

But it will be interesting to see how the team responds after consuming another dose of adversity. About two-thirds of the organization -- including numerous players -- have been affected by the fires.

Among those forced to evacuate were LaDainian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman, Jacques Cesaire and Matt Wilhelm.

But it's back to work on Wednesday, although obviously the players' thoughts will also be with displaced family members and the well-being of their expensive homes.

The game was supposed to be played at Qualcomm Stadium, but that is being used as a shelter for the thousands of people which have lost their home.


--QB Philip Rivers is looking to pick up his game over these final 10 games. With the team having trouble with the running game early on, Rivers was asked to do more -- and play from behind -- and the results weren't always encouraging. He already has seven interceptions after tossing but nine all of last year. He has to do a better job of taking care of the football.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson is back after going for 198 yards and four touchdowns in the win before the bye. Tomlinson was back hitting holes with his usual quickness, and more importantly, there were holes to be hit as the offensive line continues to play better.

--TE Antonio Gates is on an All-Pro pace and the scary thing he may get even more productive. While the addition of WR Chris Chambers could mean some passes usually directed at Gates will go toward Chambers, it also means defenses can no longer load up on Gates.

--WR Chris Chambers is fitting in well. Not only does he give the Chargers a bona fide threat on the outside, but he is saying and doing all the right things that hasn't gone unnoticed in the locker room. He seems intent on helping the younger receivers as he tries to prove he's just not there to steal their reps.

--WR Vincent Jackson should benefit as well from Chambers' coming over from Miami. Jackson continues to be inconsistent, and wasn't seizing the No. 1 wide receiver's role as quickly as some in the organization would have hoped. Having Chambers opposite him will take some pressure off Jackson and could help his game and production.

--C Cory Withrow is going to be a key for the next two or three games -- at least. With Pro Bowl C Nick Hardwick sidelined with a sprained foot, all eyes will turn to Withrow. He is an eight-year pro with 13 career starts. He has never started a game for the Chargers -- that will change the next time the Chargers play.

--WR Craig Davis is the odd man out with Chris Chambers coming to the squad. Davis will go to the No. 3 role and will see his playing time dwindle. But if he's smart -- and he seems to be -- he will watch and learn from the veteran Chambers.

--RG Mike Goff is a go for the next game after he had a ligament in his thumb operated on during the bye week.

--DT Jamal Williams is the reason why the Chargers' run defense is so good. It's going to be critical that he bounces back quickly after having both knees cleaned out during the bye week with arthroscopic surgeries. Williams' impact to the defense can't be minimized.

--CB Antonio Cromartie, the team's top pick last year, finally showed his skills when collecting his first interception. Cromartie still has to work on the physical part of his position, but his cover skills continue to grow.

--OLB Shaun Phillips doesn't get the headlines which always find Shawne Merriman but his game isn't far behind. Phillips has 5.5 sacks and 28 tackles.

--OLB Shawne Merriman feeds off Phillips' being productive. Offenses can't zero in on Merriman in their blocking schemes and still give Phillips the attention he deserves. Merriman is tied with Phillips for the team sack lead and has 29 tackles.

--CB Quentin Jammer is riding a wave of good play the Chargers hope continues. He's played two of his best games as Chargers in their last two contests; he saved a touchdown right before the half with his tackle at the 1 against the Raiders.

--DE Igor Olshansky is fit and has been playing well -- he was derailed by knee injuries last year. Olshansky forms a great duo up front with Williams on running downs. Olshansky has 17 tackles and a sack.

--DE Luis Castillo is also playing at a high level; he was slowed the majority of last year with an ankle injury. But Castillo is not only performing well at the point of attack, but has been getting up field to supply pressure on the quarterbacks. Castillo leads the Chargers' linemen with 23 tackles.

--S Eric Weddle continues to impress in his rookie season. He is playing in dime packages and seems to be pushing for more playing time.

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