SAN DIEGO -- They’re due.
At 5-7, the Chargers need a win on Sunday against the New York Giants (5-7) to keep their dim playoff hopes alive.
“We’re excited for this challenge -- 5-7 versus 5-7,” San Diego safety Eric Weddle said this week. “The loser is probably out, so we both know this is going to be a hard fought test on both sides, and the winner will keep their season alive.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who spurned the Chargers in the 2004 draft, returns to San Diego for the first time since 2005. Manning is 0-2 against the Chargers.
Stop the run: San Diego’s defense was atrocious stopping the run against Cincinnati, allowing 164 rushing yards. You think the Giants noticed that on film this week? That would be a yes. So expect New York to give the Chargers a steady dose of Andre Brown. Since returning from a broken leg, the Giants running back has three touchdowns in four games and is averaging 4 yards a carry.
Win the turnover battle: The Chargers are 3-1 in games when they are plus-1 or better in turnover differential. And San Diego faces the team with the most turnovers in the NFL in the Giants on Sunday (31). If the Chargers can limit mistakes on offense and force a couple of New York miscues, they can control the tempo of this game.
Cruz control: Other than Wes Welker, New York’s Victor Cruz might be the best slot receiver in the NFL. What makes Cruz so dangerous is his ability to make people miss and create separation as a bigger receiver at 6-foot and 204 pounds. San Diego nickel cornerback Johnny Patrick is questionable for Sunday’s game because of an ankle injury, so the Chargers have to figure out a strategy to limit Cruz’s touches.
Pressure Manning: Manning has been sacked a career-high 31 times this season, resulting in the University of Mississippi product throwing more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (15) for the first time since his rookie season. New York struggles to protect Manning, so the Chargers have to figure out a way to generate some pass rush on Sunday after finishing with no sacks against the Bengals last week.
Take it easy, Melvin: Edge rusher Melvin Ingram was added to the active roster on Saturday and likely will appear in his first game of 2013 coming off of ACL surgery. Ingram will bring energy and enthusiasm to the San Diego sideline, but it’s up to head coach Mike McCoy and the team’s training staff to manage that excitement so he doesn’t suffer a setback. Sometimes less is more.