Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#149 Los Angeles Chargers -3 vs.
#150 Jacksonville Jaguars 44.5
Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 4:05pm EST
TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville
Written by Nick Raffoul

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The Los Angeles Chargers will travel to TIAA Bank Field on Sunday afternoon as they prepare to wind down a disappointing season with a matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Both of these teams find themselves with quarterback controversies late in the season. The Chargers have been among the most disappointing teams in the NFL but injuries, distractions, and poor ball security have caused them to stumble out to a 4-8 record through 12 games this year. Meanwhile, the Jaguars, also 4-8, have handed the reigns back to sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew following another disappointing performance by Nick Foles. Can Minshew work some magic and lead the Jaguars to a win over the embattled Chargers on Sunday?

It’s been a tough season for 37-year-old quarterback Phillip Rivers, who is having one of the worst seasons of his 16-year career. Rivers has thrown for 3,434 yards with only 17 touchdowns and his 15 interceptions rank as the second-highest mark in the NFL through 12 games. Despite the fact that he’s completing 64.7 percent of his passes, reports have surfaced that the Chargers have been baffled by his inaccuracy this season and could bench Rivers as early as this week. Tyrod Taylor is currently the Chargers’ backup but a midseason change might mark the end of an era for Rivers in San Diego. According to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, the Chargers are reportedly eyeing the top quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft.

There’s no denying that there are going to be some inevitable changes in Jacksonville during the offseason. The Nick Foles-experiment has gone terribly wrong and his four-year $88-million deal seems like a cloud that could hang over the organization’s head over the next few seasons. While there are a few teams that could emerge as a suitor for Foles via trade, the Jaguars wasted no time in announcing sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew as the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. Minshew performed admirably in Foles’ absence, throwing for 2,432 yards with 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He completed 61.1 percent of his passes and led the Jaguars to a 4-4 record as a starter. Minshew will get a chance to prove his worth to the coaching staff over the final but the decision will create an interesting dynamic in the offseason. According to ESPN, Foles has a dead cap hit of $33.875 million if he is released before June 1. However, that number dips to $21.375 million if he's released after that date. A post-June 1 trade would save the Jaguars $15.875 million and include a dead cap hit of $6.25 million.

Chargers finding new ways to lose

The Chargers lost their third straight game 23-20 last week to the Drew Lock-led Denver Broncos. Phillip Rivers turned in another underwhelming performance, throwing for 265 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while Mike Williams caught five passes for 117 yards in a losing effort. Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler caught touchdowns while Melvin Gordon finished with 99 yards on the ground for the Chargers, who were on the wrong end of a controversial pass interference call late in the fourth quarter that set up the Broncos’ game-winning field goal.

Los Angeles plans on controlling what they have left to control over the final four weeks of the season. That might start with benching longtime franchise quarterback Phillip Rivers, who has been a shell of himself this season. Injuries and poor offensive line play haven’t helped and neither did Melvin Gordon’s holdout but the stark reality is that Rivers’ time as the starter in Los Angeles is coming to an end.

But for all those who are begging for Rivers to be benched, keep in mind that the ceiling isn’t going to be much higher with Tyrod Taylor under center either.

Minshew back as the starter for Jacksonville

Nick Foles turned the ball over on Jacksonville’s first three possessions and the Jaguars extended their losing streak to three games with a 28-11 defeat versus the Tampa Bay Buccanneers. Gardner Minshew replaced Foles in the second half, throwing for 147 yards with one touchdown and one interception on the day. Dede Westbrook caught five balls for 60 yards and a score but Jacksonville managed just 242 yards of total offense, including just 49 yards on the ground in the loss.

The focus of Jacksonville’s season has shifted back to Minshew over the final four games, as the rookie auditions for a potential starting role in 2020. The rookie’s second stint as a starter might not come with all the national attention that Minshew Mania attracted the first time around but he has a chance to cement his future as a starter in the NFL. If he performed well and wins a few games, he will have a pretty good case to be the Jaguars’ starter heading into training camp next year. Fumbles were a major issue for Minshew during the first eight starts of his career, and given his physical limitations, ball security will likely determine his shelf life as a starter in the NFL.

The Jaguars’ defense suffered another setback this week when the team announced linebacker Miles Jack would be placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Jack missed a game due to injury for the first time in his career last week against Tampa Bay and will likely be replaced by Donald Payne, who has just 11 career starts on the defensive side of the ball. The defense also lost cornerback D.J. Hayden, who suffered an apparent neck injury in the third quarter versus the Buccanneers. Jacksonville comes in allowing 24.3 points and 381.2 yards of total offense per game so far this season.

Best Bets for this Game

Full-Game Side Bet

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This game features a matchup between the Jaguars and former coach Gus Bradley, who is currently the Chargers’ defensive coordinator. Los Angeles has covered the spread in seven straight meetings in this series, including four straight in Jacksonville. The Jaguars offense has moved the ball better with Minshew under center but he’s also struggled with his ball security and the Chargers pass rush should be able to create a few turnovers in this game. With all the talk about Rivers’ job being in jeopardy, I expect him to bounce back with a solid performance here on the road in a winnable matchup. Take Los Angeles to cover the spread on the road on Sunday afternoon.

Prediction: Los Angeles Chargers -3

Full-Game Total Pick

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This is shaping up to be a low-scoring game. These two teams have been pegged for 43 points but both of these teams have had their fair share of troubles getting on the board in recent weeks. Jacksonville has averaged just 11.8 points per game during their four-game slide and the Chargers have scored just 20.3 points per game during their three-game losing skid. Take this game to stay under the projected total at TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville on Sunday.

Prediction: Under 43
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.