Three reasons Chargers will beat wild-card Jaguars: Justin Herbert ready to score playoff

Three reasons Chargers will beat wild-card Jaguars: Justin Herbert ready to score playoff

Three reasons Chargers will beat wild-card Jaguars: Justin Herbert ready to score playoff

Every once in a while, a team comes along that is remembered despite not having won a championship. The Chargers of the late ’70s and early ’80s were one such team after captivating fans with their lightning-fast offense.

The only thing that was perhaps faster than the Chargers’ offense at the time was the Lakers’ “Showtime” offense. Led by quarterback Dan Fouts, the Chargers’ “Air Coryell” offense reached back-to-back AFC title games in 1980-81. The 1981 Chargers fell into NFL lore after defeating Miami in one of the longest games in NFL history during the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

However, the Chargers’ run came to an abrupt halt the following week as Fouts and Co. could not overcome a -59 degree wind chill in Cincinnati. Now, four decades from the climax of the Chargers’ greatest post-merger era, the franchise is looking to make a similar playoff run.

To do that, the Chargers will first have to defeat a Jaguars team on fire after winning their last five games of the regular season. While Jacksonville is the real deal, the Chargers have the players capable of handing the Jaguars their first loss since Dec. 4.

Here are three reasons the Chargers will emerge victorious on Saturday night.

player headshot

Part of a class of talented rookies, Herbert got off to the quickest start to his NFL career after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. And while Herbert backed up his rookie season with two more Pro Bowl-caliber seasons, the success of Joe Burrow and the Bengals over the past year has sometimes overshadowed Herbert’s success. Rest assured that the success of Burrow and his tentative classmate Tua Tagovailoa served as motivation for Herbert.

Herbert faced the Jaguars in Week 3. It was a game Herbert would probably like to forget as he made less than 56% of his shots in a 38-10 loss. There are tangible reasons for Herbert’s struggles that day. He played despite a painful rib injury sustained the previous week. Herbert was also without Keenan Allen, who was in the middle of a six-game absence while battling a hamstring injury.

The first quarterback to start his career with three straight 4,000-yard seasons, Herbert is seemingly getting better with every snap of his finger. His career high in completion percentage this season. And while his number of touchdown passes plummeted, Herbert threw a career-low 10 interceptions. Herbert’s improvement in ball handling played a big part in the Chargers’ 5-2 record in the final seven games of the season. This will play a vital role in the success of the Chargers if they beat the Jaguars on Saturday night.

high power attack

Similar to the “Charger Power” era, the modern Chargers possess an explosive offense that showcases some of the best players in the NFL.

With Herbert, the Chargers have one of the best receiving duos in the NFL with Allen and Mike Williams. Allen, after battling injuries earlier this season, is back to his usual self after catching two touchdowns in the Chargers’ regular season finale. Williams also battled injuries but bounced back with a strong finish to the regular season while helping Los Angeles clinch a playoff berth. He’s been battling a back injury this week and it’s doubtful he’ll get dressed after not training so far this week.

While not an ideal situation, injuries to Allen and Williams may have improved the Chargers offense in the long run. Those injuries gave DeAndre Carter and Josh Palmer more opportunities. Both players took advantage of their extra reps while combining to catch 118 passes on the season. Tight end Gerald Everett was also a key part of the Chargers offense with 58 catches and four touchdowns.

Fans who don’t watch too many Chargers games will get to see one of the NFL’s most underrated players on Saturday night in Austin Ekeler. The league’s most versatile running back, Ekeler has rushed for 13 touchdowns this season while rushing for 915 yards. He caught an astonishing 107 receptions on 127 targets for 722 yards and five touchdowns, a team high. Rarely in the conversation of the league’s top backs, Ekeler is surely chomping at the bit to make a big impact in his first playoff start.

player headshot

The Jaguars’ defense played a major role in Jacksonville’s late run, but the unit has weaknesses that the Chargers will certainly look to exploit. They’re just 28th in the NFL in pass defense, 29th in third down defense and 24th in red zone efficiency. If those numbers hold up Saturday night, the Chargers will be on their way to the Divisional Round.

Underrated Defense

The stats don’t confirm the quality of the Chargers’ defense. After struggling early, the unit has held four of its last five regular season opponents to within 20 points. Forcing turnovers has been a big part of his success, as the Chargers have forced turnovers seven in their last four games and 24 turnovers this season. It’s a good sign for the Chargers as they will face a Jaguars offense that has given up the ball seven times in the same span.

In addition to turnovers, the Chargers’ pass defense was stellar in the latter part of the regular season. The unit, which allowed just one 300-yard passer in 17 games, only allowed one quarterback to throw for more than 200 yards in the last five games of the regular season. The Chargers will surely look to replicate that success against Trevor Lawrence while forcing the Jaguars’ running game – led by Travis Etienne – to try and beat them.

Running the ball, however, won’t be easy either given the Chargers’ front seven which consists of Pro Bowler Khalil Mack and four-time Pro Bowler Joey Bosa. Look for Pro Bowler Derwin James, who has filled the stat sheet better than perhaps any other safety this season, to play a big role in the outcome of Saturday night’s game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *