LaDainian Tomlinson (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
Ah, life is good in San Diego. The Chargers already have a playoff spot secure with the Denver Broncos coming in Monday night. Many looked at the schedule earlier in the year and thought this game could be for the AFC West title or at least have playoff implications for both teams. Make that one team.
The Chargers still have something to play for while the disappointing Broncos are playing out the string.
But do the Chargers really have much motivation on Monday? They sure do, according to coach Norv Turner.
"There's a reason they have the seeding system," Turner said. "We want to win our next two football games."
The Chargers are the AFC's No. 3 seed and they want to keep it that way. If they beat Denver on Monday and prevail at Oakland on Dec. 30, they will do just that.
By staying at No. 3, the Chargers could host the Browns the first week of the playoffs, and if winning, head to Indianapolis.
If they drop to No. 4, they might have to face the Jaguars -- a team that has already beaten the Chargers this year -- and head for New England if they get past the Jaguars.
Of course, one could go wacky trying to decipher all the different opponents, sites and which week they play what team. What's obvious to the veteran Turner is that no matter who lines up against the Chargers, it will be a quality foe.
"My feeling is this: When you get in the playoffs, you're going to go play a good team," Turner said. "Some people think it's an advantage to play a team you're familiar with that has beaten you. There are a lot of scenarios, and I'm not getting caught up in that. To go through this regular schedule and be one of the teams in the playoffs, you're a good football team."
And make no mistake, the Chargers certainly fit that description. Their 1-3 start seems eons ago as they are riding a season-high four-game winning streak and have captured eight of their last 10 games.
Instead of the Chargers worrying about who they will play, maybe it's their potential rivals who should be worried.
"We're going to do everything we can to win these next two football games," Turner said. "That's how you keep momentum."
But the Chargers will be smart. They are not about to rush an injured player who is on the bubble back into action. Not with the playoffs in the not-so-distant future.
"We want to be playing our best and we want to be healthy when we get to the playoffs," Turner said.
That means Turner will be cautious with linebacker Shawne Merriman (knee). Defensive tackle Jamal Williams (ankle) will also be watched with a discerning eye.
Whatever shape the Chargers are in, they are more fit than the Broncos. It will be interesting to see if the Broncos give the Chargers a tough game -- especially since the Chargers embarrassed them, 41-3, in October at Denver.
Or the Broncos just might wave a white flag, after the Chargers clinched their third AFC West pennant in four years.
Either way, life is good in San Diego. Not so much in Denver.
SERIES HISTORY: 96th meeting. Broncos lead, 52-42-1. The Chargers won the earlier meeting this year, getting a rare victory in Denver, 41-3, on Oct. 7. The Chargers have won three straight over the Broncos for the first time since 1981-82.
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson said it's not only him going for his second straight NFL rushing crown. He feels how much it means to his offensive teammates as well. "That's something that a lot of guys take pride in," Tomlinson said. "Not only me but the offensive line and the tight ends and fullbacks. A lot of guys take pride in that. You do want to know, especially the way this season has unfolded."
--Tomlinson has now rushed for 1,200 yards in each of his first seven seasons. Only Eric Dickerson can claim that. "I've been pretty consistent the first seven years of my career," Tomlinson said. "I think that's what it states. I think it's probably safe to say that you now know that that's an average year for me as a running back. You're going to get at least 1,200 yards."
--With two touchdowns last Sunday, the 126th and 127th of his career, Tomlinson moved past two Hall of Famers, Walter Payton (125) and Jim Brown (126), and into seventh place on the NFL's all-time touchdowns list.
--The Chargers are sending eight players to the Pro Bowl, with CB Antonio Cromartie and LG Kris Dielman going for the first time. Others selected were running back LaDainian Tomlinson (fifth time), tight end Antonio Gates (fourth), linebacker Shawne Merriman (third), defensive tackle Jamal Williams (third) and Kassim Osgood (second) as the special-teams pick.
"It's a great thing," Cromartie said. "For me coming in as a rookie, the biggest thing was to try to follow the footsteps of the older guys and learn how to play and how to go about practice. This year paid off with the new coaching staff coming in. Everybody is clicking together in our secondary room. My biggest help was having Quentin Jammer by my side and also having coach Kevin Ross and coach Bill Bradley by my side. Having those guys around as mentors really helped me out a lot."
Cromartie, a starter for only six games, is the first Chargers cornerback since Ryan McNeal in 2003 to make the squad. He said he's taking Ross, Bradley and Jammer with him to Honolulu.
--C Nick Hardwick and LT Marcus McNeill, two Pro Bowlers last year, were named second alternates, as was PR Darren Sproles. P Mike Scifres was named a first alternate.
--How much did QB Philip Rivers want to play last week, despite a sprained knee. "He did a great job of getting himself ready to play," coach Norv Turner said. "He was in the training room at 5:30 in the morning every day. It was important to him to play in this game."
--Rookie S Eric Weddle will be cheering on his old Utah team Thursday at the Poinsettia Bowl. Utah takes on Navy.
--Tomlinson has a carry good for at least 10 yards in 25 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
--The Chargers' 51-14 demolition of the Lions was the eighth-biggest margin in team history, but not even the best of the season. They killed Denver 41-3 in October.
--One more win this season and the Chargers will have won at least 10 games for the third in the last four years and the 11th time in team history.
--The Chargers didn't practice Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. They took advantage of playing this coming Monday night and enjoying a victory Monday after beating the Lions.
--Broncos S John Lynch is a Del Mar native and went to Torrey Pines High.