WR Buster Davis (Shana Siler/SDBoltReport.com)
With the No. 2 seed in the AFC already locked down, the San Diego Chargers must decide who will play -- and for how long -- when the Redskins come to town Sunday. Here's a look at five key players and the roles they should play in the season finale.
1. RB LaDainian Tomlinson -- Tomlinson has been outspoken about the importance of maintaining a rhythm. It started before the season, when he played in the preseason for the first time since 2005. He has a good thing going now -- he's averaged 3.4 ypc since Week 10 and 3.7 ypc each of the last two weeks -- and he doesn't want to derail that momentum by taking two weeks off (Week 17 and the ensuing bye week).
However, Norv Turner wants to make sure Tomlinson is healthy for the playoffs, which has not been the case the last two seasons. Remember, Tomlinson was hitting his stride late last season before getting injured in the season finale, and Turner does not want to see that happen again. Look for him to get five or six touches in the first quarter and to sit down after that.
2. WR Buster Davis -- San Diego's 2008 first-round pick has been a healthy inactive every game this season. But that might change Sunday. "I would think there is chance Buster would get an opportunity to dress to play," Turner said.
Davis, despite having just 24 catches though three seasons, may still be a part of the team's long-term plans. He is one of just two receivers on the roster whose contract extends beyond this season (Legedu Naanee being the other). It is imperative he takes advantage of any opportunity to prove he can contribute to a winning offense.
3. DE Vaughn Martin -- When the Chargers selected Martin out of Western Ontario, they did not plan on him being a part of the playoff rotation as a rookie. But because of injuries and Martin's continued development, that will almost certainly be the case.
Martin has played primarily in goal line and short-yardage situations. But against the Redskins, he figures to play most of the game as the Chargers look to hasten his overall development. Martin's extended playing time will also help Jacques Cesaire (elbow) and Travis Johnson (groin) get some rest.
4. LB Larry English -- With Shawne Merriman (foot) expected to sit out and Shaun Phillips (hip) slotted to play limited minutes, English will be the main pass rusher from the linebacker position. English has been a big part of the rotation all season, yet he hasn't posted a sack since Week 6.
English has a chance to get off the sack schneid against a Redskins team that ranks No. 27 in sacks allowed (three per game). If that happens, it will give him positive momentum heading into his first postseason.
5. CB Antoine Cason -- Cason has seen his playing time reduced since Week 7, when Steve Gregory replaced him as nickel back. Nonetheless, he's been an important part of the rotation, especially with Quentin Jammer playing with a bruised knee. Jammer figures to sit down by halftime of this week's game, which means Cason will get his most extended run of the season.
Cason has been effective in limited playing time -- he has as many career interceptions (four) as he does starts. An effective outing against Washington could result in more playing time coming his way, be it during the playoffs or next season.
Who are you most excited to see on Sunday? Talk about it in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.