JAGUARS (1-1) at CHARGERS (1-1)
When: 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: SoFi Stadium
TV/Radio: Ch. 2/98.7 FM; 105.5 FM/94.3 FM (Spanish)
Line: Chargers by 3½
Notable injury designations: Chargers: WR Keenan Allen (questionable, hamstring), QB Justin Herbert (questionable, ribs), CB J.C. Jackson (doubtful, ankle), C Corey Linsley (doubtful, knee), TE Donald Parham Jr. (questionable, hamstring), RT Trey Pipkins III (questionable, foot). Jaguars: CB Shaquill Griffin, (questionable, hip).
What’s at stake: The biggest question is whether the Chargers can win without Herbert. Chase Daniel will start if Herbert, who suffered fractured rib cartilage in last week’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, can’t play. The takeaways that propelled the Chargers past the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 weren’t there in Week 2 against the Chiefs, thanks to at least one questionable penalty on an apparent interception and a debatable video replay that wiped out another pick.
Who’s better: On paper, the Chargers are the better team. They’re more experienced, more accomplished and led by players with more impressive résumés (Allen, Herbert, Joey Bosa, Derwin James Jr., Khalil Mack, et al). The game isn’t played on paper, though. It would be a bad idea to overlook the Jaguars’ top players, especially after quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 25 of 30 passes for two touchdowns in Jacksonville’s impressive shutout of the Indianapolis Colts last week. Running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne add another element to the Jaguars’ offense. It was a point the Chargers stressed during media sessions during the week.
Matchup to watch: The Chargers limited the Raiders to 64 yards rushing in Week 1 and the Chiefs to 93 in Week 2 for an average of 78.5 per game, or an average of five yards per carry. The season averages were inflated by one run, a 52-yard gain by Kansas City’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chargers made improving their run defense a point of emphasis in the offseason and so far it appears to have paid dividends, freeing Bosa and Mack to pressure opposing quarterbacks to great effect. Bosa had tackles for losses in each of the first two games. Mack has a team-leading four sacks.
Chargers win if: They must contain Lawrence and continue to play well against the run. Robinson, who had 119 yards rushing in the last game between the teams, and Etienne will present a challenge for the Chargers. Naturally, much depends on whether Daniel can be effective if he plays in place of Herbert, who threw three TDs in each of the first two games.
Fantasy sleeper: Austin Ekeler had a career-high 213 yards from scrimmage (101 yards rushing and 112 yards receiving) the last time the Chargers and Jaguars met. He’ll try for a third consecutive game against Jacksonville with 100 yards or more from scrimmage Sunday. Look for Ekeler to be a top target again as the Chargers modify their game plan.
Prediction: The Chargers should win, but a lot depends on whether Herbert can play and be effective. The Chargers have enough weapons to make it work, but it’s likely to be a struggle. Chargers 17, Jaguars 14.