Hakeem Nicks will be just one of the wide receivers likely to benefit as the passes fly on Sunday. Credit: Reuters/USA Today Sports
Sunday’s tilt will feature two teams desperate to keep their slimming playoff hopes alive, which means the team that makes the key mistakes will likely see their dream finally end.
Both the Giants and Chargers are 5-7 and are currently on the outside looking in. Each team still has big dreams of playing deep into January, but each franchise is also going in different directions as of late. New York has won five of its last six, following an 0-6 start, while San Diego has lost four of its last five following its Week 8 bye.
Three things to watch for ...
1. Man in the middle
Linebacker Jon Beason has been called everything from a “savior” to the “reason” when it pertains to the Giants’ recent defensive tear. Since coming over via trade in October from the Panthers, Beason has spearheaded a red-hot Giants’ defense with the biggest example being his 17-tackle performance last week in the Washington win. Defensive end Justin Tuck, who is the defensive team captain and has been the heart and soul for years, gave Beason tons of credit for his help in turning around the defense.
“Beason, he’s been a tremendous asset to us since coming over,” Tuck said. “I think just him and [safety] Antrel [Rolle] have solidified our back end, which our confidence up front has allowed us to do what we need to do and made things a lot simpler for our front four. Beason is making sure we have to be in our gaps because we trust that everybody on that end is going to be on the same page. ... He allows us to play fast and with less mistakes the last couple of weeks.”
2. A storm’s a coming
There’s a 30 percent chance of rain in usually sunny San Diego, but that’s nothing compared to what the Giants endured earlier in the season. Tuck said whatever early obstacles may appear, Big Blue is experienced in handling adversity:
“We just weather the storm,” Tuck said. “I think for us, we’ve been in situations so many times that it seems like we never get too high with the highs, or too low with the lows. We understand that it’s a long football game. And we’ve got Eli Manning and that offense, so they can make up points in a hurry. And so for us on defense we just have to get enough stops. ... We bounced back and got a win last week, so now we need to pick back up on that momentum going out to San Diego.”
3. Footballs fill sky
The Chargers possess a top-5 passing game, led by Philip Rivers’s 70 percent completion rate, which means look for San Diego to throw a lot. The Giants’ execution against the pass, however, is improving by leaps and bounds each week, so something has to give. Rivers has as many as six options to throw to, depending on the package, so it’s a good thing the Giants are getting healthy in the secondary at just the right time. Cornerbacks Trumaine McBride (groin) and Terrell Thomas (knee) should both play.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is pleased with the way his recovering cornerbacks have practiced all week and is anxious to turn them loose on the Chargers’ receiving corps.
“It’s great to be working most of them back into the lineup, getting the amount of reps they need to get,” Fewell said. “I think we have some good matchups for some of the quick guys that they have in their lineup. Hopefully we don’t miss a beat from a standpoint of adding quickness to the matchups that are concerned.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.