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Chargers-Jaguars features playoff debuts of two of NFL’s best young QBs

By newadmin / Published on Thursday, 12 Jan 2023 16:48 PM / No Comments / 4 views


Chargers vs. Jaguars has the potential to be the best game of the wild-card weekend, pitting two rising star quarterbacks against each other. 

Trevor Lawrence‘s fourth-seeded Jaguars (9-8) and Justin Herbert‘s fifth-seeded Chargers (10-7) square off Saturday night at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. It will mark the first-ever playoff game between the teams. 

Despite being slowed early in the season with a rib cartilage fracture, Herbert has continued his ascent into becoming one of the league’s best quarterbacks. His 14,089 career passing yards broke Andrew Luck’s NFL record for most passing yards through a quarterback’s first three seasons. 

Lawrence, meanwhile, has taken big strides in Year 2 under first-year Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson. Since Week 9, the former No. 1 overall pick is first in passer rating (104.6), second in completion rate (69.7%) and third in interception rate (0.7%). 

Trevor Lawrence makes playoff debut

Nick Wright, Chris Broussard, Greg Jennings and Kevin Wildes preview the Chargers vs. Jaguars matchup and debate which is the better QB to build around: Trevor Lawrence or Justin Herbert.

Both quarterbacks have a deep group of pass-catchers to throw to as well. 

The Bolts are the first team in NFL history to have six different players record at least 500 receiving yards and three touchdowns — receivers Mike Williams, Josh PalmerKeenan Allen and DeAndre Carter; running back Austin Ekeler; and tight end Gerald Everett. And the Jaguars for the first time in franchise history have three players with at least 70 receptions — receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, and tight end Evan Engram, who set single-season franchise records for catches and receiving yards by a tight end. 

While the quarterbacks and the weapons around them will draw the most headlines, the defenses may ultimately decide who wins. 

On a five-game winning streak, Jacksonville beat Tennessee in Week 18 for the AFC South title with a sack fumble for a touchdown. It encapsulated the way the Jaguars have won games. They are the only team to have defensive touchdowns in back-to-back games entering the playoffs. In all, Jacksonville scored four defensive touchdowns in 2022, tied for third-most in the NFL, and it had 27 takeaways, tied for fourth in the league. 

After early-season struggles and injuries to key players, including edge rusher Joey Bosa and cornerback J.C. Jackson, the Chargers have found their groove defensively. Before their Week 18 loss to the Broncos, the Bolts held their previous four opponents to under 18 points. Their pass defense has improved dramatically throughout the season, too. 

Once a laughingstock, the Jaguars have been one of the best stories in the NFL this season. Their six-win improvement from 2021 to 2022 was tied for the largest jump in the league, including the highest of any team with a new coach. After beginning the year 2-6, Jacksonville won seven of its final nine games to make the postseason. 

The Jaguars and Chargers faced off in Week 3 this season, with Jacksonville cruising to a 38-10 victory at SoFi Stadium. 

Key stats: Saturday will mark the Jaguars’ fifth-ever home playoff game, including their first since the 2017 season. Jacksonville is 3-1 in home playoff games and 7-7 in the postseason overall. 

The Chargers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2018. The Bolts are 3-0 all time against AFC South teams in the postseason. 

Matchup to watch: Chargers WR Keenan Allen vs. Jaguars CB Tyson Campbell 

Campbell is an ascending No. 1 cornerback as a second-year pro, but he’ll have his hands full with Allen, one of the NFL’s best receivers since he entered the league in 2013. Allen missed seven games early in the season with a hamstring injury, but he’s in a groove heading into the playoffs. Over the last six weeks of the regular season, Allen paced the NFL with 50 receptions, including a league-high 16 on third down. 

X-factor for the Chargers: WR Mike Williams

Williams, the Bolts’ leading receiver this season, suffered a back contusion in the Week 18 loss to the Broncos. Coach Brandon Staley said he expects Williams to play against the Jaguars, but how effective will he be? He didn’t practice Tuesday or Wednesday.

Williams at full strength gives the Chargers two No. 1-caliber receivers. If he’s limited, though, L.A.’s strong passing attack is a bit less threatening. 

X-factor for the Jaguars: DL Arden Key

Key had a career-high nine pressures on 20 pass rushes against the Titans in Week 18. With defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot on season-ending injured reserve (torn Achilles), the Jaguars need Key to continue playing at a high level, helping the effort to make Herbert uncomfortable in the pocket. Key was third on the team with 4.5 sacks in the regular season. 

Prediction: I like the Jaguars here, considering they’re the hotter team entering the postseason and will be playing in front of their home crowd. 

Herbert’s first playoff game might be epic, but the Jaguars have an ascending defense that could stifle him. The Chargers’ inability to run the ball could also be an issue. They averaged just 89.6 rushing yards per game, third-worst in the league. 

Jaguars 24, Chargers 21

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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