Chargers head to Jacksonville for a first round playoff game
January 19, 2023
The 2022 NFL regular season has finally ended after 18 weeks, and the Los Angeles Chargers are still alive and are headed for the playoffs. The Chargers are the fifth seed in the NFL playoffs out of the seven teams in the American Football Conference (AFC). The Chargers will face the Jaguars, the AFC 4th seed, on Saturday Night in Jacksonville. The Jaguars were 9-8 on the season and won the AFC South division.
The Chargers finished the season with a 10-7 record, falling in their final game to the Denver Broncos, 31-28. Head coach Brandon Staley kept most of his starters in as long as he could in an attempt to win the game, but the Broncos were playing at home and wanted to finish the season on a high note. The Broncos finished the season 5-12.
Staley may have kept his starters in too long, as wide receiver Mike Williams suffered a back injury late in the second quarter and may not be available for the playoff game against the Jaguars. He is currently list as day-to-day with a back contusion. A case could be made for Williams not being on the field in a game that was meaningless. The Baltimore Ravens had loss earlier, which clinched the 5th seed for the Chargers. There was nothing to gain from having any of the top players on the field for the Bronco game.
But Staley kept wide receiver Keenan Allen in for the entire game and he came away without an injury. Obviously, the Chargers need Mike Williams in the lineup to beat the Jaguars. But the bigger issue is the lack of depth at the receiving positions. Staley wanted to win the game to keep the Chargers momentum going. They had a four-game winning streak going into the game.
The Charger could not have sat Williams, Allen, running back Austin Ekeler, and quarterback Justin Herbert and had any chance of beating the Broncos. The offensive depth issues that arose during the season need to be addressed in the offseason. The Chargers should have been able to sit their better players and still be competitive with the Broncos.
For now, the Chargers need to find a way to win a playoff game. They met the Jaguars in Week 3 at SoFi Stadium and got blown out, 38-10. The Chargers got beat at the line of scrimmage in that game. The Jaguars rushed for 151 yards to just 26 yards for the Chargers, and controlled time of possession, 38:27 to 21:33. That will have to change for the Chargers to win Saturday Night.
A lot of things have changed since that Week 3 matchup for both teams. The Jaguars have won five games in a row to capture the AFC South Title. But after they hammered the Chargers in Week 3, they went on a five-game losing streak and looked done for the season. But led by second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, they have rebounded.
Lawrence threw for 4,113 yards this season, throwing 25 touchdown passes and just 8 interceptions. He also rushed for 291 yards and five touchdowns. Running back Travis Etienne rushed for 1,125 yards and five touchdowns, and wide receiver Christian Kirk caught for 84 passes for 1,184 yards and had eight touchdown receptions. They all played well in the last two months of the season.
At his Monday press conference, Staley talked about the Jaguars. “They are a different team,” Staley said. “They have been through a lot since the game we played them. Their season was kind of a rollercoaster, as well. They were 2-6 at one point, and then really got hot at the end. I think our seasons are probably similar that way in that we played our best football at the end. They’re a complete football team; offense, defense, and special teams. We have a lot of respect for this football team.”
The Chargers will need Herbert at his best on Saturday Night. Herbert finished the season with 4,739 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. If Williams can play Saturday Night, Herbert will have his full complement of receivers available for the matchup. The Jaguars were ranked 25th in sacks and 28th in passing yardage allowed in the NFL. Herbert should be able to exploit that weakness.
Ekeler set a franchise single season record with 107 receptions, beating the old record set by Allen in 2021 of 106 receptions. Both Ekeler and Allen, along with Williams and tight end Gerald Everett will play important receiving roles in Saturday Night’s game.
But the player to watch might be tight end Donald Parham, who played his high school football at Lake Gibson high school in Lakeland, Florida and his college football at Stetson in Deland, Florida. He will be coming home for this matchup, and with his 6-foot-8 size and 4.6 forty speed he can be a tough matchup for a linebacker or safety.
The Chargers hope this playoff game against the Jaguars is just the beginning. As Staley said on Tuesday after practice about the playoffs, “It’s the very best players, the very best teams, the very best coaches, the very best organizations. That’s where you find out a lot about where you are. We’re excited that we’re here. Like I said, it’s just the beginning.”