Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Giants [Print without images]

Saturday, December 7, 2013
W2W4: Giants at Chargers

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

SAN DIEGO -- The New York Giants are 5-7 and in third place, still mathematically alive in the race for the NFC East but needing a ton of help to make their hopes realistic. The San Diego Chargers are 5-7 and in third place, eliminated from their division race but still very much alive in the pitiful race for the final AFC wild-card spot. These two teams meet at 4:25 pm ET on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, and here are a couple of things to keep an eye on in the matchup.


Third-down terrors: The Chargers have converted 46.4 percent of their third-down attempts this year, second only to the Broncos in that department. Giants linebacker Jon Beason specifically mentioned third-down running back Danny Woodhead as a player for whom his group would have to account. The Giants have been good all year at limiting the production of running backs, but offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Woodhead is a different kind of back than they've faced, and that the way the Chargers use him presents different challenges. Woodhead leads all NFL running backs this year with 61 receptions and is second to the Saints' Darren Sproles among running backs with 482 receiving yards.

The turnover battle: The Chargers' defense has forced only 11 turnovers this year, which ranked them 29th in the league through Week 13. The Giants' offense, of course, has committed a league-leading 31 turnovers and at least one in every game. But while they turned it over 23 times and forced only seven while losing all of their first six games, the Giants have turned the ball over only eight times and forced 13 while going 5-1 in their last six games. So if the Chargers can't take the ball away (as they have not been able to do all year), they forego a significant potential advantage against the Giants.

Is this the week for Hakeem Nicks? This replaces our weekly "Is this the week for Eli Manning?" segment, since Manning was a cool 22-for-28 in Sunday's victory in Washington and obviously has overcome at least some of the comfort issue that arose early in the season due to the Giants' inability to protect him. What would help even more is a big game from Nicks, who was once Manning's top wide receiver but has been a shell of himself in his contract year. Nicks has yet to catch a touchdown pass this season and hasn't had more than 51 receiving yards in a game since Week 6. Fellow wideout Victor Cruz (who himself hasn't been to the end zone since Week 4) said he thought the Chargers' defense would offer the Giants opportunities to hit big plays in the passing game. What remains to be seen is whether Nicks can get open and catch the ball well enough to take advantage of those opportunities.