Forget the Eli Manning-Philip Rivers 2004 NFL draft storyline, because that won't matter by about 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. When the New York Giants play the San Diego Chargers in Week 14, the key will be that this is a matchup between two teams that are going in different directions.
The Giants have of course won five of six and have committed only a single turnover in five of those victories, while the mistake-prone Chargers turned it over three times and had some key drops in a loss to the Bengals last Sunday. That defeat was their fourth in five games, and it also came at home.
Both teams remain alive in the playoff race, so they're still going to give 100 percent. But that might benefit Tom Coughlin's Giants. Here's a preview from their perspective, along with our prediction...
What New York must do to win, offensive edition
Don't turn it over. The Giants win when they limit those mistakes, so that's gotta be the goal here. Keep it on the ground and maintain balance to keep Eli Manning from forcing things against a defense that has, to its credit, come alive with four takeaways the last two weeks.
What New York must do to win, defensive edition
Philip Rivers is having a fantastic season and he doesn't flinch when blitzed. The Giants will have to get natural pressure on San Diego's veteran quarterback and the corners will have to provide solid coverage. Otherwise, they risk letting Rivers, Antonio Gates and Keenan Allen take over the game. That won't be easy without Jason Pierre-Paul.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Justin Tuck: He'll again have to carry the load for that pass rush and get pressure on Rivers. That worked quite well against the 'Skins, with Tuck recording four sacks. San Diego's offensive line isn't any better, so Tuck has to step up.
Andre Brown: Again, balance is required. Brown and the running game spurred the offense back to life against the 'Skins.
Jon Beason: Not only has he become a centerpiece of the defense, but he'll likely have to deal with Gates on Sunday.
Will Beatty: The Chargers don't pose a huge threat in the pass rush, but Beatty has been so bad that Manning will be at risk until Beatty gets tougher on his blind side.
Victor Cruz: As usual, Manning's best receiver has to be Manning's best receiver.
|Giants, Chargers: Last six weeks|
|Record||Points scored||Points against||Turnover dif|
|Giants||5-1||134 (19)||88 (3rd)||-11|
|Chargers||2-4||135 (18)||139 (12th)||-4|
|Pro Football Reference|
Injury analysis, Giants edition
We mentioned that Pierre-Paul won't play, and Corey Webster is also out. The Giants have gotten used to life without those two guys, especially Webster. They can survive that as well as the loss of Brandon Jacobs, who is doubtful with a knee injury.
Underrated injury: Cornerback Trumaine McBride (groin) is questionable. He's made an impact this year, but they should be OK with Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas against a fairly shallow receiving corps.
Injury analysis, Chargers edition
That mediocre San Diego offensive line is at least finally getting healthy. King Dunlap is expected to return to the left tackle spot after missing five of the last nine games due to injury. He's probable, which should bring some stability to that line. Rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker is also probable with an ankle injury, while receiver Eddie Royal and linebacker Jarret Johnson are both questionable.
Getting Johnson back would be a bonus. He's missed five of their last seven games.
B/R NFC East blog prediction: Giants 27, Chargers 24
The Giants are playing hard for Coughlin, and it's beginning to look as though that win in Kansas City was an anomaly for the Chargers. They've dropped four of five and are once again falling out of contention. They just make too many mistakes, home or away. I can see a suddenly feisty Giants team forcing a major error late to secure the victory