In last season's Week 4 matchup at Qualcomm Stadium between the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers, the Jaguars blew up their plan from the offseason to give then-rookie quarterback Blake Bortles a “trial-by-fire” test as a rookie quarterback to test his abilities after an abysmal showing from then starting quarterback Chad Henne. The Jaguars were, and still are, one of the youngest teams in the league and Blake Bortles' first game as a starter showed that, as he finished his first ever start with 29 completions out of 34 attempts with 254 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. However, the performance did show the Jaguars franchise one thing that they have not realized in a long time, a legitimate hope at a franchise quarterback for the first time in years.
As for the Chargers, things have not been looking well for them. After losing star wide receiver Keenan Allen to a kidney injury that put him on injured reserve, the team suffered immensely, as shown in a 33-3 home loss after the bye week against the Kansas City Chiefs. The team only passed for 178 yards on the air and 52 yards on the ground, as the team's first round draft pick Melvin Gordon has had growing pains behind a very questionable offensive line for the Chargers. The lack of depth has shown in the wide receiving corps, as veteran Steve Johnson leads the way for the Chargers.
The team's defense did not do the Chargers any favors, as well. They had allowed 153 yards on the ground last week, with unknown commodity Spencer Ware averaging 8.7 yards a carry on 11 carries (96 yards, as well as two touchdowns). The team is also the second-worst team in allowing points on defense, averaging 28.2 points per game allowed. The team has not stopped the run well all season, allowing 125.9 yards a game (25th in the league), and will hope to stop the rookie with the second-most rushing yards among first-year pros in T.J. Yeldon for the Jags.
However, the reason to hold your heads high on San Diego is the fact that they have two legitimate tight ends to pass the football to in Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, as the Jags allowed Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker eight receptions with 109 yards on the day. Quarterback Philip Rivers is more than capable of having big games, and he did have one against the Jaguars last season, going 29-for-39 with 377 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. They also need to throw the ball to running back Danny Woodhead a bunch, as the Jaguars have had problems on occasion this season at stopping throws out of the backfield. The Jaguars' inability to cover the middle of the field could be a problem as Philip Rivers looks to have another big game against Jacksonville in the teams quest to get back in the win column.
Blake Bortles does not look like his rookie self from a season ago, as he has taken major strides to be the man in Duval. However, turnovers have still remained an issue for the second-year pro. He suffered a lost fumble and an interception in last Thursday's win against the Titans, as he keeps putting the Jags in situations where it would be harder for the team to capitalize on other teams' flaws and digging the team into a hole of their own. Bortles' 14 turnovers is second-most among all quarterbacks this season, and while he may be finding ways to win games late, he needs to learn to cut down the mistakes soon or it will catch up to him and the rest of the team, as it did against the New York Jets three weeks prior.
Blake Bortles has received a lot of help this season, however, as two other second-year players have been his two favorite targets in the passing game this year in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Each have combined for over 1,500 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns for the team, which has been a massive chunk of production for the Jaguars this season. Tight end Julius Thomas finally caught his first touchdown pass for the Jags since Week 6 of the season, but only had 28 yards on five receptions, as the targets are coming his way, but there still seems to be chemistry issues between the two. The team's rushing defense has also played outstanding, as the team only allows 3.4 yards a carry, the fewest amount in the league, as the team has been anchored by consistent performances by linebacker Telvin Smith and the leader and backbone of the entire defense in Paul Posluszny.
However, the main issue for the Jaguars to come into their matchup this week will be to finish drives. The team had multiple drives in the opponent's territory last week, but only managed to score 19 points, which is never good. The inability to score touchdowns have kept the games at hand closer than what it needs to be, and will need to be a point of emphasis as the season rolls along to the final month of the season. The team only has one rushing touchdown this season and it shows with bad play when the team gets to the redzone, and it needs to get better now or the team will continue to play in more close games.
San Diego is coming off a deflating loss against one of their divisional rivals, while Jacksonville is coming off a big win against one of their own. The Jaguars are in their most heavily favored matchup from Vegas since 2010. The team is in a position to keep the wins rolling, but need to stay focused and continue to take games week-by-week to inch closer to prominence in the league and continue to stay in conversations of postseason talk in December.
This has the makings of a trap game for Jacksonville, and the two teams are familiar as this is the third straight season these two teams have met. The Jaguars are at home this week and control their own destiny, as they look to win games that are presented to them and make a strong postseason push.