The most critical line on the Chargers-Giants game on Sunday isn't being posted in Las Vegas. Instead, it has been practicing every day at Chargers Park.
If the Chargers are to get right and find their first win of the season against the Giants on Sunday, it's imperative their offensive line performs better than in the first two games.
So the Chargers will offer a fresh look up front.
Toniu Fonoti, the team's starting left guard, will be replaced by Kris Dielman. Fonoti had a plate inserted into his broken right hand on Wednesday and didn't practice on Thursday. All signs point to Dielman making his first NFL start against a Giants defensive line which is pretty solid all the way across.
"I have all the confidence in Kris," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "He is one of the most competitive people I know. Almost to a fault."
No one will blame the Giants if they take a page from the Dallas and Denver defenses, which bottled up the potentially explosive Chargers offense. They blitzed with abandon and dared the Chargers to beat them with the deep or even intermediate pass.
"They have the same type of defense," Schottenheimer said of the Giants. "They don't necessarily do it in man-to-man coverage, but they do bring it pretty consistency."
Consistency is what has been lacking up front for the Chargers. Which is surprising considering how effective this group played last season, the first year it was together.
The only change is the position coach. Offensive line guru Hudson Houck moved on to Miami when the Chargers balked at his $1 million asking price.
Carl Mauck a former player and coach with the Chargers, replaced him. But to date, the offensive line hasn't taken to the change.
Quarterback Eli Manning and his date with the town he shunned in the 2004 draft continued to be the subject most discussed around the Giants' practice facility, but he has treated it merely as a minor bump in the road and not something to be overly serious about.
"I said yesterday that it had nothing to do with the city or the people," he repeated. "I just sat down and figured out all my options, both for my football career and afterwards, and I didn't think San Diego would be a good fit for me."
So he told the team as much, and the Chargers drafted him anyway with the first overall selection. They had to - if they had let him slip even one position, he would have been snapped up by the next team, the Chargers' AFC West rival, the Oakland Raiders.
"Yeah, I kind of understood that," Manning said. "But it didn't change my mind. I am sure I did the right thing for me."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin is all about winning, only about winning, and is reluctant to discuss anything other than his football team. The entire Manning affair annoys him only because he is fearful that the kid will obsess over it.
"I had a talk with him a couple of times," Coughlin said, "and he has already thought about it. He's aware of it. But the most focus should be placed on a very, very good football team. I mean, we have to get ready to play an outstanding football team. Those other things, although they are on the periphery, are part of the factor that causes you to have to focus especially well when you play on the road."
How does Coughlin expect Manning to handle what is expected to be intense booing?
"The same way he handles everything else," he said. "With dignity, class and respect."