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Manning and Rivers forever linked by Draft Day trade


Eli Manning and Philip Rivers have rarely ever seen each other on the same field:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.– For two players linked by one of the most prominent trades in NFL history, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers have seldom been on the same field at the same time.

They were the starting quarterbacks when the Giants and Chargers met in 2009 and 2013. And though they have been selected to play in a combined 10 Pro Bowls, they've never opposed each other or been teammates in the game. They were both chosen in the same year only in 2011, but Manning didn't go to the Pro Bowl because the Giants played in Super Bowl XLVI.

On Sunday, the two 14-year veterans will again share the field when the Giants host the Chargers in MetLife Stadium. But the confrontation of two of the best quarterbacks of their era, who were traded for each other on the day they were drafted, is more an afterthought than a storyline.

It has been eclipsed by the 0-4 record each team totes into the game. The Giants and Chargers are both desperate to earn their first victory of the season.

And neither Manning nor Rivers consider this a personal duel. They prefer to discuss the success of their 2004 draft class, which includes Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. The three quarterbacks were among the first 11 players selected that year. Rivers and Roethlisberger have opposed each other five times, including a 2008 AFC Divisional Playoff Game. Sunday's game will be just the third Manning-Rivers confrontation, though quarterbacks wouldn't use that word.

"I think obviously you're always going to be linked," Rivers said this week. "I've gotten to know Eli a little bit over the years, and have always pulled for him and respected the career he's had. So yeah, it's always fun. I think he would probably say the same thing, you're not playing the other quarterback. But certainly he and I going back to that draft, you're always going to be linked."

"I don't think I've ever really thought about it in that way," Manning said. "In one way, I think you are always proud of your draft class, and you take some pride in your draft class and especially the other quarterbacks. I guess after a few years you start seeing that Ben is doing well, and Phil is doing well and doing some good things. I think you root for those guys in a sense, because you hope that your draft class will be talked about as a special one, and a lot of times they talk about the quarterbacks."

The quarterbacks were bound together for football eternity on April 24, 2004, when Manning was selected first overall by the Chargers, and Rivers was chosen fourth by the Giants. Manning had said repeatedly he didn't want to play in San Diego, and the two teams then engineered a trade, with the Giants sending Rivers, their 2004 third-round selection and first and fifth-round picks in the 2005 draft to the Chargers for Manning.

Neither team has ever regretted the deal. Manning was the most valuable player when the Giants won Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. (Roethlisberger is 2-1 in Super Bowls, giving the 2004 quarterbacks class four titles.)

Manning and Rivers enter the game with similar statistical resumes. Manning has started 203 consecutive regular-season games, the longest streak among all active players. Rivers is second with 180 straight starts. Manning has won 108 regular-season and eight postseason games. Rivers' totals are 97 and four.

This is where the two quarterbacks rank in NFL history several statistical categories:

Pass attempts6,991 (7th)6,067 (15th)
Completions4,188 (6th)3,906 (9th)
Passing yards49,327 (8th)46,940 (11th)
Touchdown passes326 (7th)320 (8th)

The only number either quarterback is concerned with this week is putting a "1" in the win column.

"It's still about trying to get that win, trying to earn it, try to feel good about what you're doing," Manning said. "We have a lot of games left. Nothing more important than this next one and we're going to compete our tails off and go get a win."

If they get it, it would be Manning's first against the Chargers. He is 0-3 against the team that drafted him, losing to them when Drew Brees was the quarterback in 2005, and to a Rivers-led team in 2009 and 2013.

This could well be the final Manning/Rivers meeting. Barring a joint Super Bowl appearance, the Giants and Chargers won't play each again until 2021. Manning would be 40, and Rivers will turn 40 on Dec. 8 of that year.

"I guess there's a chance, unless we both make it to that game in February, this could be the last time he and I play each other," Rivers said. "Who knows? I don't know if we'll both be rolling four years from now. We'll see, I guess."

Right now, they're more interested to see what happens on Sunday.

Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants get set to face the Chargers

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