By Dave Thomas

With six games remaining in the regular season, the San Diego Chargers need to put the gear in full throttle and hope for the best. Anything less will likely leave the Bolts at home come early January.

After putting away a gritty Oakland Raider team last Sunday at home (won 13-6), the Chargers get another challenge this weekend from a team that used to call Los Angeles home back in the day.

The 4-6 St. Louis Rams come calling in a game that should be just as physical as San Diego’s (6-4) meeting with their arch-rivals a week ago.

In that contest, starting quarterback Philip Rivers was banged around and battered for much of the day. When all was said and done, Rivers suffered a knee injury and bruises to his ribs. Initially, word came out of the locker room that Rivers was dealing with a “severe rib injury” and was in great pain, but that was later shot down by head coach Mike McCoy. Ironically, the initial comments had come from Rivers’ long-time teammate Antonio Gates.

Rams Will Provide Stiff Test

Although they are under .500, the Rams will likely give the Chargers everything they want come Sunday afternoon in Southern California.

St. Louis, which sits only two games behind defending Super Bowl champ Seattle in the NFC West standings, has already scored wins over the Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos, three teams that certainly figure to be in the playoff hunt come next month.

In what has turned into an exciting NFC West race this season, the Rams could ultimately sneak into the playoffs as a wild card if they can run the gauntlet between now and the last weekend of the regular season. While Arizona looks to be in rather firm control of the division, both the 49ers and Seahawks are showing this season that neither is as dominant as they were a season ago.

Meantime, the Chargers got some good news Thursday evening when the previously winless Raiders shocked rival Kansas City, 24-20. With the loss the Chiefs fell to 7-4, a record San Diego can get to this Sunday with a win over Missouri’s other team. With front-leading Denver sitting at 7-3, the Chargers also must keep pace with the team many people figure will win the AFC West.

Healthy Rivers Makes A Difference

Going into this weekend’s meeting with St. Louis, the Chargers can only hope that Rivers is able to get some quality protection from an offensive line that certainly has been suspect at times. If he doesn’t, former St. Louis starting QB Kellen Clemens (Chargers’ backup QB) might have to put on the helmet and play against his former team.

Rivers, who did practice both Wednesday and Thursday, certainly has to be regarded as one of the toughest players in the league. Anyone who has followed the team for years knows that it takes a ton of effort to get Rivers out of a game.

With all the extra attention that goes with one’s starting quarterback being more than just a little dinged up, Rivers was quick to point out that he will be ready to go come Sunday.

In comments on Chargers.com, Rivers noted “I feel good. Shoot, it’s part of playing this position [to] get banged up here and there. I feel as good as I could ask to feel at this point in the season. If we told you every knick and knack we ever had, it’d be a long list and things you wouldn’t care to hear about. It wouldn’t be worth reporting that, for sure. It’s not at all [something I’ve been dealing with for a while]. Mainly close to that last hit in the game I got caught landing on the football. It’s nothing that’s going to linger or cause me to miss any time on the practice field [or in the game].”

The Chargers had a pair of players missing practice on Thursday in nose tackle Ryan Carrethers and starting center/guard Rich Ohrnberger.

The latter has battled the injury bug most of the season, yet one more reason why Rivers has to be wary of being sacked and/or injured.

Thursday’s Injury Report:

Jahleel Addae (safety) – concussion – limited practice
Ryan Carrethers (nose tackle) – elbow – did not practice
Dwight Freeney (outside linebacker) – non-injury related – full practice
Sean Lissemore (nose tackle) – quad – full practice
Rich Ohrnberger (center/guard) – back and ankle – did not practice
Philip Rivers (quarterback) – chest – full practice

For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.

Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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