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Ten things: Chargers-Jaguars


JACKSONVILLE – There's little need for buildup. Little need for hype.

No more need for scenario talk, either. The Jaguars are past those things and they're in the postseason for the first time in five seasons.

The AFC South Champion and No. 5-seeded Jaguars (9-8) will play host to the No. 5-seeded Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game at TIAA Bank Field Saturday at 8:15 p.m., and there are plenty of pregame storylines.

It's two of the NFL's top young quarterbacks – Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars and Justin Herbert of the Chargers.

It's two aggressive, bold head coaches – Doug Pederson of the Jaguars and Brandon Staley of the Chargers.

It's two teams peaking entering the postseason – the Jaguars have won five consecutive games and the Chargers won four consecutive games before a loss in a regular-season finale without playoff ramifications.

It's two teams new to the postseason – with the Jaguars making their first appearance since 2017 and the Chargers making their first appearance since 2018.

It's two really good offenses.

It's two defenses that have struggled at times this season – and that have played really good at other times, particularly lately.

It's a prime-time matchup between two teams that appear evenly matched – and it has a slice of history, too. It not only will be the Jaguars' first postseason appearance on prime-time, it will be the first time in NFL history two Top 10-drafted quarterbacks have played one another in the playoffs in their first three seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Los Angeles Chargers

September 25th, 2022

But the time for such talk is past. Because it's almost game time. And here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to win Saturday:

  1. Score in the high 20s. At least. The Jaguars have held their last three opponents to 22 points and one touchdown. Those three opponents – the New York Jets, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans – had quarterback deficiencies and were struggling offensively. Herbert is the opposite of a deficiency. The Chargers will probably score in the mid-to-high 20s. The Jaguars must score a little more.
  2. Score touchdowns in the red zone. The Jaguars ranked ninth in the NFL in total yards offense this season, but 20th in red-zone offense. They scored two field goals on two red-zone trips and lost a fumble at the Tennessee Titans 22 in a 20-16 victory last Saturday. They likely can't repeat that and win Saturday.
  3. Contain Austin Ekeler. The Chargers running back is perhaps the NFL's best run/receiving threat. He's a patient runner and a key to both the Chargers' running game and passing game.
  4. Be special. The Jaguars have won the past three games with solid, if not spectacular, play from Lawrence. That was OK in games in which you didn't need a lot of points. This is a different game. It's the playoffs and the Jaguars need their young franchise quarterback to make special plays.
  5. Run. Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. rushed for 17 yards against Tennessee's top-ranked run defense. The Chargers aren't as bad against the run as their 27th-league ranking indicates, but this is still a game in which the Jaguars need big yards – and a few explosive runs – from the second-year veteran.
  6. Pressure Herbert. The Chargers' third-year quarterback is correctly considered one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. He has few weaknesses. That means the way to negate him is to pressure him.
  7. Protect Lawrence. The Jaguars' offense slowed against the Titans when the Titans pressured Lawrence in the second half. Chargers pass rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack can wreck a game. Focus will be on right tackle Jawaan Taylor and left tackle Walker Little Saturday.
  8. Force turnovers. The Jaguars forced eight turnovers in their eight losses and 19 in their nine victories. The Jaguars probably need two turnovers to win Saturday.
  9. Feed off the crowd. The 'Bank was as wild for Titans-Jaguars as for any Jaguars home game in recent memory, maybe ever. It was a factor for the Jaguars. There's no reason Saturday's atmosphere will be any different.
  10. Keep believing. The Jaguars have rallied from 17, nine, 17 and 10 points to win their last four home games. This five-game winning streak, the playoff appearance – indeed, this entire remarkable season – is about belief and desire. Now's not the time to change that.

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