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December has been Chargers’ favorite month

BERNIE WILSON
AP Sports Writer

SAN DIEGO – The calendar is about to turn to the San Diego Chargers’ favorite month.

The Bolts haven’t lost a December game since 2005, when Drew Brees was their starting quarterback and Marty Schottenheimer was their coach.

After routing Kansas City 43-14 on Sunday, the AFC West leaders carry a six-game winning streak into Sunday’s game at Cleveland, which at 1-10 is tied for the NFL’s worst record with Tampa Bay and St. Louis.

Although the Chargers fattened up on some of the NFL’s worst teams the last two Decembers en route to the playoffs under coach Norv Turner, they’re not going to be as fortunate this year.

After Cleveland they’ll face division leaders in back-to-back games, visiting Dallas and then hosting Cincinnati, before playing a Christmas Day game at Tennessee, which has won five in a row after starting 0-6. San Diego ends with a home game against the lowly Washington Redskins on Jan. 3.

With the undefeated Indianapolis Colts closing in on the AFC’s top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Chargers (8-3) would have a shot at the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye if they keep winning.

That would be something, considering that the Chargers looked lost at 2-3 following losses to Pittsburgh and Denver back in October.

Cincinnati leads the AFC North at 8-3, and East leader New England was 7-3 going into Monday night’s game at New Orleans.

“I think when you get to this point it’s in the back of your mind,” Turner said when asked about the fight for playoff seeding. “But to me it’s scary because the No. 1 thing, I don’t care who you are, you want to qualify for the playoffs and that’s a starting point. Then once you do that, you start thinking about, ‘Hey, we want to be in the best position we can.’

“We go to Cleveland, it’s going to be a challenge for us,” he added. “You look at our schedule over the next five games, we play good football teams that are doing the same thing we’re doing, trying to make the playoffs.”

The Chargers have started slow in each of Turner’s three seasons before going on winning streaks. In 2007, they won their final six regular-season games before making it all the way to the AFC championship game, where they lost to New England.

Last year the Chargers appeared all but finished at 4-8 before winning their last four while Denver was losing its last three. The Chargers won the season-finale against the Broncos to clinch their third straight division crown, beat Indianapolis in overtime in the wild-card round, then were manhandled in a loss at Pittsburgh.

San Diego’s December success started under Schottenheimer in 2006, when they won their final 10 games to finish 14-2 before imploding in the playoffs against the Patriots.

Their current winning streak started with a 37-7 blowout of the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, followed by wins against fellow AFC West doormat Oakland, the New York Giants, Philadelphia and Denver. The Broncos had a 3 1/2-game lead over the Chargers following a 34-23 win in San Diego on Oct. 19, then proceeded to lose four straight.

The Chargers lead the Broncos by one game.

“The thing I like best about us is that we’re addressing what we have to do on a week-to-week basis,” Turner said. “And if you want to be a team that has a chance to have success in December and January, you have to be ready to play whatever type of game presents itself.

“We came out in the Denver game and ran for 200 yards, turned right back around in the Kansas City game and get big plays in the passing game and throw for 300. Defensively, I think we had a good plan. We knew we needed to pressure Kansas City and I thought we did a great job of creating pressure against them.”

The Chargers had four takeaways against Kansas City, including safety Paul Oliver’s 40-yard fumble return for a touchdown. The other three KC turnovers all set up Chargers touchdowns.

NOTES: Turner said S Eric Weddle’s sprained knee probably will keep him out two weeks, with a possibility of him missing a third week. … After sustaining a concussion Sunday, ILB Kevin Burnett passed medical tests Monday and should be fine to practice Wednesday, Turner said. … If C Nick Hardwick has another good week of practice he could be in for 20 to 25 plays Sunday, the coach said. Hardwick has been out since having ankle surgery following the season opener. … OLB Shawne Merriman left Sunday’s game with a foot injury and the team probably won’t know his status until the end of the week, Turner said.


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