After making history as the sixth team in NFL history with back-to-back No. 1 picks, the Jaguars put together an impressive 2022 season during Doug Pederson’s first season as head coach. Jacksonville’s earned the right to host a playoff game for the first time since 2017, but advancing into the Divisional Round won’t be easy when the Chargers (-2.5) come to town on Saturday night (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC).
Jacksonville punched its ticket to the postseason following a come-from-behind 19-16 win over Tennessee in the de facto AFC South Championship game last week. In the win, the Jaguars’ defense stepped up in the most pressing moments, scoring a go-ahead TD on a 37-yard fumble return by Josh Allen. On top of that, Jacksonville’s defense won on early downs and held Derrick Henry to just 3.6 yards per carry. The offense couldn’t finish drives, though, and another offensive output like the one put forth on Saturday will most likely result in a one-and-done showing for the Jags. Second-year QB Trevor Lawrence wants back a couple of throws he missed in Week 18 and gets an opportunity to do it against a defense he torched for three TDs in a 38-10 rout back in Week 3.
Speaking of that Week 3 drubbing by Jacksonville, Los Angeles looks like a completely different team than the one that showed up that day. The Chargers’ four-game winning streak came to an end in their 31-28 road loss to Denver in Week 18, but that shouldn’t overshadow all the good things Los Angeles did in their late-season surge. The Chargers enter the postseason with a good deal of momentum, but some of it was lost when they elected to play its starters in their seemingly meaningless Week 18 contest. Three key producers (Mike Williams, Joey Bosa, and Kenneth Murray) got banged up, and for a team that’s had to overcome countless injuries, limping into the first round is not a situation you want to be in. (Update: Williams (back) has been ruled “out”).
WILD CARD BETTING: Odds, spreads
For those looking for a play, we’ll give you all the information you need before placing a wager on Jaguars-Chargers, including the updated odds from BetMGM, tips, and our prediction for this wild-card matchup.
Jaguars vs. Chargers odds for NFL playoff game
- Spread: Chargers -2.5 (-110); Jaguars +2.5 (-110)
- Over/Under: 47.5
- Moneyline: Chargers -145; Jaguars +120
The point spread has seen it’s fair share of movement, as the Chargers opened at -2.5 but got bet down all the way to -1 only to return to -2.5 point road chalk. The total’s remained fairly stagnant, moving just one point up to 47.5 after opening at 46.5.
Jaguars vs. Chargers all-time series
The Chargers lead the all-time series over the Jaguars 9-4. Before their 38-10 loss in Week 3, the Chargers had won eight of the past nine meetings in the series. Week 3 was the first meeting between Lawrence and Herbert, though, so past success is a moot point here.
Three trends to know
— Both Jacksonville and Los Angeles have been covering spreads of late, combining for an 8-1-1 ATS mark over their past 10 games. The lone non-cover came from the Jaguars this past week when they failed to cover as six-point home favorites.
— While past success has little bearing on the outcome of Saturday’s game, the Chargers are 9-1 ATS in their past 10 games against the Jaguars. It is worth noting that the Chargers’ lone non-cover came in their Week 3 home loss, closing as 6.5-point home favorites.
— According to BetQL, “Doug Pederson is 14-4 ATS as a home underdog over his coaching career.”
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Three things to watch for
An improved Chargers’ pass defense
Since the start of their hot streak beginning in Week 14, the Chargers have allowed the second-lowest drop-back success rate in the league (35.6 percent). In contrast, the Chargers allowed the 17th-lowest drop-back success rate from Weeks 1-13. While they’re still exploitable on the ground, their ability to shore up the secondary is crucial in their hopes for a postseason run.
Trevor Lawrence in the red zone
Lawrence had his struggles in the red zone last week, as the Jaguars scored just one offensive touchdown against a Titans pass defense allowing the most passing yards per game (274.8). When matched up against a Los Angeles offense with several dynamic playmakers, Jacksonville can ill-afford to settle for field goals in the red zone.
Who ends the game with a positive turnover margin?
In Jacksonville’s Week 3 victory, it ended the contest with a plus-two turnover margin that aided in its ability to notch a comfortable win. In coin-flip-type games, giving your opponent extra possessions is even more detrimental to your chances of extending your season. Whichever team can limit self-inflicted wounds and end the game with a positive turnover margin is likely to continue their playoff run.
Stat that matters
5. That’s how many game-winning drives the Chargers had this season, which ranks first among AFC teams. Herbert’s shown he’s capable of leading the Chargers on a scoring drive when their backs are against the wall, and there’s a chance the Chargers add to that number this postseason. Needing that many game-winning drives could be looked at as a negative, but in a league where one-score games are common, Herbert’s ability to shine in the brightest moments makes the Chargers a legit Super Bowl threat.
Jaguars vs. Chargers prediction
As the spread indicates, this game’s likely going to be decided in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Given the Chargers’ offense is playing at a slightly higher level right now, we’ll side with Herbert and company, thinking he makes a handful of big plays on third down and potentially leads the Chargers on another game-winning drive. Lawrence and the Jaguars will make things interesting but ultimately run out of steam.
PREDICTION: Chargers 24, Jaguars 21. Los Angeles (-2.5) covers the spread with the game going UNDER the total (47.5).