Will "Lights Out" come back on?

The Chargers, fresh from clinching their second consecutive AFC West title, now look at the final two regular-season games with a balanced eye.

Do the Chargers go all-out and try to win against the Broncos and Raiders and keep their No. 3 seeding in the AFC? Or rest everyone and enter the postseason healthy?

"That becomes a big issue outside of our locker room, outside our group," coach Norv Turner said.

"But our guys want to play, they want to go win."

Still, the Chargers are going to be smart with two players in particular, linebacker Shawne Merriman (knee) and defensive end Luis Castillo (ankle).

"If we have a guy who is in jeopardy -- if it's in our best interest and his best interest not to play, then we will protect them," Turner said.

"But for the most part, we will go play.

"We're going to be smart with Shawne going, smart with Luis and anyone who has something that is iffy.

"The thing I said all along is we want to be playing our best and be healthy when we get into the playoffs. That will weigh on my mind as far as making decisions."

If the Chargers were still clawing their way through the playoff door, it might be different. And while they would like to maintain their No. 3 status -- which could send them to a second-round game inside at Indianapolis instead outside at New England -- that's not their main goal.

"If we had to win the game to get in, you might push it a little bit more with a guy trying to get back healthy," Turner said. "But we are going to do what is best for the player, his health and so we can be as healthy as we can be when the postseason starts."

And if doing so shakes up the Chargers' potential playoff opponents, so be it.

"My feeling on it is when you get into the playoffs, you are going to go play a good team," Turner said. "Some think it's an advantage to play someone who has beaten you; there's a lot of different scenarios. I'm not going to get caught up in that. I know when we line up to play, we are going to be playing a good football team."

NOTES, QUOTES

--S Marlon McCree always had faith in Antonio Cromartie, who intercepted his 10th pass Sunday. He predicated great things for Cromartie last year after he was selected with 19th overall pick.

"As a rookie you don't see a guy come in and watch film that diligently, hit the weights that diligently," McCree said. "Guys drafted in first round got money and they want to go party, want to hang out at the club and hang out with girls. He had great restraint for a guy that age, and you don't see that."

Added S Clinton Hart: "He's in the right place at the right time. He studies hard, and that is a sign of maturity --- a young guy understanding the game like that with the talent he has. All he has to be is in the area when the quarterback is throwing the ball. With his range, quickness and hands, anything not in the receiver's chest he can get his hands on."

--OLB Shawne Merriman is eager to get back on the field after skipping Sunday's game with a knee injury. It doesn't matter to him if the Chargers clinched a playoff spot.

"Not from my point of view," he said. "I want to be on the field playing. However that is, I'm going to be on the field."

--OLB Shaun Phillips had his first touchdown since high school when he deflected, then intercepted, a Jon Kitna pass and returned it 18 yards for the score.

"I saw the ball coming out, and every time I know I can get a whole hand on the ball, it's not going to go too far," Phillips said. "I was able to get my whole hand on it, and I was able to make a play on it."

--RB Darren Sproles made the most of his extensive playing time Sunday. "It felt good just to finally get out there and show what I can do running the ball," said Sproles, who rushed for two scores and 122 yards. "When your number is called, you've got to be ready to step up."

--The Chargers continue to start fast, a trend that has picked up speed as the season has progressed. They are second to the Patriots in outscoring their opponents by 62 points in the first quarter. On Sunday, it was a 17-0 edge for the Chargers.

--QB Philip Rivers was surprised about how easily the Chargers beat the Lions. "Obviously, we didn't expect it to be this wide of a margin," he said. "But we really felt if we jumped on them early we could be in complete control, and that's just what happened."

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Philip Rivers ran his starting record to 23-7. He also didn't aggravate his injured knee and should be fine for Monday night.

--FB Andrew Pinnock is drawing praise for his work in replacing Lorenzo Neal.

--OLB Shawne Merriman will test his ailing knee during practice this week. It's not certain yet if he will play on Monday.

--RB Michael Turner injured his shoulder and will be evaluated later in the week.

--RT Jeromey Clary hurt his shoulder and will be day-to-day in practice this week.

--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) is running more, but it remains to be seen if the Chargers will make him active for Sunday.

--DT Jamal Williams (ankle) didn't aggravate his injury and was able to get out of the game early Sunday. --RB LaDainian Tomlinson, in surpassing 1,200 yards on an 11-yard run in the first quarter, joined Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, as the only two players in NFL history to rush for more than 1,200 yards in each of their first seven seasons in the league.

--Among the players drawing praise from coach Norv Turner: LBs Brandon Siler, Jyles Tucker and Tim Dobbins.

--S Clinton Hart had an interception Sunday, his fourth of the season to set a career high.

--LB Matt Wilhelm had his career-high third interception of the season. It was it was his second consecutive contest with a pick.

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