At 5-7, both the Chargers and Giants have a mathematical chance to make the playoffs. One more loss for either team, and that mathematical chance dwindles to a statistical anomaly.
The storyline that dominated the week was Philip Rivers vs. Eli Manning, which is natural given their 2004 draft day trade.
Manning says he forgot about why he didn't want to play for the Chargers (perhaps that's a question better poised to Archie). Rivers says he never really thought he was going to New York and hasn't looked back since.
So, let's focus on three other players who will have a say in what happens on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium in a game that will not be blacked out in Southern California.
Corey Liuget, DE:
The Chargers defensive linemen have been largely ineffective at rushing the quarterback this season, only accounting for 10 of the team's 29 sacks (and one of those was from Jarius Wynn, who's not on the team anymore). Liuget has the most sacks on the line, and if he's going to pad his numbers, this is the week to do it. New York left tackle Will Beatty has been almost criminally bad in 2013. He's allowed nine sacks already (Manning has gone down 31 times, a career-high for a full season, and he still has four games to go). Liuget should be able to continue that trend and put pressure on Eli, much to the ecstasy of Chargers fans.
King Dunlap, OT:
The Chargers left tackle will also be tested. The Giants won't have defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, but Justin Tuck was able to make up the slack last week with four sacks against the Redskins. Dunlap is expected to start after missing three games with a neck injury, moving rookie D.J. Fluker back to his natural right tackle position. Dunlap saw an awful lot of Tuck when he played for the Eagles, so he has a good idea of what to expect from the Giants' Pro Bowler. If he can keep Tuck at bay and force the Giants to blitz the Chargers will be in great shape. Rivers has been, for the most part, tremendous against the blitz. For example, the Eagles blitzed about 57% of the time in their Week 2 meeting. Philip went for 419 yards and three touchdowns.
Anyone Who Has a Chance to Intercept or Strip a Ball, DL, LB, B, S, etc.:
This may seem like a cop-out, and perhaps it is, but the Chargers have been awful at forcing turnovers for most of the season. They have 11 takeaways, 3rd-worst in the NFL. However, four of those have come in the last two weeks, so things are looking up, and nobody in the league has turned the ball over more than the NY Giants offense. 31 giveaways already, four more than the 2nd-place club (interestingly, the team they share a stadium with). If the Bolts can't force this team to cough up the ball, this season is going to be lost.
The Giants have been on a bit of a hot streak, but it hasn't been against great competition. The only team they beat with a winning record was the Eagles, 15-7.
But, at least they've been winning games. The Chargers have played against much better competition and been close, but hasn't found a way to get over the proverbial hump. That changes this week.
Eli Manning will force a bad throw or two and Philip Rivers will once again outplay the man he was traded for, dropping Manning to 0-3 in his career against San Diego.
Final score: Chargers 30, Giants 24