When the New York Giants (0-4) host the Los Angeles Chargers (0-4), tomorrow at MetLife Stadium, it’ll be a battle of two teams who are winless for different reasons.
The Giants are coming off two-straight walk-off losses, via field goals – for a combined five points — while the Chargers have also suffered late-game losses, with the twist being their own special teams woes dooming them.
The Chargers’ start was likely expected – even though some pundits made them their sleeper playoff pick – but for the Giants, it’s been a surprise that nothing has gone their way. Big Blue’s start is particularly troubling considering they’re coming off an 11-5 record and a postseason berth, last season. They further provided disappointment for their faithful after adding a couple more offensive weapons to help quarterback Eli Manning, but those new toys appear broken right now. Big things were expected for Big Blue. Instead, they started out the season looking like a shell of the team they were last year.
Literally adding injury to insult is the fact that the Giants have a slew of key players on this week’s injury report, making this game difficult to decipher. Starting center Weston Richburg is out, while bookend defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) and Olivier Vernon (ankle) are both listed as questionable – although Pierre-Paul said he’s “definitely” playing. Starting guard John Jerry (hamstring) and reserve defensive end Avery Moss (shoulder) are also listed as questionable.
Overall, the Chargers have a 6-5 edge in the all-time series, winning the last three matchups, but the Giants are 3-3 in games played at home.
It’s must-win time, because historically, an 0-5 start to the season is enough to declare the loser’s campaign over, especially with both teams being a part of some loaded divisions – the Giants in the National Football Conference East Division and the Chargers in the American Football Conference West Division.
Salute Magazine takes a look at this battle of o-fers, as neither can afford to have another mark in the right-hand column this early in the season.
#1 Stopping the Super Chargers … That great rallying song is no more since they ditched San Diego for Los Angeles, but the Chargers are still a potent offense of which to be reckoned. Led by quarterback Philip Rivers, they’re able to move the chains and light up scoreboards as well as anyone. There’s options abound for Rivers, including running back Melvin Gordon, future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates and his understudy Hunter Henry, and wideouts Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams. The former notched five receptions for 138 yards in last week’s disappointing 26-24 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, while the latter added five catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. If the Giants can bottle up the Chargers’ offense, it could a very quiet trip back to the west coast for the visitors.
#2 Slowing down Rivers … Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese loaded up the defense, prior to last season, with rave reviews and success. But for as much hype as that side of the ball garnered entering this season, they’ve not yet been able to replicate such dominance. Big Blue’s vaunted secondary, in particular, has yet to snag an interception. They’ll need to be active and force Rivers into mistakes. The sage veteran has tossed six touchdowns and four picks, but three of those interceptions came in one game, meaning the gunslinger can be had at times.
#3 Manning chucking and ducking … It’s been well documented that Manning’s pass protection has been spotty at best, so in order for the Giants to have a chance at getting their first win, they need to keep him clean. Manning has thrown for 1,113 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions, with a 69.9 completion rate and a 90.3 passer rating – pretty good stats and a minor miracle considering he’s been under siege for most of the season. The Chargers can unleash a dominant pass rush, led by bookend defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. The former leads the conference in sacks with 5.5 and is second in the National Football League, while the latter has added 2.5. Even reserve defensive end Chris McCain has added three sacks this season. Simply put, if the maligned offensive line can’t protect Manning, 0-5 will happen.
#4 Forever linked … Manning and Rivers will forever be connected since they were traded for one another in the early part of the 2004 National Football League Draft. Manning, the No. 1 overall pick, was drafted by the then-San Diego Chargers, but his refusal to play there spurred the trade. The Giants orchestrated a blockbuster swap after drafting Rivers and sent him to San Diego. Manning, a future Hall of Famer, went on to win two Super Bowls with the G-Men, while Rivers, a fine player in his own right and likely a Hall of Famer himself, has had many bright spots in his illustrious career, but no championship to show for it.
#5 Off and running … The offensive line’s pass protection woes are already highlighted, but the run blocking needs to be better, too. Featured back Paul Perkins (ribs) has been ruled out, which means it’ll be rookie Wayne Gallman’s turn to shine. The former Clemson University star has been used sparingly so far, but he’s in line to tote the ball a lot, as he can provide the spark that was missing with Perkins earlier in the season. Gallman had 42 rushing yards and a touchdown in last week’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and just may be the catalyst to invigorate a so far listless rushing attack.
#6 Time to step up … Manning’s top targets have all had limited success so far, but perhaps the most disappointing has been veteran Brandon Marshall, who was brought to Big Blue to finally provide Manning with a reliable No. 2 option alongside star Odell Beckham Jr., and also be able to take some of the secondary’s attention away from the electric wideout. Alas, it has not worked out yet, and Marshall admits he needs to step up and do more. But can he? So far, the answer seems to be no, as Marshall (just 139 receiving yards and a paltry 8.7 yards per catch) looks like an old Brandon Marshall and not the old Brandon Marshall fans are accustomed to seeing.