LA Chargers @ Jacksonville (+1.0)
Power rankings: LA Chargers 11, Jacksonville 10
Spread update: This one has gone against the model, the Jags are now 2.5 point dogs.
Keys to the game: The Chargers offense is sitting at 19th in DVOA and 16th in EPA/play, but is missing a key contributor as WR Mike Williams injured his back in a meaningless week 18 game and has been ruled out. Despite an early-season injury to LT Rashawn Slater, the offensive line is middle of the road, thanks in part to impressive play from rookie 6th rounder LT Jamaree Salyer. There are still weaknesses to take advantage of along the line, which I'm expecting the Jaguars to be able to do. The Jags is 4th in pressure rate this season, thanks to strong play from Josh Allen (outside) and Arden Key (inside). Allen plays from both sides, but he'll have a big advantage whenever he lines up over RT Trey Pipkins. The Jaguars defense ranks 12th in EPA/play, but they did so against the easy schedule of opposing offenses in the league, which tanked their DVOA ranking to 26th. They've been far better this season against the run (11th in DVOA) then the pass (30th). The pass defense woes is due to their secondary, which has one stronger corner (Tyson Campbell) and nothing else. This would be a much bigger issue if Williams is able to play, but Keenan Allen is the only accomplished receiver left. Despite a strong arm, Justin Herbert (11th in PFF grades), ranks 4th lowest in average depth of target (7.0). Continuing a dink and dunk strategy against the Jaguars would make sense -- the Jags are far better against deep passes (13th in DVOA) then short (30th) and the Chargers top two receivers will be slot man Keenan Allen and RB Austin Ekeler.
Trevor Lawrence finished the season 13th in PFF grades, but he's the 3rd highest graded QB from week 9 on, a potential sign that he's "broken out." Regardless of your thoughts on Lawrence, the Jaguars clearly have a potent offense, ranking 8th in DVOA and 9th in EPA/play. They have a one-dimensional offensive line that excels at pass protection and struggles against the run, which is a big reason why they've been far better throwing (6th in DVOA) then running (20th) despite a talented running back in Travis Etienne. The Chargers defense is middle of the road, ranking 16th in DVOA and 19th in EPA/play. They match up well against the Jags -- they're far better at defending the pass (10th in DVOA) then the run (29th). Their pass rush got a big boost when Joey Bosa finally returned from a groin injury week 18 and now have an impressive 1-2 punch with Khalil Mack. The rest of the Chargers front 7 is severely lacking in talent, which is a big reason why they've been unable to defend the run. Both the Jags receivers and the Chargers secondary are equally solid, which should make for some entertaining television.