Chargers Ready for Raiders Game

The Chargers are looking for another season-sweep of the Raiders -- and much more. Two teams headed in opposite directions meet in the regular-season finale at Oakland.

The Chargers have defeated the Raiders in nine straight games and have already clinched their third AFC West title in four years. What's not certain is what Raiders team will show up after it self-destructed Sunday in Jacksonville.

But the Chargers are worried about themselves and what lies ahead. They need to win to benefit their AFC playoff seeding.

"We want to win," coach Norv Turner said. "Everyone is caught up in the seeding. We are going to play somebody; you can't control that. We just want to go out and continue to get better so we are at our best when the playoffs start."

How important is the seeding? The Chargers earned the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye last season, then were promptly dumped by the visiting Patriots.

"I don't know," Turner said of the seeding's importance. "If I had a crystal ball I could tell you.

"When you get in the playoffs, you are going to play good teams. Who we play? They are going to be pretty good."

The Chargers are looking to snap a four-game playoff losing streak. Their last postseason win came in the 1994 AFC Championship Game over the Steelers.

Regardless of their first-round foe, the Chargers' run defense will be asked to continue its solid play.

The Chargers broke in two starting inside linebackers this year and the results are encouraging. Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm replaced Randall Godfrey and Donnie Edwards.

Cooper took over for Edwards in leading the team in tackles, and has been durable as well as productive.

"It's his consistency," Wilhelm said. "He is the only starting linebacker in our group that has not missed a game. That speaks volumes of the type of player he is."

Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shawne Merriman has noticed Cooper, too.

"To see what he has done in one season as a starter -- I don't think he has got enough credit around the league," Merriman said.

Turner said Cooper's play mirrors the Chargers. Both had some hiccups early on but are hitting their stride for the playoffs.

"Stephen is a great example of where our whole team is," Turner said. "He is a lot better football player right now than he was in weeks one, two or three."

Cooper is also responsible for getting the front seven in the right places; his work on the running downs is especially important. If the Chargers win those downs, they can unleash their pass rush led by Merriman.

"Playing against Peyton Manning we were calling an audible before he snaps the ball," Cooper said. "We were thinking what he was thinking. I'm just trying to put guys in better position to make plays."

Cooper's play answered one of the key questions about a defense which had the majority of starters returning. But Cooper, an undrafted free agent from Maine in his fifth season, hasn't blinked.

"He's done great and for Stephen, this is his first year," Turner said. "I know Stephen has played at times, but it's the first time he's started 16 games and that is a shock to anyone's system. You go through stretches where your body doesn't feel great and you still got to do the same thing from when you feel good."


--CB Drayton Florence is likely playing his last regular-season game with the Chargers on Sunday. Florence, a free agent after the season, lost his starting job to Antonio Cromartie earlier this year.

--RB Michael Turner will become a free agent after the season. Turner started the year as LaDainian Tomlinson's backup but was surpassed by Darren Sproles.

--FB Lorenzo Neal, who broke his leg on Dec. 9, is hoping to return for the playoffs and Pro Bowl.

--DT Jamal Williams is trying to nurse a sore ankle through to the playoffs.

--Rookie S Eric Weddle has had a solid season and could push for a starting job next year.

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