RB Michael Turner (Donald Miralle/Getty)
The Chargers hope to hit the ground running against the Broncos -- literally. San Diego will unleash a three-headed rushing attack featuring LaDainain Tomlinson, Michael Turner and Darren Sproles, who have combined for seven 100-yard rushing games this season.
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:00 ET
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 96th meeting. Broncos lead the series 52-42-1, but San Diego beat Denver soundly in the first meeting this year. On Oct. 7, the Chargers won 41-3, the worst home loss for the Broncos since 1966. San Diego has won three in a row against Denver.
PREDICTION: Chargers 27-24
KEYS TO THE GAME:
QB Jay Cutler is playing his best football of the season, but now the running game has turned inconsistent. Cutler should have success against San Diego's secondary, but he needs RBs Selvin Young and Travis Henry to produce on early downs so he's not exposed to the Chargers' aggressive pass rush.
Stress relievers: The Chargers will start off with RB LaDainian Tomlinson, but Michael Turner and Darren Sproles will probably get their shots at the Broncos' struggling run defense as well with San Diego looking to keep its starters fresh heading into the playoffs. With QB Philip Rivers still less than 100 percent, the Chargers don't want to put him in any more long passing downs than they have to.
Chargers: OLB Shawne Merriman (knee) could be a game-time decision. QB Philip Rivers (knee) and DT Jamal Williams (ankle) are among those who could be rested early.
Broncos: LB Ian Gold (knee) and TE Daniel Graham (ankle sprain) could miss the final two games; WR Brandon Stokley (knee) should play.
FAST FACTS: Cutler has five TDs, no INTs and a 118.7 passer rating the past two games. ... Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie has a franchise-record 10 interceptions this season.
--QB Philip Rivers didn't take all the reps, but enough to stay sharp. Rivers (knee) will go Monday night.
--DT Jamal Williams (ankle) didn't work, but he often doesn't practice on the first workout day of the week. Williams could get a quick hook Monday.
--LB Shawne Merriman (knee) was limited in practice. He could go Monday, although the Chargers might be cautious. Marques Harris would replace him.
--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) was limited in practice. He'll be questionable.
--FB Lorenzo Neal (leg) is out through the regular season but thinks he might have a shot at the playoffs.
--RT Jeromey Clary (shoulder) worked and is fine.
--RB Michael Turner (shoulder) was limited in his work. He could be questionable for Monday.
--LB Ian Gold missed his second straight day of practice with a knee injury. He would need to make strides the next couple of days to have a chance to play against San Diego on Monday.
--TE Daniel Graham could practice Friday, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. Graham has a high ankle sprain, but he said it is improving.
--WR Brandon Stokley has practiced all week, albeit with limitations. He should be able to play against the Chargers.
--WR Javon Walker hasn't been limited in practice all week. Still, he's not 100 percent because of a lingering knee injury. If Brandon Stokley plays, Walker's playing time will probably be limited as a third receiver.
--DE Tim Crowder could get more playing time the last two weeks. John Engelberger has started, but Crowder is an up-and-coming player who should start next year, so the Broncos might want to give him a head start in the final two games.