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Wild Card Weekend: Chargers-Jaguars Preview, Props, Prediction

Jan 7, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) hands off to running back Travis Etienne Jr. (1) against the Tennessee Titans in the first quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the marquee young quarterbacks in the NFL will be on display in primetime on Saturday night when the Los Angeles Chargers visit the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second wild-card game of the day.

The Chargers’ Justin Herbert and the Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence will also be making their first career postseason starts.

Lawrence got the better of the regular-season meeting, throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-10 win at Los Angeles in Week 3.

However, it’s the wild-card Chargers (10-7) who are 2.5-point road favorites in the rematch against the AFC South champion Jaguars (9-8).

The line has held steady all week at BetMGM, where Los Angeles has been backed by 62 percent of the spread-line bets and 61 percent of the handle, while the Chargers’ -145 moneyline has drawn 74 percent of the money.

They have also been the more popular play at DraftKings, where the Chargers have been supported by 59 percent of the spread-line bets and 63 percent of the money. However, the Jaguars’ +120 moneyline has drawn 56 and 61 percent of the action, respectively.

Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the ’21 draft, made big strides this season while passing for 4,113 yards, 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions. And suddenly, the Jaguars are a hot club entering the postseason for just the second time in the past 15 years.

“Now Trevor gets his opportunity,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. “It just goes to show how important that position is, as we know. We’re just fortunate and blessed to have Trevor as our guy leading this football team.”

The Chargers are hoping it is Herbert who takes that huge step forward.

Herbert, the sixth overall selection in 2020, passed for 4,739 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions during his third straight solid campaign.

“He has always played his best when the stage is the biggest,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “That is how his career has been in the NFL. In primetime, the big games he has had for the first three years, he has always risen to the occasion because that is the type of competitor that he is.”

PROP PICKS
Chargers WR Josh Palmer Over 4.5 Receptions (+130 at BetMGM/DraftKings): With Mike Williams ruled out Friday, Palmer is once again asked to step into a prominent role in the Chargers’ passing game. He actually led the Chargers’ wideouts with 72 catches on 107 targets during the regular season. He caught at least five passes in seven of 16 games played, with five of those coming during a six-game midseason stretch when Williams and Keenan Allen were battling injuries. His role tailed off the final month of the season, but Palmer will be called upon opposite Allen again on Saturday.

Jaguars RB Travis Etienne Over 76.5 Rushing Yards (-112 at BetRivers): The potential payout is slightly lower at -115 at the other two sportsbooks. Etienne’s rushing production has been extremely sporadic — seven games under 50 yards to go with five games topping 100 yards. The bottom line is, when Etienne gets enough touches, he typically produces. In Lawrence’s first playoff game while coming off a mediocre Week 18 outing, Pederson would be wise to lean heavily on Etienne against a Chargers defense that ranked 28th in allowing 145.8 yards per game on the ground.

Chargers RB Austin Ekeler Anytime TD (-165 at DraftKings): This has been the second-most bet player prop of the weekend at the sportsbook after opening at -155. Ekeler reached the end zone at least once in 11 of the Chargers’ final 14 regular-season games and averaged 17.2 touches over the final six. For those seeking a bigger payout, Ekeler is being offered at +550 to be the first touchdown scorer.

INJURY REPORT
Chargers: WR Mike Williams (back) was ruled out Friday, while pass rusher Joey Bosa (groin) was a full participant all week and is set to play.

Jaguars: Five players were as questionable, including Lawrence (toe), who was a limited practice participant all week. The other questionable Jaguars are WR Jamal Agnew (shoulder), LS Ross Matiscik (back), OG Brandon Scherff (abdomen) and WR Kendric Pryor (shoulder).

PREDICTION
Experience matters, and not just at the quarterback position. Staley has come under fire for playing his starters deep into last weekend’s game that had no bearing on the Chargers’ playoff position, and Los Angeles likely lost Williams for the rest of the season as a result. Both coaches are known for being aggressive in crucial situations, but Pederson has a Super Bowl on his resume and we trust his ability to have the young Jaguars well-prepared.

–Jaguars 24, Chargers 23

–Field Level Media