The schedule says the San Diego Chargers will play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. In other words, they get their second bye of the season.

The Browns are beyond bad. Horrid is too kind a word. So is pathetic.

Cleveland is more than the mistake by the lake when it comes to the local football team and there seems to be no way to apply the brake to the Browns’ downfall.

The Browns (1-10) have lost their last six games this season, their last nine home games dating back to last season and just lost one of their few top-flight players (defensive tackle Shaun Rogers) for the season.

In fact, if you’ve been looking for evidence on whether LaDainian Tomlinson is still a Top 10 NFL running back, he should display it Sunday with Rogers out of the mix with a season-ending lower leg injury. If Tomlinson can’t produce a big game against Cleveland — the Browns are 31st in the NFL in total defense and 29th in defending the run — then he can definitely look forward to finishing a season below 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his stellar career.

Oh yeah, the last time Tomlinson played against the Browns, he rushed for 172 yards and three touchdowns. Currently 10th on the NFL’s all-time career rushing list with 12,257 yards, Tomlinson can pass former San Diego State star Marshall Faulk (12,279) and Cleveland legend Jim Brown (12,312) on Sunday with just an average performance.

As for the Chargers (8-3), they’ve won six in a row and the calendar just turned to December, the month in which they usually crank things up. San Diego has won 14 consecutive games in December dating back to the 2005 season.

There’s no chance of Cleveland keeping the Chargers from increasing that streak to 15. Browns coach Eric Mangini seems to have lost the team — some might say he never did have a handle on the squad — and could be the rare coach who goes one-year-and-done. 

Quarterback Brady Quinn is woefully overmatched amid the talentless offensive pieces that join him in the huddle. The Browns are impotent 0n offense, having scored seven points or less seven times, so perhaps the biggest suspense in this contest is whether or not Cleveland scores any points.

The Chargers’ defense will be without safety Eric Weddle (knee) and also figures to be without defensive end Luis Castillo (calf) and linebacker Shawne Merriman (foot).  Anyone else who’s even remotely banged up should get plenty of chances to rest.

Offensively, Philip Rivers should have another field day as Cleveland’s secondary has been hard hit by injures and will have severe matchup issues trying to check tight end Antonio Gates and receiver Vincent Jackson.

The biggest thing (hey, that’s the saying Norv Turner utters about 17 times in every press briefing) is making sure the Chargers leave Cleveland without suffering any major injuries. They definitely need to know Quinn’s whereabouts after he throws an interception based on his recent cheap-shot on Baltimore Ravens’ Terrell Suggs. 

When your greatest concern is making sure the opponents’ opposing quarterback doesn’t dive at one of your defender’s knees, you know it’s going to be an easy day on the gridiron.

And in this case — Sunday’s game qualifies as the Chargers’ second bye of the campaign.


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