San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns -- Week 8

Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland (outdoors, grass)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m., ET (CBS)

Spread: Chargers by 2.5

Forecast: 48 degrees, slight chance of rain early with decreasing cloud cover throughout the game.

Records: Chargers (Overall: 3-3, AFC West: 2-1); Browns (Overall: 1-6, AFC North: 1-2).

Past results: Two most recent regular-season meetings -- Dec. 6, 2009: Chargers 30, Browns 23; Nov. 5, 2006: Chargers 32, Browns 25. Series record: Chargers hold 14-7-1 advantage and have won seven of past eight meetings.

What matters: The Browns may be struggling to find their winning recipe with 16 rookies on their active roster, but the Chargers arguably have recently had more distractions than any other NFL team.

The bye week offered no reprieve for San Diego, which blew a 24-0 halftime lead en route to a historic 35-24 loss to the Broncos on Monday Night Football in Week 6.

In the days that followed, Bill Johnston, the Chargers director of public relations, told fans to take a “chill pill” in an article he published on the team’s website. The Chargers were also accused of cheating by using illegal stickum in the loss to the Broncos. Coach Norv Turner vehemently denied the accusations while stating a towel widely used by other teams was the only thing in question.

A win is now the only thing that can begin to disperse the growing storm of negativity surrounding the Chargers. If San Diego falls to the lowly Browns, the negativity could easily swell into a perfect storm destroying everything in its path.

Who matters: Turner said the Chargers offense may be less dynamic after turning the ball over six times against the Broncos. QB Philip Rivers has now thrown nine interceptions in 209 pass attempts. Rivers has thrown an interception in 4.3 percent of his passes, the highest percentage of any QB with 200 or more attempts. Put it all together and the Chargers may lean more on RB Ryan Mathews, who leads the team in rushing (259 yards in four games), but has yet to have a 100-yard game this season. The Browns defense has allowed an average 133.7 rushing yards per game (ranked 23rd).

Key matchups: Chargers secondary vs. QB Brandon Weeden. San Diego has done an adequate job of intercepting opposing QBs with seven INTs this season, tied with five other teams for 11th-most. Rivers has thrown nine picks, and Weeden is one of only two QBs (Bengals' Andy Dalton is the other) who have been intercepted 10 times. Cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason and FS Eric Weddle each have two picks.

TE Antonio Gates vs. SS T.J. Ward. Look for Rivers to focus on Gates, his most trusted receiver. Gates broke out for his first two TDs of the season against the Broncos. Gates will likely be matched up against Ward in man coverage because the Browns LBs have not played well against opposing TEs.

Injuries of note: No excuses here. All 53 members of the Chargers' active roster participated in at least two practices this week. ILB Jonas Mouton (hip) and WR Eddie Royal (hamstring) were held out of practice on Friday and are listed as questionable. Mouton has never been active for a game. Turner said he was hopeful Royal would play.

Inside stuff: The Chargers' defense believes shutting down rookie RB Trent Richardson is the key to a win. Richardson is the first rookie in Browns franchise history to score a rushing TD in four straight games (Weeks 2-5). Among all rookies this season he is second in receptions (24), tied for second in points scored (30), third in yards from scrimmage (545), fourth in first downs (21) and fourth in rushing yards (348). However, Richardson only carried the ball eight times for eight yards in the Browns' 17-13 loss to the Colts last week. He entered the game with a rib injury and was pulled after the first half. Richardson was limited in practice throughout this week and is listed as questionable.

Connections: NT Antonio Garay was a sixth-round pick of the Browns in 2003. G-C Rex Hadnot played for the Browns in 2010. Gates attended Kent State University, Ohio. Offensive line coach Mike Sullivan served as assistant offensive line coach for the Browns from 2001-04 and 2007-08. Browns running backs coach Gary Brown was a RB for the Chargers in 1997.

Stat you should know: For the Chargers, it’s all about learning how to close out games. San Diego has given up 52 unanswered second-half points in the past two games.

Record watch: Gates (78) needs three touchdowns catches to match WR Lance Alworth (81) for the franchise record. OLB Shaun Phillips has 64.5 career sacks, fourth in team history. Phillips needs one sack to tie Lee Williams (65.5) for third, and he needs 2.5 sacks to tie Gary “Big Hands” Johnson (67) for second.

Looking ahead: The Chargers will host the Chiefs (1-5) in a critical AFC West matchup on Thursday Night Football next week.

Prediction: Browns 30, Chargers 26.

Follow Chargers reporter Dan McLellan on Twitter @CBSChargers and @sandiegosports