Thursday, September 22, 2005 | San Diego welcomes the undefeated New York Giants, well most of them anyway, for a Sunday night showdown that is truly must-see TV. The Chargers’ sixth straight loss in Denver has them at 0-2 with their backs against the wall. They are desperate to get a win because another loss makes the postseason dream a mere fantasy. This is reality television at its best with a subplot even Hollywood would appreciate.

Uninvited Guest. Believe it or not, the athlete San Diego fans hold the most contempt for does not wear silver and black or Dodger Blue. (By the way, go ahead and bet the house on Randy Moss earning this distinction during his visit to Qualcomm on Dec. 4.)

Public enemy No. 1 dons New York Giants uniform No. 10, which might as well be a Red X this Sunday night. Legions of Bolt Backers will spew venom and showcase hostile signs in an effort to antagonize the Giants’ second-year quarterback.

Eli Manning has never thrown a pass against the Chargers, but passed on playing in San Diego with arrogance and attitude that nobody around here has forgotten. Archie Manning made it clear his son would rather sit out a season than play in a second-class NFL city like San Diego.

The script read like an episode of “Father Knows Best.” The plot twist came when the Chargers picked Eli with the first pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. The Proud Papa watched insufferably as Eli forced an insincere grin and listened to a chorus of boos while posing for pictures. Truth is the Chargers had little interest in Peyton’s younger brother and eyed another talented quarterback. San Diego happily dealt the malcontent for Philip Rivers and three draft picks, including the first-round slot used to select Shawne Merriman.

The conclusion of this sitcom left everyone smiling. Perhaps a thank you note would be more suitable for Eli, especially if the Bolts pick up their first victory this season on Sunday night.

Stating the Obvious. Falling to 0-3 seems inconceivable for the defending AFC West Champs. It will be a harsh reality if the Chargers fail to get LaDainian Tomlinson more involved. The odds of winning improve with every play that Tomlinson gets the ball. The Chargers are victorious 55 percent of time when he surpasses 25 touches, but have won just two of 12 games when that total is less than 20. Tomlinson, who set an NFL record last week scoring a touchdown in 14 consecutive games, has just 38 carries through two games. Once an asset to the aerial attack, L.T. has been the target of merely a pair of pass attempts both resulting in an incompletion. This is the same guy that hauled in 154 receptions during the past two seasons. In fact, L.T. had at least one catch in every game of his career prior to 2005.

Who’s The Man. The G-Men are 2-0 after blasting the Saints on Monday Night. Manning is showing signs of maturity after an uninspiring rookie campaign and currently owns a better quarterback rating than his older brother. That will not last for long. He’s also the only starting quarterback in the league failing to complete at least half of his passes. Tight end Jeremy Shockey continues to provide plenty of shock value thanks to ego driven antics. He’s also developing into one of Manning’s favorite targets, capable of electrifying the offense at any moment. Plaxico Burress left Pittsburgh after a miserable season. The 6-foot-5 wide receiver already has 10 catches, which is just 25 shy of his total from ’04. However, no one plays a larger role in the Giants’ attack than 5-foot-10 Tiki Barber. He amassed more than 2,100 yards of total offense and scored 15 touchdowns last year. Barber has hit pay dirt three times in two games. The Chargers must keep him in check and force Manning to win the game with his arm.

Kevin Aron is a freelance writer in San Diego and outright sports junkie. Kevin has worked in college sports information, sports agent offices and, most recently, as managing editor of DIRECTVSPORTS.com for nearly five years.

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