TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)
SERIES: 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.
PREDICTION: Giants 31-27
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers have slowly gotten RB LaDainian Tomlinson more involved, but this is a matchup for QB Philip Rivers to exploit. The Giants have given up 112 points over the past three games as their issues in the secondary have become exposed. Unless New York is able to dial up an aggressive pass rush, Rivers and San Diego's vertical passing game will move the ball at will.
QB Eli Manning has thrown six interceptions during the Giants' three-game losing streak. To improve Manning's efficiency, look for the Giants to hammer away at a run defense allowing 132.1 yards per game. The depleted interior of San Diego's defensive line will be particularly vulnerable to the power of RB Brandon Jacobs between the tackles.
FAST FACTS: Tomlinson reached 12,000 career rushing yards in 132 games, the fourth-fastest in NFL history. ... P Jeff Feagles has placed 169 punts inside the 20-yard line as a Giant, one shy of Dave Jennings' franchise record.
LB Kevin Burnett
--ILB Tim Dobbins (knee) didn't practice and will miss Sunday's game and the following game as well.
--ILB Kevin Burnett (ankle) was limited Thursday in practice and has a chance to play Sunday.
--DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo (ankle) didn't practice Thursday and he could be out this week.
--TE Antonio Gates (foot) practiced Thursday and will play on Sunday.
--DT Travis Johnson (groin) was able to do limited work on Thursday. He will be part of the game-day rotation in the middle.
--C Nick Hardwick (ankle) was limited in Thursday's practice, but could have a shot at playing next week.
--WR Malcom Floyd will start opposite Vincent Jackson on Sunday.
--RB Brandon Jacobs has yet to record a 100-yard rushing game this season. "If you had told me that at the beginning of the year, I would have totally buried you," he said of his personal dry spell. "I've been taking what they've been giving me, and trying to make something out of it. If anyone is due for (a 100-yard rushing game), it's definitely me."
--CB Terrell Thomas, part of a Giants defense that has been gashed and embarrassed the last three weeks, said he is optimistic that many of the problems that have plagued the Giants have been corrected in this week's practice. "All you can do is practice good habits. Hopefully on Sunday by practicing better during the week it's going to show."
--WR Domenik Hixon and G Rich Seubert were named to head coach Tom Coughlin's "Leadership Council," a group of veteran players who serve as a go-between the head coach and the locker room. The group also includes RB Brandon Jacobs, C Shaun O'Hara, T David Diehl, G Chris Snee, QB Eli Manning, DE Justin Tuck, DE Osi Umenyiora, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, LB Antonio Pierce, CB Corey Webster, P Jeff Feagles, and DT Fred Robbins.
--DT Chris Canty and LB Michael Boley continued to see an increase in their respective practice loads on Thursday, having taken about 50 percent of the snaps practice with no reported setbacks.
--RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle/foot) remained out of practice. Bradshaw's injury has forced the Giants to keep him out of action on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and to limit his snaps on Fridays and during the Saturday walk-through.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The light appetizers on the Chargers' Sunday menu have disappeared. Now comes the meat-and-potatoes part of the schedule.
The Chargers trek across the country for Sunday's game with the Giants, in a game that could be much more telling than recent tests.
The Chargers (4-3) are back above .500 thanks to cleaning up on AFC West creampuffs Kansas City and Oakland. With the two wins also came a dose of confidence for a wobbly Chargers team.
But looming is Sunday's date in the Meadowlands, then a home game against the Eagles and then a road trip to Denver.
QB Philip Rivers
"It's a tough place to go on the road in a game that I think will say a lot about us," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "We've put two (wins) together that many expected us to win as did we, but we've still had to go do it. This one will be the toughest we've had in the last three weeks."
The Chargers are working without a net unless the Broncos start a midseason free-fall. Denver did give a game back last week and if it were to lose to Pittsburgh and the Chargers win in New York, suddenly the three-time defending division champions are but a game behind the upstart Broncos.
But the Chargers must contain a potent Giants offense and a defense, while a bit jumbled in the secondary, still capable of dominating.
"Our guys are going to go into New York expecting their best because I think that's what we're going to get from them," coach Norv Turner said. "They're a talented group of guys that have had a couple tough weeks and there's no doubt in my mind what we've got to get ready for. It's going to be a real challenge for us."
The team might get a slight break in the game's late start. That 4:15 kickoff in New Jersey would be 1:15 in San Diego -- the time the Chargers usually play home games.
Whatever time Sunday's game starts, the clock is ticking on a Chargers' season that to date has been disappointing.
Earlier in the week, coach Tom Coughlin clearly expressed his unhappiness with how the Giants have handled adversity so far this season.
If the coach's goal was to challenge his team to step up, that mission was accomplished. Linebacker Antonio Pierce, who is the Giants' defensive captain and a member of Coughlin's "Leadership Council," which consists of 14 veteran players, said it is time for the Giants to stop the talking and start focusing on the task.
"We're on a three-game losing streak, and we're turning into pretty much the laughing stock as far as how we play on defense," Pierce said. "Right now, our talk is doing nothing for us so we have to go back to what coach Coughlin preaches: 'Talk is cheap, play the game.'"
Pierce also took accountability for his role in the defensive meltdown that has seen the Giants defense surrender 112 points over its last three games.
"I've probably been the biggest culprit," he said. "If I'm the guy they call the leader of the defense, which I am, then I need to do a better job."
He also thinks that the rest of his teammates, regardless of their role, need to step up and do their part as well.
"Everyone needs to do a little more right now," he said. "Obviously what we're doing right now isn't working. Sometimes you have to go above the Xs and Os, play a little harder and do the little things, have energy and show some kind of energy and passion about the game because it passes you by pretty quick and we don't want to see the season pass us by."
Pierce did report that the energy that had been missing from the practice field during the slide was starting to come back, something he took as a positive sign.
"Guys were focused and energetic -- just what we needed. This is a big game coming up. We're going into our bye week and the second half of our season, and we need to change things and get back on the winning track."