Game Overview ::
By Mike Johnson >>
- An exciting matchup of two ascending quarterbacks making their playoff debuts.
- Both offenses rank top-10 in the league in both situation-neutral pace of play and pass rate over expectation (PROE).
- Defensively, each team has a clear weakness that their opponent is well equipped to attack.
- The Jaguars beat the Chargers 38-10 in Week 3, although both teams have had significant changes since then.
How los angeles Will Try To Win ::
The Chargers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2018 after finishing the season with a 10-7 record and earning the #5 seed in the AFC. The Chargers were 6-6 through Week 13 before rallying off four consecutive victories to lock in their playoff berth prior to the regular season’s final week. Unfortunately, head coach Brandon Staley played the role of the donkey last week by playing his starters deep into a meaningless game after the Ravens lost in the early window, which locked the Chargers into their playoff position. Los Angeles rode their defense down the stretch to make the playoffs, holding their opponents to only 11 points per game during their four-game winning streak. The Chargers offense, on the other hand, was far less potent this season than most would expect given their reputation and playing style, as they only scored 30+ points one time in their last 12 games, and heralded young quarterback Justin Herbert has not thrown for over 300 yards while throwing multiple touchdown passes since Week 4.
Los Angeles has a great on-paper matchup this week, as the Jaguars defensive weakness matches up perfectly with the Chargers play calling tendencies. The Jacksonville pass defense ranks 30th in Football Outsiders DVOA metrics, while the Chargers are tied with Tampa Bay for the highest pass rate in the league at 67% and rank 5th in PROE. Jacksonville’s pass defense has had some good moments this season, but those have all come against teams with poor quarterbacks and/or weak weapons in their receiving corps. Some may look at the first matchup of these teams as a signal that the Jaguars pass defense provides a problem for the Chargers, but we must remember that in that first matchup, Justin Herbert was playing without having practiced that week due to broken ribs suffered ten days earlier and the Chargers were playing without Keenan Allen, who is in many ways the “engine” of this passing game as he helps sustain drives and provides separation for Herbert in the intermediate areas of the field. Jacksonville has faced three strong passing games since Week 10 – the Chiefs, Lions, and Cowboys – and those teams averaged 309 passing yards, and three touchdown passes in those games. The Chargers may not be quite to that level of those teams listed, but they are far above the teams that Jacksonville has had success against. An aggressive passing attack in the short and intermediate areas of the field with occasional shot plays will certainly be the approach from the Chargers, if they are paying attention at all. Although, after Staley’s decision to play all his starters and the resulting injuries to Joey Bosa and Mike Williams in Week 18, maybe that assumption is giving him too much credit.