Chargers are beasts in wrong division
-- To have a shot at the playoffs, it's basically win out for the Chargers. That mindset is about all the Chargers have to hang their hats on. "That's been our mentality since we came back off of that game in Kansas City, to just win every game," cornerback Shareece Wright said. "We're in a perfect position. We've got three more home games. We've got to go to Denver and take care of them and win out. We've been thinking that the past two weeks. We just got to stick it out."
-- For the majority of the season it's been the Chargers' pass defense which has been among the league's worst. Now the run defense is leaking oil, and that was never more true in the loss to the Bengals when they muscled their way to 164 rushing yards by dominating the Chargers front seven. "We have to do a better job of being gap sound, where you are suppose to be on the run fits, certain things," coach Mike McCoy said. "Not running through the back side. A number of little things. The disappointing thing is there were certain times we weren't solid enough at the point of attack. We had it stopped, but the guy gets 5 yards somehow. For some reason or another we had four or five plays there where they should be zero runs and they have 5, 9 yards whatever they are -- we got to stop that."
-- The Chargers are counting on some of quarterback Philip Rivers' December magic. Rivers is 26-6 in December and the Chargers need him to get to 30-6. "We obviously know the circumstances," Rivers said. "But I think we just keep plugging along, keep fighting. We got four to go and we're going to play all four of them."
BY THE NUMBERS: 16 -- Number of different offensive line combinations this season by the Chargers; no lineman has playeD every snap.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Those couple of trophies" - Chargers coach Mike McCoy on what stands out about Giants quarterback Eli Manning, the winner of two Super Bowl titles.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Chargers could be getting their regular tackles back to their regular spots and that's an encouraging sign for an offense which has been uneven during the last five games, a span in which the Chargers have four losses.
Right tackle King Dunlap continues to practice and all signs indicate he will return to the starting lineup on Sunday.
With Dunlap back, that pushed rookie D.J. Fluker back to his right tackle position, where he can use his massive body and not worry about his less-than-quick feet.
With Dunlap at right tackle, that allows Jeromey Clary to slide back inside to his right guard spot.
Center Nick Hardwick is dealing with a neck injury, and that can't be overlooked. But he should start on Sunday.
-- QB Philip Rivers will always be linked to Giants' QB Eli Manning. The pair were traded for each other about hour after the Chargers selected Manning with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft. Rivers has a better completion percentage since they became pros, 64 percent to 58 percent, and fewer interceptions, 101 to 162. But Manning has more regular-season and post-season wins, touchdown passes, and of course, Super Bowl titles.
-- CB Richard Marshall figures to get his second straight start over Derek Cox on Sunday. Cox signed a $20-million contract in the offseason as a free agent, but he has been a bust.
-- K Nick Novak has 76 straight extra points, which is tied for the third-longest in team history.
-- WR Keenan Allen has had consecutive 100-yard receiving games. The last Chargers rookie to accomplish that Don Norton in 1960, the franchise's first season. Allen is 157 yards shy of a 1,000-yard receiving season.
-- TE Ladarius Green has two touchdowns receptions this season, one in each of the last two games.
--C Nick Hardwick (neck) didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday. But indications are he will start on Sunday.
--LT King Dunlap (neck) was a full participant for the second straight day and that's a good sign in regards to Sunday. If Dunlap starts as expected, that pushes D.J. Fluker from left tackle to right tackle, Jeromey Clary back to right guard from right tackle and Chad Rinehart from right guard to left guard.
--T D.J. Fluker (knee) was a full participant and will start against the Giants.
--DE Lawrence Guy (toe) was a full participant.
--WR Lavelle Hawkins (knee) was a full participant.
--OLB Jarret Johnson (hand) was a full participant and should start on Sunday.
--WR Eddie Royal (toe, chest) didn't work for the second straight day and he could be down another week.
--DE Corey Liuget (knee) was a limited participant but should start on Sunday.
GAME PLAN: The Chargers can't rely on their defense, and that hardly qualifies as breaking news. What it has to do is break the recent funk the offense has been in, save the win in Kansas City when it exploded for 41 points. Otherwise, the Chargers have scored but six touchdowns in four games against the likes of Washington, Denver, Miami and Cincinnati.
The offense needs to carry the day Sunday, picking on a Giants which is good, but not as stout as what the Chargers last saw against the Bengals.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chargers pass protection, which has shown some stress of late vs. Giants pass rush, which is featuring a rejuvenated Justin Tuck -- The Chargers have, somehow, kept Philip Rivers upright at an impressive rate when considering how many changes they have had along the offensive line, and that includes left tackle. But while rookie D.J. Fluker deserves high marks for going from right tackle to left tackle, the strain is being shown. The Bengals sacked Rivers four times, but maybe more importantly, hurried and hit him numerous others. Rivers needs a clean pocket to be effective as there isn't much evade in his game -- he's not one to extend plays on a regular basis. The Giants are coming off a win over the Redskins in which they sacked Robert Griffin III on five occasions. Tuck led the way with four sacks.
--Chargers pass rush, and we can't find it either vs. Giants passing game, with Eli Manning able to take advantage of time in the pocket -- Maybe it's asking too much after injuries to Melvin Ingram, Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson that the Chargers show much of a pass rush. But at least some pressure is needed on opposing quarterbacks and that wasn't seen last week in the loss to the Bengals, If the Chargers made contact with Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton, it was when shaking hands after the game. The Chargers could get Johnson back, and that could help. But more than likely it will be up to defensive coordinator John Pagano to dial up some exotic blitz packages to get Manning off his spot. Manning leaned on the running game in the win over the Redskins, but he might abuse the Chargers through the air unless they can get him out of his comfort zone.
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