Chargers Ponder Approach for Redskins Game

The Chargers welcome the Washington Redskins on Sunday as the two teams play for nothing.

The Redskins' playoff hopes have long been cooked.

The Chargers' playoff position has been secured as the AFC's No. 2 seed after thumping the Tennessee Titans on Christmas night.

So the dilemma for the Chargers is one many playoff-bound coaches face: Should coach Norv Turner rest his players or keep them active, not wanting to mess with a formula which has produced a 10-game winning streak?

It seems Turner isn't interested in tipping his hand.

"I'm not going to make a lot of comments about what we are going to do," Turner said. "I know this: I told our guys that every single player is going to prepare to play on Sunday. We'll practice the way we always practice. Along with the assistant coaches, I'll make the decision after we practice that way for three days about what we are going to do and how we are going to play in the game."

What's uncertain is if the starters rest, then sit again with a first-round bye, will they be rusty come the second week of the playoffs?

Many Chargers remember the 2006 season, when the Chargers won the last regular-season game to snag the top seed and a playoff bye. Then they got ambushed by the visiting Patriots after the extra week off.

"You can't miss a beat," tight end Antonio Gates said. "We learned from our mistakes after going 14-2, so it's interesting to see what we're going to do. If guys can go, I wouldn't imagine them not going. We need to maintain our timing."


LB Shawne Merriman
Stephen Dunn/Getty
Some players, though, need a break.

Among them is outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, who has nursed a foot injury through most the season. Defensive linemen Jacques Cesaire and Travis Johnson are also nicked.

"It's huge because we have a bunch of guys banged up," linebacker Shaun Phillips said of getting a bye. "Every team does, but we did a great job of taking advantage of the situation. Now we'll get ample rest and be fresh and healthy for a big football game."

But first comes Sunday, although the bigger picture for the Chargers is reaching their second Super Bowl in franchise history.

"We still need to buckle down," cornerback Quentin Jammer said. "We have one more to play, and then we get into the serious business."

LINEUP WATCH: C Nick Hardwick returned to game action Friday and that is a huge boost for the line heading into the playoffs. Hardwick, a Pro Bowler, was injured in the season opener and hadn't played since. Hardwick has a great knack for keeping others in the huddle loose and his cerebral approach leads to the Chargers seldom blowing blocking assignments.

TRENDING: The Chargers could claim their second divisional title -- this season. The Chargers already clinched their fourth straight AFC West title and fifth in six years. But consider that a win Sunday over the Redskins would give the Chargers a sweep of the NFC East, with previous triumphs over the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys. The Chargers, winners of the AFC West and NFC East?

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--ILB Kevin Burnett has missed the past two games with a neck injury. Burnett has thought he was past the injury, but it has flared down the stretch.

--OLB Shaun Phillips has been battling ankle and hip injuries, which could reduce his playing time Sunday. Phillips set a franchise mark with his seventh forced fumble of the season against the Titans.

--RT Jon Runyan got his most extended playing time of the season Sunday when the Chargers routed the Titans.

--QB Philip Rivers' winning streak in December will stay alive for another season. Since taking over as a starter, Rivers have never lost a December game, 18 in all.

--FS Eric Weddle had an interception in his second game back. Weddle had missed two games with a knee injury, but has played well in the last two games since his return.


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