Manning was a Charger for, oh, about 45 minutes, on draft day before being trade to the Giants. Rivers was among the booty headed the Chargers way, and Sunday marks the first time the two quarterbacks will square off against each other as starters.
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson said if he were just a fan, he would be watching those two big names from one of the NFL's most celebrated drafts.
"Sometimes rivalries are just naturally built because of where you are drafted, and then there is the trade aspect of it," Tomlinson said. "There is a natural rivalry there with Philip and Eli as it was with Michael Vick and myself from the trade."
Vick was nearly a Charger before then-general manager John Butler pulled off the blockbuster which brought Tomlinson, a future Hall of Famer, to San Diego.
"Some things are going to follow you your whole career," Tomlinson said. "Them two are going to be linked together their whole career so as a fan it is something you just want to watch."
QB Philip Rivers
The Chargers are showing a pulse again after beating up on AFC West rivals Kansas City and Oakland. While those wins have the Chargers over .500 at 4-3, they know they are stepping up a class this week.
And they face a Giants team which is in a sour mood after dropping three straight games after winning their first five.
The Chargers have to prove they can beat someone other than an AFC West patsy.
"I can't say it's a must-win because after this game we have eight left and anything can happen in eight games," Tomlinson said. "That is a whole half of a season."
"This is a game we need to win," Tomlinson added. "We need to get on a roll and put games tighter, winning games, to kind of get that confidence going, to build that confidence.
"And going to a place like New York, a hostile environment against a very good team, it will do a lot for our confidence.
"I don't know if it is a benchmark game or not but this is a very good team and we will see where we stand after Sunday."
The Chargers can't stand to give much more ground, already two games behind AFC West-leading Denver. But they also know the Giants, at home, aren't going to fold easy despite stubbing their toes in their last three games.
"You go back to New York and play in the late afternoon game is really why you play," Rivers said. "We have been in these types of games before and won and that's going to be the plan as we head to Sunday."
The Chargers are entering a grueling three-week run in which they are at the Giants, home to the Eagles and then at the Broncos. After such a sputtering start, the Chargers know they have to find that extra gear right now.
"This is a very good defense and it's obvious they get after you," said Tomlinson, who rushed for 192 yards and three touchdowns in his lone game against the Giants. "They have talent at pretty much every position: Osi (Umenyiora), Justin (Tuck) and (Antonio) Pierce, that is the core of their defense, but they do got other guys that get after you."
After this game, the Chargers will know if they are legitimate playoff team.
SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Giants lead series 5-4, but the Chargers won the last game, 45-23, in San Diego in 2005. The Chargers' last visit to New Jersey came in 1995 where they needed to win to secure a playoff spot. The game was marred by the Chargers being buried by a barrage of snowballs.
--OLB Shawne Merriman said this game will be determined in the trenches. "They are powerful up front and they got a lot of experience in their front line and they got a running back (Brandon Jacobs) who goes straight downhill," he said. "I think it's going to a battle of the front seven."
Coach Norv Turner
--Turner is a student of good quarterbacks and he thinks Eli Manning certainly fits that bill. "He's got great poise, great presence, a great command of their offense. He knows where everybody is. He fits the ball in some real tight areas. He makes some throws where you say, 'Wow that is a big-time throw.' He has a lot of experience and you are not going to rattle him," Turner said.
--QB Philip Rivers is a small-town country guy, so landing in San Diego instead of New York City was a-OK with him. "I feel like I made out on the good side of the deal in many ways," he said.
--Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was the Chargers head coach for 22 games from 1997-98, going 6-16 before he was fired.
--The Chargers tried to sneak RB Gartrell Johnson onto their practice squad at the end of camp, but he was discovered and claimed by the Giants. The fourth-round pick was praised this week by Giants coach Tom Coughlin for his physical style.
--Turner said the Chargers are doing what he wants - improving each week.
"We are growing and we're getting better," Turner said. "We're getting some guys going. We'll have a great week of practice and we're looking forward to going back and playing. The look on our guys' faces before the game, the energy we have before the game, and there's a sense of confidence in terms of where we're at. We've got a real challenge this week and we'll go practice and prepare for it."
--Might the Chargers go to the Wildcat formation again after Tomlinson took a direct snap last week and rushed for a touchdown? "I can't tell you,"' Tomlinson said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 - The number of times Eli Manning and Philip Rivers have played each other. But this is the first time the two have started against each other.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Absolutely. In their minds there is only one L.T. How can you argue with the L.T. in New York and the time he played? At the same time I'm the West Coast guy, so I will just look at it like that." -- RB LaDainian Tomlinson on if Giants fans give him grief for having the same nickname as Hall of Fame Giants LB Lawrence Taylor.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This is the first game the Chargers will play without WR Chris Chambers, who was released. Malcom Floyd will start opposite Vincent Jackson. The Chargers used the roster spot with ILB James Holt, who doesn't figure to play, but he should stay ready as the Chargers have had a rash of injuries at the inside spot. ILBs Kevin Burnett and Tim Dobbins won't play because of injuries. Brandon Siler will get his first NFL start in his three-year career.
--WR Vincent Jackson has six receptions for 25 yards or more this season. Three have gone for at least 50 yards.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson
--RB Darren Sproles collects yards on rushes, receptions and returns. His 1,336 combined yards are the second-most in the league.
--OLB Shawne Merriman is coming off his first game with a sack this season - and he had two. Merriman was given a game ball for his efforts.
--TE Antonio Gates not only has six receptions of 25 yards or more, but his 176 yards on third downs is 10th in the league.
GAME PLAN: What the Chargers do best is throw the ball, and considering the various injuries to the Giants' secondary, coach Norv Turner will not be shy about attacking the Giants in that manner. Defensively, the Chargers are going to have to win on the early downs to get Manning into passing situations and then see if their improved pass rush is for real or just a mirage from playing the Raiders and Chiefs.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Chargers run defense vs. Giants running game.
Third-string inside linebacker Brandon Siler starts because Kevin Burnett and Tim Dobbins are out with injuries. Plus Stephen Cooper, the other inside linebacker, has a knee problem which flares up. The Giants will point Brandon Jacobs toward the middle and see if the Chargers have enough muscle and experience to bring the physical running back down. There are also questions in the middle without Pro Bowler Jamal Williams but lately the interior has played better. This will come down to how well the inside backers play.
--Chargers QB Philip Rivers and WRs Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd vs. Giants secondary.
The Chargers dig the long ball and they will throw it early and often - they opened the game with a 53-yard bomb to Floyd last week. Among the reasons the Giants have lost three straight is because they are susceptible to big plays. That's not a good sign for the Giants - unless their pass rush can keep Rivers from setting his feet. The Chargers have 18 passing plays of 25-plus yards, tied for the third-most in the NFL.
--Chargers OLBs Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips vs. Giants QB Eli Manning.
The Chargers were ecstatic last week when Merriman and Phillips combined for four sacks and numerous other quarterback hurries. And this week they need to get to Manning, otherwise the ultra accurate passer will exploit a secondary which has proved to be good only when it gets a pass rush. The Giants' front line is stout and the Chargers will also be sending DBs Steve Gregory and Eric Weddle in an attempt to rattle Manning.
INJURY IMPACT: ILBs Kevin Burnett (ankle) and Tim Dobbins (knee) didn't practice Wednesday and won't play this week. DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo (ankle) didn't practice but has a chance to be ready by Sunday. TE Antonio Gates (foot) was limited but will be fine for Sunday. C Nick Hardwick (ankle) was limited and he is still a week away from returning to games. DL Travis Johnson (groin) was limited but he will go on Sunday.