LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (0-4) AT NEW YORK GIANTS (0-4)
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. The Chargers lead the series, 6-5. The Chargers are one of two teams (the Colts are the other) that the Giants have yet to defeat since the start of the Eli Manning era in 2004. The Chargers have split their six games at the Giants, but overall have won the last three. Among the more thrilling games was the one in 2009 when Philip Rivers hit Vincent Jackson on an 18-yard scoring strike with 21 seconds left to cap a 21-20 come-from-behind win. Rivers is 2-0 lifetime against the Giants.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Lost in the crumbling season for the Giants has been the solid showing these last two weeks by Manning, who has thrown for 654 yards and five touchdowns in his last two games after throwing for 406 yards and one touchdown in his first two. The return of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has certainly helped Manning's cause, as has the coaching staff's decision to tweak the scheme to where the offensive line isn't forced to hold its blocks endlessly. This week, the passing game is up for a tough challenge as Beckham is ailing and Brandon Marshall is still trying to find his way.
On the other side, the Chargers want to take pressure off Rivers with their ground game but they have been unable to run the ball consistently. Still, the Giants haven't had much luck stopping opposing runners either. Austin Ekeler, an undrafted rookie out of Western State Colorado, will get a look as the Chargers try to energize their lethargic running attack.
Rivers, like Manning, is more of a classic pocket passer who moves around only if he absolutely, positively has to. If the Giants' front four can push and collapse the pocket a few times, they can probably force Rivers into making some mistakes with the ball.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Giants running game vs. Chargers ILB Jatavis Brown. The current Giants running game has a long way to go before it rivals the ground-and-pound unit of 2008, which saw both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw each rush for 1,000 yards. But, last week, this unit managed to record a season-high 91 yards, with rookie Wayne Gallman delivering a very promising debut of 42 yards on 11 carries. Gallman, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins and, if healthy, Orleans Darkwa will try to build on their positive showing against Brown, whose 41 tackles are second in the NFL. Brown is nursing a foot injury, but early word out of Los Angeles is that he's expected to play Sunday.
--Chargers passing game vs. Giants pass defense. Rivers, when given time, can still deliver a strike. He proved it last week on numerous occasions. He also proved if he is flushed from the pocket, the turnovers aren't far behind. If the pass blocking is keen, Rivers can attack a secondary that has played its worst when its best was needed. The Giants have been unable to hold fourth-quarter leads in consecutive games, both losses, because their secondary gets leaky. The Chargers can send Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and others at it. Landon Collins is an All-Pro safety, but there are some flaws in the Giants' secondary that Rivers can exploit. Trouble is, Rivers has been sacked four times, hit 22 times and had 24 quarterback pressures.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants' newest multi-millionaire member of the defense is once again off to a slow start. In four games, he has recorded just nine quarterback pressures, which has included 1.5 sacks. If Olivier Vernon has to miss the game due to his ankle injury, all eyes will be on Pierre-Paul to step out of the shadows and try to pick up the slack for a pass rush that has been lackluster.
FAST FACTS: Chargers QB Philip Rivers passed for 347 yards and two TDs, with no interceptions, last week. He has five touchdown passes in the past two road games. ... Chargers RB Melvin Gordon has a TD in three of the last four games. ... Chargers LB Jatavis Brown has 10-plus tackles in three of the last four games. He ranks second in the NFL with 41 tackles. ... Chargers DE Melvin Ingram has 5.5 sacks, tied for second in the NFL. ... Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. has 82 catches for 1,348 yards (122.5 per game) and 10 TDs in 11 games vs. the AFC. He has seven TD catches in his past seven at home. Since 2014, he leads the NFL in receiving TDs (37) and ranks third in receiving yards (4,327). ... Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul has 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in the past two games at home.
PREDICTION: The Giants and Chargers are two of four teams still searching for their first victories. It won't be pretty but this one will come down to the wire.
OUR PICK: Giants 20, Chargers 17