Two teams whose playoff hopes are virtually zero will meet up in Week 14 as the Jacksonville Jaguars play host the Los Angeles Chargers. Game time is set for 4:05 EST on Sunday, December 8 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. Despite this being a game between two AFC teams, fans in select markets can watch the game on Fox.
Current betting odds list the Chargers as 3-point road favorites with an over/under of 42.5 points. Click here to check out all of this week’s NFL betting odds and a preview of each game.
The Chargers look to be all but done in 2019. At 4-8, they have fallen flat on their face after going 12-4 last season and beginning this year with high expectations. It looked like they had some things figured out after back-to-back wins over the Bears and Packers. However, Los Angeles has since lost three in a row to crush any lingering playoff hopes. To add insult to injury, all three of those losses came at the hands of their AFC West rivals.
With last week’s loss to the Broncos, the Chargers are now in danger of a last-place finish in the AFC West. L.A. still has to play the Vikings, Raiders, and Chiefs late in the season, so this week’s trip to Jacksonville might be their best chance to win another game. If the Chargers don’t win at least one more game than the Broncos over the last four weeks, they’ll suffer their third last-place finish in the last five seasons.
The Jaguars are in a similar position. Jacksonville started the year 4-4 despite losing starting quarterback Nick Foles to injury in Week 1. The Jags were in the middle of the tight AFC South playoff race at the midway point of the season, only to lose their last four games, including losses to all three of their AFC South rivals.
It would take a minor miracle to get the Jaguars back to the playoffs. It would also take at least three wins to avoid finishing last in the division. Jacksonville’s late-season schedule is a little more forgiving than what the Chargers face. However, there’s no such thing as an easy game when you’ve lost four in a row, making the Jags desperate to at least snap their current losing streak so they can at least avoid a double-digit number in the loss column this year.
Let’s be honest, there’s no good choice in this game. In fairness to the Chargers, all eight of their losses this year have come by seven points or less. But that doesn’t make them a good pick as a road favorite. On the other hand, the Jags have lost four straight games by a minimum of 17 points. However, I don’t trust the Chargers enough to eat the points, so I’ll take my chances with Jacksonville as a home underdog.
Word on the street is that Philip Rivers is getting close to getting benched. It’s hard to imagine such a thing happening, but Rivers does look like a shadow of his former self, throwing just 17 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions this season. In his defense, the Chargers haven’t done him many favors. The running game has struggled for most of the season and has been abandoned at times. In any event, Rivers is leading a team that has been held to 20 points or less in eight of 12 games this year.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars have announced another quarterback change, benching Foles for rookie Gardner Minshew. This will be Minshew’s chance to prove that he should be Jacksonville’s starter in 2020, so he should be motivated to play his best in an otherwise meaningless game. Minshew kept the Jaguars afloat earlier in the year, leading them to a 4-4 record as a starter. He also provided a spark last week when he came in for Foles, leading Jacksonville to the only 11 points they scored in the game.
Foles’ return from injury was an utter disaster for Jacksonville and Minshew likely gives them the best chance to win games down the stretch. In fairness, Minshew had some bad games earlier in the year and still has a lot to learn. But he appeared to have a good rapport with Jacksonville’s receivers and had a knack for extending plays with his legs, which is something that should come in handy against the Los Angeles pass rush.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Jaguars have a reliable rushing attack behind Leonard Fournette, who’s closing in on 1,000 rushing yards this year. Fournette is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and over 80 yards per game, which should help the Jaguars avoid putting everything on Minshew’s shoulders. Even in some of their wins, the Chargers have had trouble containing the run against far less formidable rushing teams, so I expect Fournette to have a good game, allowing the Jacksonville offense to stay balanced.
In the end, the Jaguars have a better rushing attack than the Chargers and they may even have the better quarterback in this game. In a battle of two losing teams, that’s enough to push me toward Jacksonville, especially as a home underdog.