EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — In any other year, a game between the Chargers and Giants would be a time to recall the 2004 draft-day trade when New York acquired No. 1 overall draft pick Eli Manning from San Diego in exchange for No. 4 pick Philip Rivers and a number of a draft picks, including a first-rounder the following year.
It would be a time to note that Manning led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles, and that the Chargers got a highly productive quarterback who has never led them to a title.
That’s not the story this year, nor is the Chargers now playing in Los Angeles.
It’s a matchup of two desperate 0-4 teams meeting at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
The Chargers, who have not made the playoffs since 2013, have lost nine straight games dating to late November. The Giants, who got to the playoffs last year for the first time since Manning led them to a second Lombardi Trophy in February 2012, have lost five straight, dating to the wild-card loss to the Packers.
Neither has much of a shot at getting to the playoffs this year. Since the NFL merger in 1970, only the 1992 Chargers have overcome losing the first four games to make the playoffs.
Neither team is thinking that far down the road with 12 games left in the regular season.
“I know the odds and the percentages and all that against an 0-4 team making a run and playing in January are super, super slim, but we’re not worried about that,” Rivers said. “We’re just trying to win a game right now and then hopefully we can get on a roll. I mean, we’ve lost so many in a row in a close fashion, so why not find a way to win a bunch in a row that way? But we’ve got to win one first. And I think this team just needs to win a game. It’s been a long time since we felt winning a game.”
The Chargers and Giants may not be as bad as their records indicate. New York has lost its last two games on last-second field goals, and it played the Lions close for three quarters. Los Angeles has losses to the Broncos, Dolphins and Eagles by a combined seven points.
Manning isn’t worrying about what has happened this season. The two-time Super Bowl MVP is just trying to work hard, hoping everyone follows his example.
“You can still have fun,” said the 36-year-old Manning, now in his 14th season. “Still have fun doing your job and it’s still about enjoying the process of getting better, of figuring out how we’re going to work. And getting them excited about the plays that are coming up, excited about the opportunities of where they might get the ball or how we’re going to score and how we’re going to win this game. It’s just trying to do your job and make sure everybody sees how you’re handling the circumstance.”
Here are some things to watch in Sunday’s game:
GIANTS’ O-LINE: It seems like the unit has been the focal point all season. This week is no different. Center Weston Richburg is in the concussion protocol and Brett Jones may start. D.J. Fluker started at right guard last week and could stay there. John Jerry has struggled all season whether playing right or left guard.
With right tackle Bobby Hart seemingly ready to return from an ankle injury, will Justin Pugh, who has played well replacing him, stay there or moves back to left guard. There is also the option to play Hart at left guard.
BOOKEND RUSH: The Chargers have two outstanding defensive ends in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Ingram is tied for second in the league with 5½ sacks. Bosa has two. Los Angeles also can increase the pressure on passing plays by adding Chris McCain and defensive tackle Corey Liuget to the rush. Pugh also noted that the linemen move around, which can be confusing for opposing linemen. New York did not give up a sack in its loss to the Buccaneers last weekend.
RUNNING GAME: Rookie Wayne Gallman finally gave the Giants’ a semblance of a running game. He had 11 carries for 42 yards and caught two passes for 8 yards, including a touchdown. Whether he replaces Paul Perkins (ribs) as the starter remains to be seen.
RIVERS/MANNING: Despite the losses, both veterans are playing well. Rivers has hit 63.3 percent of his passes for 1,107 yards and seven touchdowns. The negative is four interceptions. Manning and the Giants’ offense started slowly this season, but he has five touchdown passes in the last five quarters. He also ran for a rare TD against the Bucs.
BECKHAM’S TELL?: Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. says that Tampa Bay cornerback Vernon Hargreaves told him after the game that the Bucs knew what routes he was going to run. It’s hard to say whether Beckham had a tell or the Bucs’ pre-game film study was that good. Still, Beckham had seven catches for 90 yards, so you have to wonder. “It still just comes to the point where you have to trust it,” Beckham said. “We have to trust 10 (Manning) to make the throw like he did.”
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