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Giants At Chargers: Eli Manning Goes Head-To-Head With Philip Rivers As Giants Try And Keep NFC East Title Hopes Alive In Must-Win Game

  By Brad Carroll  
Eli Manning and Philip Rivers have been in the league so long many young fans might not even realize the two quarterbacks will forever be connected. Back in the 2004 NFL draft, almost a decade ago, the San Diego Chargers held the No. 1 overall pick while the New York Giants had the fourth pick. Both teams needed and wanted a quarterback, but the problem was Manning publicly refused to play for the Chargers, even if they did end up drafting him.

Well, the Chargers drafted him anyway, making for some very awkward photos of Manning holding up the San Diego jersey after the announcement. But it didn't last long, as a blockbuster trade was already in the works.

The Chargers ended up working out a deal with the Giants to trade Manning for a 2005 first round draft pick, other draft choices and had Big Blue select Rivers with the fourth overall selection and send him to San Diego as well. The future of a third quarterback was determined too with the trade, as Ben Roethlisberger went to the Steelers a few picks later. If the Giants didn't get Manning, they would have taken Roethlisberger with the fourth overall pick, not Rivers.

In varying degrees, the moves worked out for all three teams. The Giants and Steelers each won two Super Bowl with their new franchise quarterbacks, while Chargers never made it to the title game, but have been perennial playoff contenders in the AFC. All three quarterbacks have been Pro Bowlers.

Sunday, for just the second time, Manning and Rivers will go head-to-head on the same field, bringing the obvious questions of what if. What if Manning stayed in San Diego and either Rivers or Roethlisberger went to the Giants? What if the trade fell though and the Giants were stuck with Rivers, even though they preferred Roethlisberger instead? Of course, the Giants and their fans don't have to think that hard, as they have two Super Bowl trophies to hold their hat on, which makes it easy to know things worked out just fine.

"Philip Rivers has had an outstanding career in San Diego and Eli Manning has had an outstanding career here," coach Tom Coughlin said. "So, I think you have a win-win situation there."

Rivers won the previous meeting between the two quarterbacks, 21-20 back in 2009. This year, the hype for the game isn't as great as it might have been considering both teams are under .500 and on the fringe of the playoff hunt. Both teams need a victory to stay alive, however, so the game has great meaning.

The Giants need the most help to make the postseason, but this week could be one where they make up ground quickly. First, the Giants obviously need to beat San Diego, a tough assignment especially considering the road trip to the West Coast. Then, they would need the Lions to beat the Eagles and the Bears to beat the Cowboys. If those three things happen, the Giants will go into the final three games trailing the Eagles and Cowboys by one game.

The Giants have to win the division outright to make the playoffs, as they will lose all tiebreakers, so making up ground quickly is a necessity. The Giants have won five of their last six, but the one loss was a near season-killer, a home defeat to the Cowboys. They can at least live to see another week with a in Sunday.

Here's a closer look at what needs to happen for the Giants to beat the Chargers in San Diego in a must-win game.

New York Giants (5-7, two games back of NFC East lead)
at San Diego Chargers (5-7, one game back of final wild card)

The Spread: Giants +3.5; Chargers -3.5

Major Injury Report: GIANTS: Out, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, CB Corey Webster. Doubtful, RB Brandon Jacobs. Questionable, CB Trumaine McBride. CHARGERS: Questionable, LB Jarret Johnson, WR Eddie Royal.

GameDay Staff Picks: Brad: Chargers 28, Giants 21. Craig: Chargers 35, Giants 21. Matt: Chargers 31, Giants 20.

How Giants Can Beat Chargers
Ground And Pound: The Giants need to control the line of scrimmage and they've had success doing that since Andre Brown returned to the lineup. Brown has 343 rushing yards in four games with three touchdowns, quickly becoming one of the most productive backs in the league. He needs to continue that success against the Chargers. San Diego allows 117.8 rushing yards per game, 21st in the league, so the Giants should have success against that defense. The Giants passing attack will be key as well, as the Chargers allow 268.8 yards per game through the air. If the Giants can pound the ball into the Chargers' front seven and hit on big plays down field with Eli Manning finding Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, with the offensive line providing the protection, the Giants can win this game.

Slowing Woodhead: Chargers running back Danny Woodhead hasn't had much to do with the offense yardage-wise recently, but he could be a key player today against the Giants. The Chargers are second in the league in converting third downs, at 46.4 percent, and Woodhead is a big part of that success. The Giants have prepared for Woodhead all week, as they haven't faced a running back with his skill set this season. Woodhead is first in receptions among running backs and second to Darren Sproles in receiving yards. Last week in a loss to Cincinnati, Woodhead was held to 22 yards on seven carries and two catches for 13 yards. In a victory over the Chiefs the week prior, he had 70 total yards and two touchdowns. If the Giants limit Woodhead's role on offense, it would be a big step toward pulling the road upset.

Keep Pressure On: Last week, one of our keys to victory against the Redskins was finding a pass rush, especially with Jason Pierre-Paul out with an injury. Well, the same holds true for this game in San Diego, especially with Pierre-Paul out with injury again. Justin Tuck stepped up against the Redskins, recording four sacks, basically winning that game by himself. All four sacks came in the second half, when Robert Griffin III was completely shut down after putting together a great first half. Tuck not only saved the season, but he most likely guaranteed himself a nice payday in the offseason, whether it's from the Giants or someone else. Tuck and the rest of the Giants must have another big game Sunday. If Rivers has time to pass, he'll carve up the Giants, as he has weapons at every position and can spread the ball around. If the Giants can harass him, they should be able to force a mistake or two. The Giants need to bring the pressure.

Three Chargers To Stop
QB Philip Rivers (3,633 yards passing with 23 touchdowns this season); RB Ryan Mathews (leading rusher had 92 total yards in a loss to Cincinnati last week); TE Antonio Gates (726 receiving yards and three touchdowns this year).

Who To Root For
New York Giants at San Diego, 4:25 p.m. (Giants)
Detroit at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. (Lions)
Dallas at Chicago, 8:30 p.m. Monday (Bears)

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