Breaking down how the Chargers (1-4) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) match up heading into their game Sunday at 1:25 Pacific time at SoFi Stadium.
When Chargers have the ball: Four games into his career, Justin Herbert is the most accurate rookie quarterback in NFL history, at least among those with 100 or more pass attempts. He also has the highest passer rating for a first-year player. Now, if he can just get a victory. Mostly because the Chargers have failed to hold the early leads Herbert and the offense have provided, he is off to one of the oddest starts in league history — an abundance of individual success wrapped inside team failure. This week, Herbert will try again against a defense that has struggled to generate pressure. Jacksonville has only five sacks and is permitting an average of 270 yards passing. Herbert has been brilliant when facing the blitz. What he might be able to do with more time is an appetizing prospect. As it is, he ranks fourth in the NFL, averaging 299 yards passing. There was a lot of talk leading to this game about the need for the Chargers to reestablish a running attack that has been missing. Well, in two of their last three games, the Jaguars have allowed at least 180 yards on the ground.
When Jaguars have the ball: After matching up against Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, Herbert this week gets Gardner Minshew, who is as famous for his mustache as anything else. The quarterbacks do have a brief history against each other. Minshew and Washington State beat Herbert and Oregon 34-20 two years ago in Pullman, Wash. “I just remember that we lost,” Herbert recalled. “I don’t think we played as well as we could have. We went on the road and got beat.” Herbert did acknowledge Minshew is “a lot of fun to watch,” a sentiment the NFL has shared since his first game in the league. This season, Minshew is sixth with 1,682 yards passing and now faces a Chargers defense that ranks 29th against the pass. The Chargers have surrendered 300-plus yards through the air in consecutive games. But Minshew’s passer rating of 94.1 is no better than 20th in the NFL.
When they kick: Michael Badgley is coming off a game in which he missed an extra point (for just the second time in his career) and a potential game-winning field goal. Asked about his level of trust in his placekicker, coach Anthony Lynn said: “Very high, very high. [I have] a lot of confidence in Mike.” Badgley has made seven of 10 field-goal tries overall, one miss coming from 47 yards and the other two from 50. Everyone understandably mocks the Chargers for having a history of kicker woes. Then there’s Jacksonville. The Jaguars have used five — five! — kickers already this season. Former Charger Josh Lambo began the season as the starter but suffered a hip injury in Week 2. He’s set to return Sunday.
Jeff Miller’s prediction: Given the Chargers’ unyielding ability to discover increasingly maddening ways to lose, it would be natural to pick against them. Yet, they are favored by more than a touchdown. So, it’s a win but no cover.
CHARGERS 31, JAGUARS 27
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.