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Place: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
Most teams use their bye week to rest injured players and recharge batteries, but the San Diego Chargers spent it trying to work their way out of a sticky situation.
The Chargers, who face the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday, were accused of using Stickum – a banned substance – during their 35-24 loss to Denver on Oct. 15 and continue to be investigated by the NFL.
San Diego also had extra time to think about how they blew a 24-0 halftime lead against the Broncos. The Browns couldn’t keep the momentum of their first victory of the season going and lost at Indianapolis 17-13 last week as rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden continues to learn on the job.
San Diego Chargers (3-3): San Diego could be fined or lose a draft pick if it is found guilty of using Stickum, but its immediate concern is to remember how to finish games. The Chargers led the Saints 24-14 before allowing the final 17 points Oct. 8.
San Diego’s defense has been shredded by two of the top quarterbacks in NFL history in successive weeks (Drew Brees, Peyton Manning), but it should have an easier time with Weeden, who has completed 56.6 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Before the second-half meltdown when he threw three of his four interceptions, Philip Rivers reconnected with tight end Antonio Gates, who caught his first two touchdowns of the season.
Cleveland Browns (1-6): Cleveland had a chance for a two-game winning streak, but turned it over on downs at the Indianapolis 39 with 1:54 remaining. Weeden, who is coming off the best statistical game of his brief career with two touchdown passes and a 96.0 rating, may have to emulate Brees and Manning if rookie running back Trent Richardson continues to struggle with injuries.
Richardson, who said he has not played at full-speed yet this season, had eight yards on eight carries last week before being benched at halftime as he tried to play with a rib cartilage injury. Richardson said he intends to be ready Sunday. Safety T.J. Ward, who is 5 feet 10, has a tall task as he is expected to cover the 6-4 Gates most of the time.
1. Since 2006, Rivers has thrown for 25,629 yards, second-most to Brees (30,491).
2. Thanks in part to San Diego facing two high-powered passing attacks in the last two weeks, its defense is No. 2 in the NFL against the run at 71.2 yards per game.
3. The Chargers lead the series 14-7-1 and have won four straight and seven of the last eight meetings, including a 30-23 victory in the last encounter in 2009.
Vegas Prediction: Chargers 19, Browns 16 (OT)