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Herbert Wants First Playoff Win and He Wants It Now

Let’s take a quick stroll back in time to September 25th of last year. It was Week 3 of the regular season, the sun was shining in LA, and the Jaguars gave the Chargers a pounding that nobody could’ve seen coming. Beating LA 38-10, Jacksonville put on one of its strongest performances.

Now though, the Jaguars will be facing off against a completely different Chargers team than the one they beat.

Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up prior to a game against the Denver Broncos
Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers / Justin Edmonds - Getty Images - AFP

Even after having to battle with injuries throughout the season, the Chargers still managed to find a way into the postseason, snagging one of the three AFC Wild-Card spots. As the season progressed, there was never a shortage of “what ifs” around the Chargers.

Above all, what if this team would’ve been healthy throughout the year? Would we have seen what was touted to be one of the AFC’s most dominant squads take shape and dominate?

With Chargers QB Justin Herbert looking to score his first postseason win, and the Jaguars wanting to continue on with their recent five-game win streak, who will come out on top in Jacksonville?

Let’s check the latest NFL picks, stats, injury reports, and NFL predictions. We’ve plenty of NFL expert picks for you to consider.

Protect Herbert and Stop Lawrence, The Keys to Chargers Win

For anybody thinking, LA could suffer the same fate it did in Week 3 against Jacksonville, think again. This Chargers team is a completely different unit than the one that lost, and that’s something that Jacksonville should be keeping a keen eye on.

Even after seeing their latest four-game winning streak snapped in their last game of the season against the Broncos, LA’s momentum entering the playoffs looks like it hasn’t been damaged. It’s no secret that coach Brandon Staley needed his team to make it to the playoffs if he wanted to keep his job.

So what’s next? To start, hoping that his decision of playing his starters on Week 18, which led to players like Mike Williams, Joey Bosa, and Kenneth Murray leaving the field banged up, won’t come back to bite him. And secondly, making sure Herbert is protected.

LA’s offense will rely on Herbert’s ability to guide it once again. By allowing Herbert time to pass, the Chargers shouldn’t have many problems against a Jaguars secondary that allowed 238.5 yards per game on average this season.

For everything else, let Austin Ekeler run wild on first and second downs, opening the field down the middle and the Chargers should be able to cruise into Jacksonville’s end zone with ease.

Defensively, the Chargers will have to set their attention on keeping Lawrence under siege. Having Bosa back – he left the game against Denver because of a groin injury – will come in handy for LA’s front defense. If LA can keep a hold of Lawrence and his receivers and can stuff Jacksonville’s running backs, there shouldn’t be much issue controlling the Jaguars.

Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates after a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts
Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers / Justin Casterline – AFP

Striking Fast Should Be Jacksonville’s Mission

What team manages to go from having back-to-back No.1 picks in the NFL draft to winning its division? Yes, Jaguars, it’s you I’m talking about. The turnaround that Jacksonville has gone through is remarkable.

The Jaguars went from being a team with talent, but zero coaching direction or leadership, to becoming a functional football team, mostly thanks to Doug Pederson. After taking down Tennessee in its last game of the season, and winning the AFC South, Jacksonville started to show that this is a team with the chops to become actual contenders soon.

To be able to try and repeat its Week 3 win against LA here, Jacksonville will need to do something that has been one of its major issues on offense, finishing drives in the red zone.

Lawrence and his offense tend to thrive on early downs. Between a passing game and Travis Etienne Jr leading the rush, Jacksonville usually gets the job done. It’s when faced with third and fourth downs, especially in their opponents’ red zone, where the Jaguars start to tremble.

Against a defense that has been coming together more and more like LA’s, striking fast and effectively will be essential. Lawrence will need to show more versatility in his moves to keep LA’s defense on its toes. The key will be to go for touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.

On defense, just like LA will have the task of controlling Lawrence’s every move, so will Jacksonville against Herbert. If the Jaguars can lock down Herbert, and have their secondary play lockdown defense on LA’s receivers, the Jaguars could find a way to win.

Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars carries the ball against the Houston Texans
Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars / Tim Warner – AFP

Herbert or Lawrence? Who Is Moving on to The Divisional Round?

The Jaguars deserve a ton of respect for the way they were able to turn their team around. While almost nobody gave two cents for Jacksonville, the Jaguars got to work, silenced the non-believers, and managed to win their division.

Still, though, there’s no denying that Herbert has the chops to be one of the league’s most important passers. His leadership skills are one of the main reasons why his team was able to battle through injury problems and find a way into the playoffs.

While I’m a firm believer that we are looking at the start of a positive era for the Jaguars, Herbert and the Chargers look like the better option to move forward.

The Jaguars will surely give the Chargers a true run on Saturday, but at the end of the game, it will be the Chargers continuing to the divisional round.

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