Despite playing hurt in the last three games and missing several practices this week, Tomlinson is expected to play when the Chargers meet the Oakland Raiders.
“I consider the Raiders our biggest rival because everybody around town loves that game,” Tomlinson said. “That’s the game you look forward to playing.”
Two of Tomlinson’s five best games as a pro came against the Raiders in 2003. He had a career-high 243 rushing yards in a home win in the season finale, and 187 yards in an overtime loss at Oakland on Sept. 28.
Of course, how he does Sunday will depend on how his groin feels. Tomlinson hasn’t cracked 65 yards in any of the last three games, although he did catch four passes for 78 yards the week after he was hurt.
“It was pretty bad at first, but it’s getting better,” said Tomlinson, who was hurt in the second half of a home win over Tennessee on Oct. 3 after rushing for 147 yards.
Backup running back Jesse Chatman has done a nice job of spelling Tomlinson over the last three games, rushing for 207 yards and three scores.
Tomlinson limped off the field last Sunday after the Chargers defeated Carolina 17-6 to improve to 4-3.
San Diego was the NFL’s worst team in 2003 and ended up missing the playoffs for the eighth straight season. The Chargers have already equaled their win total from last year.
“I think we are in a very good position,” said quarterback Drew Brees, who was all but shoved aside by management in the offseason, only to bounce back remarkably with a 95.5 passer rating, sixth best in the NFL.
The Raiders’ season is coming apart quickly after four straight losses. Injuries and inconsistent play from quarterback Kerry Collins have been the biggest reasons for their demise.
Middleton, an eight-year veteran who turned 30 Monday, was carted off the field Sunday with a torn left quadriceps muscle. Francis tore the ACL in his left knee when he fumbled a fourth-quarter kickoff.
“It’s the game. Guys get injured,” right tackle Robert Gallery said. “Somebody’s got to fill his spot. Somebody’s got to be ready to go. We’ve just got to get better. We’ve got to do the things to win. When we start winning, we’ll talk about our progress.”
Collins has thrown nine interceptions and only four touchdown passes in 4 1/2 games since taking over for Rich Gannon, who broke a vertebra in his neck last month and is out for the season.
However, Collins did have his best game last Sunday, completing 26 of 45 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked field goals of 28, 42, 44 and 40 yards for the Raiders, who outgained the Saints 432-322.
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