Jaguars vs Chargers Picks, Odds, Prediction | AFC Wild Card Preview

Jaguars vs Chargers Picks, Odds, Prediction | AFC Wild Card Preview article feature image
  • The Chargers are laying 2.5 points in the AFC playoffs against the Jaguars.
  • The Jags won five straight games to win the AFC South and make the playoffs.
  • Anthony Dabbundo makes his Jaguars vs. Chargers pick below, targeting the over/under.

Two of the most exciting and talented young quarterbacks make their playoff debuts as we make our Jaguars vs. Chargers pick.

Jacksonville finished the regular season with five consecutive wins to win the AFC South crown, while Los Angeles won four straight to clinch its playoff spot before dropping a meaningless — but costly — Week 18 game in Denver.

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley made the curious and highly scrutinized decision to not rest his starters in the regular season finale, and he paid the price. Wide receiver Mike Williams injured his back during the game and is out.

The trend is generally to bet against quarterbacks making their first playoff start, and that trend has been very profitable against the spread (35-14-1 ATS). However, it doesn't apply here because both quarterbacks are playoff rookies, though that trend does suggest some struggles for these quarterbacks.

Despite the trends, the market is too high on these defenses in my view and there should be plenty of points in this AFC Wild Card clash.

Jaguars vs. Chargers Odds

Saturday, Jan. 14
8:15 p.m. ET
Jaguars Odds
-104o / -118u
Chargers Odds
-104o / -118u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

Jaguars vs. Chargers Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how the Jaguars and Chargers match up statistically:

Jaguars vs. Chargers DVOA Breakdown
Overall DVOA1926
Pass DVOA1730
Rush DVOA2211
Overall DVOA916
Pass DVOA610
Rush DVOA2029

Chargers Offense vs. Jaguars Defense

Jacksonville's defense improved in the final month of the season to help propel a playoff push, but the season-long data on the secondary is concerning in this matchup.

The Jaguars are 17th in EPA per pass allowed, but they faced the easiest schedule of opposing offenses in the league. The improved play in the final month came against Zach Wilson, Davis Mills and Joshua Dobbs. The easy schedule is why the Jaguars defense is just 30th in pass defense DVOA.

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Even since Week 12, the Jaguars are 24th in defensive DVOA against the pass. They allowed 34 points to Dak Prescott and Dallas and 40 to Jared Goff and Detroit. The Chiefs and Ravens both comfortably got to 27 despite red zone struggles.

The Jaguars defense benefitted from six games against terrible pass offenses in their own division — and still got carved up by Matt Ryan in Indianapolis in October. They played the Eagles in a monsoon and played Justin Herbert in September, right after he suffered a rib injury against Kansas City.

It's pretty difficult to run on the Jaguars, but the Chargers don't even really try to establish it on early downs. Herbert throws more on early downs than any quarterback. The Jaguars are especially vulnerable in the middle of the field and against slot receivers.

The slot is where Keenan Allen can excel and allow Herbert to methodically pick apart the defense. The Jaguars generate solid pressure, but Herbert is one of the best operating under pressure.

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Jaguars Offense vs. Chargers Defense

Trevor Lawrence played poorly and seemed jittery in the pocket against the Titans in Week 18. It wasn't a playoff game, but it might as well have been one, and the pressure of that seemed to throw him off. But some of that credit should also go to the Titans defense.

If you consider that game Lawrence's playoff debut of sorts, you could see a more prepared and poised quarterback on Saturday night.

The Jaguars offense is sort of a bizarro Chargers offense. While the Chargers struggle on early downs with Herbert often bailing them out on late downs, the Jaguars are one of the best early down offenses.

The Jags are third in early down dropback success rate and EPA per play. The offense is in the top seven in efficiency and is facing a Chargers defense that is quite passive on early downs.

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is still quite underrated as a defensive game planner and that's the one X-factor in this matchup. We've seen his pass defense take the red-hot Dolphins offense totally out of sync and it even befuddled the Chiefs in Week 2.

But Staley's defense is vulnerable on early downs. The Chargers are a below-average defense in preventing teams from getting positive plays early in series.

The Jaguars should be consistently ahead of the sticks and operating in advantageous drive scripts.

Betting Picks

This is a matchup of two top-10 offenses by yards per drive, and I'd argue the season-long metrics underrate the Chargers because of injuries to Justin Herbert and his wide receivers. Both defenses are outside the top 20 in yards allowed per drive.

The ball will be moving up and down the field in this game, and the total is a bit lower here because both teams have had issues scoring in the red zone — a sure way to derail an over.

We've also learned both coaches will be aggressive on fourth downs, chasing touchdowns over field goals. Those extra downs could be a major key in getting points on the board.

The Jaguars should be able to exploit their early down advantage and there's much skepticism about the true talent of a Jaguars secondary that benefitted from a very favorable opposing schedule.

Both teams are more than capable of playing from behind and both play at a top-10 situation neutral pace. This game has all the makings of an over, as long as the playoff debutants at quarterback come to play.

The total for this game opened up at 46.5 and was bet up to 47.5 almost immediately. Even with the news that Mike Williams wouldn't play, it remained steady at 47.5. I think it's a point or two short and would have expected this to be around 49.

Use our live NFL odds page to make sure you get the best number on the total. It's either 47 or 47.5 at most sportsbooks.

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