Arguably the most exciting game this NFL wild card weekend will be the primetime game between the LA Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence will be playing in their careers' first playoff game, as both sides have broken recent playoff droughts. We’ll preview the game before going over how I’ll be betting on the game.
Trevor Lawrence should be forever indebted to Doug Pederson for the job he’s done in helping the young quarterback take the next step in his career. After the horrid season last year under Urban Meyer, this Jaguars team and Lawrence have looked highly impressive, especially during the second half of this season.
The Jaguars will enter this weekend’s playoff game on a five-game win streak and on the heels of three straight impressive defensive performances. Mind you, the offense Jacksonville is up against this weekend does not have Zach Wilson or Davis Mills at quarterback, but instead, it will be Justin Herbert and his 68.2% completion percentage.
Jacksonville’s strength on defense has been stopping the run, and they have struggled with limiting good quarterbacks. Jacksonville was 7th this season in yards allowed per carry, but they were 28th in opponent passing yards per game. The good news for them is there should be no surprises about what the Chargers will be looking to do on offense.
Los Angeles threw the ball an average of 41.8 times per game which is the second-highest average in the league. They want the ball in Justin Herbert’s hands at all times and have been willing to sacrifice any semblance of a running game. The Chargers are 30th in rushing yards per game and yards per carry this season, even in the last game of the season, which ultimately did not matter they still attempted 44 passes to only 22 rushing attempts.
Brandon Staley will not try to trick the Jaguars; he sticks to his game plan no matter what. He was so willing to stick with it that he left an injury-prone Mike Williams on the field in a meaningless game last week, and he ended up getting hurt.
The current point total for this game is 47.5, and I’ll be taking the under as my best play. It might be because of Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen that every time I think of the Chargers, I think of high-scoring offense, but in reality, the under is 5-1 in the Chargers' last six games. Historically in the playoffs, the under is 5-0 in the previous five games the Chargers have played in the wild-card round.
When these two teams met earlier in the season, the Jaguars put up 38 points on LA, but since then, the Chargers' defense has started to take form. Outside of last week's loss, the Chargers had not allowed more than 17 points to be scored in their previous four games, and they ended the season averaging 1.4 takeaways a game.
Playoff football is a different animal than the regular season, and although the two quarterbacks are likely generational talents, it may take some time for them to get settled into the game. Having an established run game could help take pressure off both guys, but the Chargers do not have one, and the Jaguars are coming off a game in which they had 19 rush yards.