2005 RANKINGS: Giants: offense 26th (13th rush, 27th pass); defense 29th (2nd rush, 31st pass). Chargers: offense 27th (20th rush, 26th pass); defense 19th (15th rush, 18th pass)
PREDICTION: Chargers 27-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: The pre-game hype has been about Giants QB Eli Manning playing in San Diego for the first time since forcing the Chargers' hand to trade him on draft day 2004. The game-day hype will be about how he handles what promises to be a very hostile -- and possibly nasty -- crowd. The Giants will attempt to gain control early by running the ball against the Chargers' stout 3-4 in an effort to set up shots downfield against San Diego's more vulnerable secondary. Offensively, the Chargers need an improved effort from their struggling offensive line and they need to get RB LaDainian Tomlinson more touches. He's arguably the best dual threat in the game, yet he has no receptions through two games. And with TE Antonio Gates effective over the middle, the Giants will be forced to leave their corners in more man coverage.
Linebacker Shaun Phillips (calf) couldn't complete Thursday's practice and missed Friday's as well. He said he'll be fine for Sunday, but it might mean additional snaps for first-round pick Shawne Merriman, a situation that Merriman says he would welcome. "I just hope that I can show people why the Chargers used their top pick on me."
Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson (calf) will miss his third straight game on Sunday.
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, after looking at the game plan, is confident the team will get him some passes on Sunday. He's yet to catch on this year.
Punter Mike Scifres is off to a rocky start. The first alternate Pro Bowler of last year is averaging a net of only 33.8 yards.
Wide Receiver Reche Caldwell has yet to contribute much in the passing game. The team's No. 3 receiver has but one catch for 9 yards.
Kicker Jay Feely, who strained his back making a tackle against New Orleans last Monday night, was back at practice Thursday and kicked a field goal. "He'll be fine," said head coach Tom Coughlin.
Also listed as questionable was rookie CB Corey Webster (quad), and he took some snaps in practice but Tom Coughlin reported he looked as though he was approaching the task "gingerly." He was held out from further practice, and Coughlin said "he has a ways to go."
Defensive tackle William Joseph and DT Kendrick Clancy appear to be mostly responsible for the Giants' success against the run in the first two games of the season. Arizona was held to 31 yards and New Orleans to 72. "Both are playing well," Coughlin said. "It isn't just them, of course, but they have made strong contributions."
Running Back Tiki Barber doesn't want to waste time discussing the Manning affair. Rather, he said, "It's a short week and we have a long trip against a tough opponent. It's going to carry a sense or urgency for us to get prepared for this one. There just isn't a lot of time."
The Giants have been in the red zone seven times over the past two games and have scored six times - five touchdowns and a field goal. Their 69 points is not only the highest total they have ever scored in the first two games of any season, but lead the league after two weeks as well.