After an exciting offseason, a roller coaster of a season, and a weird last game – the playoffs are here: and so are the Chargers wild card odds. Sitting at -1 according to SI.com, the Chargers have the betting edge – but not by much. Can you really be surprised, given how the first matchup went between these two?
It was the game that truly seemed to solidify beginning of the “new era” Jacksonville Jaguars – with a scary ground game with Travis Etienne, solid coaching for a change, and a prominent pass attack led by the 2021 #1 overall pick. To make matters worse, the Chargers played like crap against them. Not only were points missing from the board, but effort and intensity was missing from the performance, as well. And it showed…
Chargers Wild Card Odds: The Difference Now
The difference is that guy right there, for starters. An exaggeration, sure – but I think most Chargers fans haven’t forgotten that this matchup occurred right after Justin Herbert fractured his ribs against the Chiefs. No, not two weeks after – the next game. Franchise quarterback aside, the Chargers were also without Keenan Allen, who’s impact speaks for itself in terms of wins/losses when he does/doesn’t play. Now, with Herbert at full strength, Keenan Allen (and Mike Williams) playing, and a revamped defense – it only makes sense that the Bolts have the upper hand.
One could argue that the Jaguars themselves have also improved throughout this stretch, too. And they’d have a point – as Jacksonville has damn near completed a 180 turn from last year. Evan Engram has emerged as the league’s next dynamic tight end, Christian Kirk and Zay Jones have turned into formidable weapons. And the defense has shown up to round it all out. Lastly, Doug Pederson has had a full year at the helm – and his impact has become more and more apparent throughout the year.
Chargers Wild Card Odds: The Matchup
Now that we’ve established the background & context, let’s take a look at the breakdown:
Quarterback: With all due respect to Trevor Lawrence, he’s no Justin Herbert.
Rushing: We’ll call this even – Ekeler and Etienne are really similar, at that.
Receiving: Depends on the status of Mike Williams, but production says Jaguars.
O-Line: Close, but Jaguars.
D-Line: Assuming an EDGE (Bosa & Mack) is D-Line… Chargers.
Linebackers: Jaguars. If Murray were more consistent; it’d be a good debate.
Defensive Backs: Star Derwin James and the inspired play of Asante Samuel & Bryce Callahan win this one.
Coaching: Who’s won the Super Bowl between the two? Advantage Jaguars.
Chargers Wild Card Odds: A Biased Opinion
If you’ve read my work throughout the season (or can see my bio below) – it’s no secret I’m a Chargers fan. But, for the sake of good journalism, I’ve tried to keep my feelings to myself. Not any more. Here’s my take as a Chargers fan:
The spread is spot on. I think the Chargers technically have a slight edge, but there’s no doubt that this should be a close on. If it isn’t, the worry is that the Chargers are blown out once again – yes, I say this as a fan, myself. First things first, I’ve never seen the Chargers come up clutch in a big game. (Except for that one time the Bolts upset the Manning-led Colts a few years back).
Let’s be real – Brandon Staley is such an enigma that it’s incredibly hard to trust him, let alone believe in him in big moments. He’s constantly making calls that cause an immediate head-scratch, followed by (most of the time) excessive curse words directed towards the television. When it comes to the postseason debut of both Herbert and Staley, you have to think that one of them will choke.
But, speaking of choke – the Chargers best hope is the proverbial melt down on the other side of the field. Not from the Super Bowl Champion Pederson – but his second year quarterback… as well as the rest of the team! Most of their players from their 2017 AFC Championship appearance are gone – and this is a relatively raw group. Which means, it can go one of two ways… Either they collapse, or have a hell of a game.
Chargers Wild Card Odds: Finally… A Prediction
All of that being said, I see this one as a game that can go from lopsided, to nail-biter, with no particular side taking an early lead. There’s one world where Herbert is unleashed and gets off to an incredible start, only to have the defense collapse. There’s another where the Chargers call their plays conservatively and try to “control the game” like Staley often does, and the Jags take advantage. That’s usually when Herbert is unleashed, when the Bolts are down, anyway.
Ultimately, I can’t confidently say that either side will win – but based on talent & belief alone, I’ll go with the Chargers. But, I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable about that spread, either. So, kudos to the odds-makers, because the Chargers wild card odds are scary accurate. And I sure hope their prediction is right…