LaDainian Tomlinson is bummed about his beloved TCU losing to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, but…
Rested Chargers Feel Spry
The two teams tangle on Sunday in an AFC Divisional Playoff game at Qualcomm Stadium, with the winner advancing to face the Colts-Ravens victor.
The Chargers are going through a regular work schedule after enjoying the weekend off as the AFC's No. 2 seed.
The team looks to avenge a playoff loss to the Jets in the 2004 season.
The Chargers will do so while being as healthy as they have been in quite some time. That's especially true for outside linebacker Shawne Merriman.
"I feel pretty good,'' said Merriman, who has been battling a foot injury. "The last four or five games I was pushing through so we could get in the position that we are in right now where not only myself, but some of the other guys were able to get some rest. I feel good and I'm ready for a great week of practice."
Merriman didn't play in the regular-season finale win over the Redskins, then took all of last week off.
How close to 100 percent is the three-time Pro Bowler?
"I really don't put a percentage on it because I can go out there and say that I'm 100 percent but you just never know,'' he said."But I feel pretty good though." The Chargers are upbeat about knowing their opponent after having to wait for the Jets, Bengals and Patriots to sort things out.
"It helps to get into more detail in terms of who you're playing,'' Turner said. "I thought we had great work last week. We need to work on things that have given us problems, things that we thought we could do better. We got work on that last week. Now you zero in on a team."
With a 0-0 record, the Chargers face a team that is 1-0 and feeling good after upsetting the Bengals.
"They're a good team,'' quarterback Philip Rivers said. "Anybody you face, we said last week, is going to be a really good team. I think they're just that.
"They played really good football down the stretch, which is what you want to do: be playing your best ball at playoff time. As far as their defense is concerned, it's going to be a challenge. They'll be as good as any we've played so far and again, that's what you expect. You get to this point in the season -- the playoffs -- and it's going to be a lot of good versus good out there."
--Among the interesting matchups Sunday is the Chargers' defense going against a Jets offense which looks familiar. Brian Schottenheimer is the Jets coordinator, and Marty's kid is running a lot of the same stuff Cam Cameron did when they were both in San Diego. "There is some familiarity there," Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said.
--Rex Ryan was passed over for Turner when the team replaced Marty Schottenheimer after the 2006 season. The Chargers went 14-2 but lost a home playoff game to the Patriots and Schottenheimer was canned.
--QB Philip Rivers' game is accuracy. That is why it meant a lot when he finished the regular-season avoiding double-digits in interceptions -- he had nine. "You'd like to keep this one at zero," he said about his number heading into the playoffs.
--OLB Shawne Merriman is back practicing after giving his sore foot an extended rest.
--WR Vincent Jackson is out of his boot and working. He took some down time with a sore Achilles tendon.
--FS Eric Weddle (knee) has returned to practice and is a go for Sunday.
--WR Malcom Floyd could be poised to build on his 140-yard receiving day in the regular-season finale. Vincent Jackson figures to get most of the Jets' attention at wide out.
--RT Brandyn Dombrowski and RG Louis Vasquez will be making their first playoff starts.
REPORT CARD FOR REGULAR SEASON
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Philip Rivers was sensational this season, cementing his reputation as one of the elite players at his position. Rivers, who led the league in yards per attempt, didn't blink when shouldering more and more of the Chargers' offensive load. Vincent Jackson continues to emerge as one of the NFL's rising stars with his second straight 1,000-yard season. Antonio Gates had one of the better seasons of his career and that is saying something. To throw as much as the Chargers do, the pass-blocking has to be consistent and it was -- despite the unit being shuffled because of injuries.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Chargers never found a steady rhythm running the ball as they hovered around the bottom of every critical rushing category. LaDainian Tomlinson didn't show his burst at all times -- he missed two games with an ankle injury -- and Darren Sproles made the majority of his contributions as a receiver and return specialist. It remains to be seen if this shortcoming will be exposed in the playoffs.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Chargers' pass rush wasn't much early on and the result was rival quarterbacks having a fair share of success. But they shook up the back end by cutting Clinton Hart and inserting rookie Kevin Ellison at safety and making a few other tweaks. Shaun Phillips became a force stripping footballs from quarterbacks -- franchise-best seven forced fumbles. Shawne Merriman battled knee and foot problems throughout the season and was far from his Pro Bowl-like seasons.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- When T Jamal Williams went down this unit was shell-shocked. It finally came around with the contributions from street free agents and other newcomers. But the Chargers were 20th in stopping the run and this is another area which could bite them in the playoffs.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The Chargers have one of the better kicking games in the NFL with steady K Nate Kaeding -- a Pro Bowler -- and P Mike Scifres, who continued to be a weapon with his pinpoint accuracy. Sproles fueled a return game; he averaged 24 yards on kickoffs, 7 on punts. The coverage units had a few hiccups but for the most part were fine.
COACHING: A -- Norv Turner was Mr. Tar and Feather after starting 2-3. But he stayed true to his plan, didn't panic, and the Chargers rolled out an 11-game winning streak and won their fourth straight AFC West title. Turner deserves credit for getting this offense on an impressive level and continuing the development of Rivers. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was rocked with injuries, and somehow patched together a unit which got better as the year progressed.
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