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Los Angeles Chargers vs Jacksonville Jaguars preview: Prediction, odds, matchups to watch

Super Wild Card Weekend is set, with the first AFC NFL playoff game in 2023 taking place between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams are newcomers after missing the postseason a year ago and will be seeking a chance to advance to the Divisional Round.

Despite these two teams already squaring off once this season, the Chargers vs Jaguars matchup presents a fascinating battle. Earlier in the year, in Week 3, it was the Jags who cruised to victory with an easy 38-10 win at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. But these teams have experienced a lot of growth in the games that followed and are now looking to prove they’re the better franchise at this stage.

While both quarterbacks are reaching elite status, this will mark the first postseason start of their young careers. Naturally, some game-day jitters are expected, but who will emerge as victorious?

Let’s dive into our Chargers vs Jaguars preview and predictions.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 4 bold predictions for AFC Wild Card Playoffs

Chargers vs Jaguars odds

The latest Chargers vs Jaguars odds for their playoff matchup come via BetMGM. Keep in mind, these numbers are subject to change up until kickoff, especially with late news such as Mike Williams being ruled out of action for the ‘Bolts.

  • Spread: -2.5 Chargers
  • Moneyline: (+120) Jacksonville Jaguars, (-145) Los Angeles Chargers
  • Point Total: 47 points

Chargers vs Jaguars game info: When is the Chargers Jaguars game?

The Chargers vs Jaguars playoff matchup will be the first game of NFL Wild Card Weekend, pitting two teams with top young rising star quarterbacks against one another.

  • Time: 8:15 PM ET
  • Date: Sunday, January 14
  • TV Info: NBC
  • Location: TIAA Bank Field – Jacksonville, Florida
  • Broadcasters: Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth

Related: Ranking NFL playoff teams

3 matchups to watch

Travis Etienne vs Chargers’ woeful run defense

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars
Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

After missing his entire rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury, Travis Etienne has since burst out onto the scene, establishing himself as a top playmaker in Jacksonville’s offense. Despite facing NFL defenses for the first time, Etienne led the team in yards from scrimmage this past season

He’s by far the team’s most dangerous playmaker in the open field, where Etienne’s electric elusiveness leads to several failed tackles. Yet, that’s where the matchup gets interesting, as the Chargers finished with the ninth-fewest missed tackles in 2022, despite ranking dead-last in yards per attempt allowed while also allowing the fifth-most rushing yards.

We’ll see a strength in Etienne going up against a weakness in L.A.’s rush defense, yet as mentioned, they don’t miss many tackles. It sets up a fascinating showdown for Saturday.

On paper it would appear the Jags have the edge here, but who gets the better end of the duel on the gridiron? That’s why they play the games.

Related: Ranking best games on NFL Wild Card Weekend 2023

Justin Herbert vs Susceptible Jaguars pass defense

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The good news is Justin Herbert has reached the postseason for the first time in his three-year career. The bad news is that he won’t have his most productive receiver, with Mike Williams being ruled out with a fracture in his back.

In some ways, Herbert should be just fine. He dealt with numerous injuries to his top targets all season, with Keenan Allen missing seven games and Williams missing four. When considering Herbert now takes on a Jaguars pass defense that allowed the fifth-most passing yards in the NFL in 2022, there are reasons for optimism.

Then again, there are also reasons to be concerned about Herbert running into the same issues that plagued him during L.A.’s Week 3 loss to Jacksonville. Herbert completed a season-low 55% of his passes in their previous matchup, leading to just one touchdown and one interception. He also lost a fumble, one of just three he lost all season.

In other words, don’t expect Herbert to sail through the Jacksonville defense like a wave in the Pacific Ocean; he may very well run into more trouble, taking on a young but improving Jaguars defense ready to roar on Saturday in front of their home crowd.

Trevor Lawrence vs Chargers’ secondary talent

Syndication: Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

The two quarterbacks in this game are 23 and 24, with Lawrence being the younger of the two signal-callers. While the former No. 1 overall pick showed his inexperience as a rook, he’s been much better under coach Doug Pederson’s guidance.

After leading the NFL with 17 interceptions thrown a season ago, Lawrence cut his turnover rate in half during his second year. He’s also boosted his completion rate by nearly seven points. It’s all led to better results in the win column, and now he could be set to not only take the Jaguars from worst to first in the AFC South, he could be poised to deliver the team’s first postseason win since 2018.

Related: NFL QB rankings

To do so, Lawrence will have to overcome a Chargers defense packed with playmakers in the secondary. Derwin James is the captain of the unit, and he’s led a top-ten pass defense. James is a hard-hitting safety who smells the football like a shark smells blood in the water, but he’s complemented by a few other playmakers such as Michael Davis, and Asante Samuel Jr. Davis has allowed a passer rating of just 77.6 when targeted this season, and hasn’t allowed a receiver to top 100 yards according to Pro Football Focus.

Yet Samuel has struggled much more in his second NFL season, allowing a passer rating of 97.6, allowing 100 or more yards on three separate occasions this year. We’ll see if Lawrence tries to attack Samuel, while ignoring Davis and avoiding James at all costs, or if the Jaguars have another way of carving up the Bolts’ D.

Los Angeles Chargers vs Jacksonville Jaguars prediction

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Each team has a realistic shot at running away with a win, as both quarterbacks have an arm capable of carrying their teams. But with the Chargers at less than full strength, not having Mike Williams, we like Jacksonville to stay in their groove, coming away with a victory on their home field.

Related: NFL picks against the spread, Tampa Bay Buccaneers send Cowboys home

  • Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars 31, Los Angeles Chargers 37