By Dave Skretta
Chiefs coach Andy Reid had to chuckle when he was told that he'll be facing Giants coach Tom Coughlin for the 20th time on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
"Listen, we're good friends on the side, so I respect him as a man, and I respect him as a Hall of Fame coach, or a future Hall of Fame coach," Reid said earlier this week. "I didn't know it had been that many times. I guess that means we're getting old."
Their rivalry dates back more than a decade, when Reid was coaching the Eagles and Coughlin was coaching the Jaguars. It spanned a nine-year period during which they faced each other twice a year in the NFC East, and includes two playoff matchups both won by Reid.
Reid leads the series 10-9, a testament to how even their teams have been. It's the most contested rivalry among current coaches, and one of the most contested in NFL history. Don Shula and Marv Levy met 23 times, as did Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs.
"But it's obviously not about us," Reid said. "It's about our guys and the guys out there playing and the coaches that are coaching. He's telling his guys the same thing: Let's go play."
Hard to blame Reid for being eager to get back on the field. He has the Chiefs off to a 3-0 start for just the eighth time in franchise history.
Meanwhile, the Giants are 0-3 for just the 11th time in their storied history.
"We put ourselves in this position. We're the only ones who can battle our way out of it," Coughlin said. "You can't be affected by all the buzz around you. You have to come together as a team as much as you've done in your life. ... It's a matter of making sure our preparation is good, our practice is good and then doing something about carrying over to the game."
As the Chiefs chase their first 4-0 start since 2003, and the Giants try to avoid their first 0-4 start since 1987, here are five things to keep in mind:
PROTECT THE QUARTERBACK: The Chiefs have a league-leading 15 sacks through their first three games, and linebacker Justin Houston has 7 1/2 of them. They'll be going against a Giants offensive line that allowed Eli Manning to be sacked seven times by the Panthers last week. "He's a great quarterback," Houston said. "We know we have to put pressure on him to win."
HAPPY THOUGHTS: The Giants insist there's been no in-fighting during a disastrous start, but wide receiver Hakeem Nicks made headlines when he said, "I can't throw it to myself." Manning said this week that there's no rift. "We just kind of looked at each other and said, 'Hey, we don't have to talk about this, right?'" Manning said. "Hakeem's one of my great friends and I understand he wasn't saying anything. I never thought he was saying anything at me or making any jabs."
TURNOVERS MATTER: The Giants have been the most turnover-prone team in the NFL through the first three weeks of the season. Manning has thrown nine interceptions and the team has already lost four fumbles. They'll be going against a ball-hawking Chiefs defense led by coordinator Bob Sutton that has forced nine turnovers. "Turnovers is a big part of every game you play," Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper said. "It's a way to give the offense more opportunities."
INJURY CONCERNS: Both teams are banged up, even though the Chiefs had a few extra days to get right after their Thursday night win in Philadelphia. Cornerback Brandon Flowers has been bothered by a knee injury, their top two tight ends are ailing and left guard Jeff Allen has missed practice with a groin strain. The Giants are dealing with their own issues: center David Baas (neck) and guard Chris Snee (hip) have missed practice, forcing them to juggle their offensive line.
DESPERATION COUNTS: The first thing Reid did this week was to discount the Giants' winless record. Then again, desperate teams are dangerous teams. The only team to make the playoffs after starting 0-4 was the 1992 Chargers. "Those are the circumstances and again, I've never gone into a week saying, 'It's OK if we lose this week,'" Manning said. "We're fighting and we're going to compete and try to find a way to win."