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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Chargers vs. Jaguars LIVE updates: Inactives, predictions, injury report and start time for AFC wild-card game

January 14, 2023 at 6:50 PM EST

NFL All-Rookie Team: Jaguars LB Devin Lloyd, Chargers OL Jamaree Salyer among first-teamers

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The lack of an obvious star quarterback tempered expectations for the 2022 NFL Draft class, but this year’s rookies wasted little time making an impact on the league. And those overlooked QBs even found a little bit of a groove, led by Mr. Irrelevant himself.

Which 2022 draft picks had the best season? Our NFL Draft experts cast their final ballots for our NFL All-Rookie Team.

(Illustration by The Athletic; Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

GO FURTHER

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NFL All-Rookie Team: Garrett Wilson, Aidan Hutchinson and the best of the ’22 class

January 14, 2023 at 6:40 PM EST

NFL Wild Card model projections: Predictions, totals for every Wild Card playoff game

- Advertisement -

Welcome to my game projections for Wild Card weekend. If you’re new here, I project the score for every game and the win percentage for every team using my NFL betting model. The model phases out older data and uses data from this year as the season progresses.

My NFL betting model takes in a flurry of different metrics and creates a projection for each team. Those projections are then used to project a spread and total for each game. My model can find the chance a game covers the spread or total. I use an “edge threshold” to determine what to bet on.

Read all the projections here.

Austin Mock·

Staff Writer, NFL

GO FURTHER

NFL Wild Card model projections: Predictions, totals for every Wild Card playoff game

January 14, 2023 at 6:32 PM EST

Ranking the NFL playoff teams: Who is best prepared to make a long run?

The NFL playoffs start Saturday without a clear-cut favorite. Do you like the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes? How could you bet against the Bills after these last two weeks? Is 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan really a wizard? There’s a lot to digest, so we’ve tried to break it down into digestible nuggets here with the help of advanced analytics from TruMedia.

Here are our playoff power rankings from 1 to 14.

(Photo: USA Today)

Josh Kendall·

Staff Writer, Falcons

GO FURTHER

Ranking the NFL playoff teams: Who is best prepared to make a long run?

January 14, 2023 at 6:20 PM EST

Super Bowl-winning head coaches in the postseason

The Jaguars’ Doug Pederson is one of five head coaches in this year’s playoffs who have previously won a Super Bowl:

  • Pete Carroll, Seahawks (Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle)
  • Mike McCarthy, Cowboys (Super Bowl XLV with Packers)
  • John Harbaugh, Ravens (Super Bowl XLVII with Baltimore)
  • Doug Pederson, Jaguars (Super Bowl LII with Eagles)
  • Andy Reid, Chiefs (Super Bowl LIV with Kansas City)

Does that kind of resume give their teams an edge? The last three Super Bowl champions were led by coaches who won their first title that season:

  • 2019: Andy Reid with Chiefs
  • 2020: Bruce Arians with Buccaneers
  • 2021: Sean McVay with Rams

The last Super Bowl won by a head coach who had previously won a title came in 2018 when Bill Belichick and the Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, his sixth Super Bowl title.

Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 6:14 PM EST

From wild-card weekend to the Super Bowl

Since 2000, nine of the 22 Super Bowl champions started their title runs with a win in the wild-card round including the last two champs: 2020 Buccaneers and 2021 Rams.

Super Bowl Champions Who Won Wild-Card Game – Since 2000

  • 2021 Rams
  • 2020 Buccaneers
  • 2012 Ravens
  • 2011 Giants
  • 2010 Packers
  • 2007 Giants
  • 2006 Colts
  • 2005 Steelers
  • 2000 Ravens

Will another team win four straight games and capture the Lombardi Trophy this season?

Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST

Coaches in first year with team to reach Super Bowl

There are five playoff teams with head coaches hired prior to this season: Jaguars (Doug Pederson), Dolphins (Mike McDaniel), Vikings (Kevin O’Connell), Giants (Brian Daboll) and Buccaneers (Todd Bowles). That’s the most such playoff teams in a single season in NFL history.

  • The last head coach in his first season with a team to win a Super Bowl was Gary Kubiak with the Broncos in 2015 when they won Super Bowl 50 (Kubiak had previously coached the Texans).
  • The last rookie head coach to win a Super Bowl was George Seifert with the 49ers in 1989.
  • The last rookie head coach to reach the Super Bowl was Jim Caldwell with the Colts in 2009.
Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 5:44 PM EST

Jaguars seeking postseason first

Tis season, the Jaguars (AFC South) became the first team since the 2008 Dolphins (AFC East) to win a division title the year after finishing with the NFL’s worst record.

No team in NFL history has won a playoff game the year after finishing with the worst record in the league.

Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 5:31 PM EST

Chargers star QB Justin Herbert is tough, steady and ready for his playoff debut

On Sept. 21, six days after the Chargers had lost to the Chiefs on a Thursday night, a piercing air of uncertainty hovered around Hoag Performance Center. It seeped through doorways and spread its unnerving scent. It was omnipresent, coloring every conversation, every meeting, every thought.

In the fourth quarter of that 27-24 loss, a Murphy’s law scenario had come to life. Justin Herbert, the Chargers’ talisman tasked with turning their playoff and Super Bowl dreams into reality, had gotten hurt. On a third-and-2 with just more than five minutes remaining, the Chargers trailed by seven points, and Herbert dropped back to pass, seeking to lead a tying drive. He looked left. He looked right. At that moment, Chiefs defensive end Mike Danna came flying up the middle unblocked. As Herbert geared up to throw, Danna delivered a blow into the quarterback’s midsection and drove him to the ground.

Read more here.

(Illustration by The Athletic; Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

Daniel Popper·

Staff Writer, Chargers

GO FURTHER

Chargers star QB Justin Herbert is tough, steady and ready for his playoff debut

January 14, 2023 at 5:14 PM EST

Each NFL playoff team’s chances to win championship games and Super Bowl

The three best teams in the NFL this season, by record, each lost three games this season. The next-best trio, by record, lost 25 percent of the time.

There are no perfect teams in the league as the playoffs commence Saturday, but there are many potent ones. Some that didn’t look that way earlier this season, such as the Bengals and Jaguars, leaned into their identities and won their divisions. Others that did look stellar early in the 2022 season, such as the Cowboys and Dolphins, are in but bring with them as many questions as they have victories.

The following is a breakdown, by conference, of each team’s chances to win their conference championship and the Super Bowl based on the model run by The Athletic’s Austin Mock.

GO FURTHER

Each NFL playoff team’s chances to win championship games and Super Bowl

January 14, 2023 at 5:00 PM EST

QBs selected first overall to win postseason debut

Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence was drafted first overall in 2021 and is making his postseason debut.

Since 2000, four quarterbacks selected first overall won their first postseason start:

  • Michael Vick (2002 Falcons)
  • Alex Smith (2011 49ers)
  • Baker Mayfield (2020 Browns)
  • Joe Burrow (2021 Bengals)
Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 4:32 PM EST

Mike Williams’ importance to Chargers

Pretty much any metric shows the Chargers’ passing game is better when receiver Mike Williams is on the field. That’s why Chargers fans were so upset when Williams suffered a back injury in a meaningless Week 18 game, sidelining him for Saturday’s game.

Williams’ absence could be especially important against a Jacksonville team that utilized man coverage at the NFL’s 10th-highest rate during the regular season. Williams, who excels in contested catch situations, is one of the NFL’s best receivers against man coverage. Since 2019, he ranks 14th out of 92 qualified wide receivers in yards per route run against man coverage (2.37), according to TruMedia. His Chargers counterpart Keenan Allen ranks 21st with 2.21 yards per route run vs. man coverage.

This season, Williams has received a target on 31.8 percent of his routes against man, compared to 16.6 percent against zone.

With Williams out, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is likely to lean more heavily on Allen, the only Chargers receiver who’s been targeted on a higher rate of his routes against man than Williams. But Allen has battled injuries all year and will now not have the benefit of Willims drawing attention away from him.

Aaron Reiss·

Staff Editor, NFL

January 14, 2023 at 3:59 PM EST

Christian Kirk has been worth the money

The initial report of Christian Kirk’s free agent contract with the Jaguars included an inflated total salary number based on incentives that made it appear the Jaguars vastly overpaid for a player who had never been a passing game’s top option. In reality, though, Kirk has lived up to a four-year, $72 million deal that ranks 19th at his position in average annual value, according to Over The Cap.

While ranking fifth among all receivers in routes run this season (618), Kirk has set career highs in targets (133), receptions (84) and yards (1,108). But his breakout year isn’t simply a function of more opportunities. He’s turned 64.3 percent of his receptions into first downs — another career high — despite his average depth of target being a career-low 9.1 yards downfield.

Over The Cap values Kirk’s production this year at $17.2 million, about in line with the annual value of his contract.

(Photo: USA Today)

Aaron Reiss·

Staff Editor, NFL

January 14, 2023 at 3:34 PM EST

Trevor Lawrence has been at his best down the stretch

Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is making his highly anticipated playoff debut after a breakout second season.

The No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft took off as the Jaguars won seven of their last nine games, and he is validating the hype as the best QB prospect of the last decade. If Lawrence can nail down his first playoff win, he’ll be on a fast track to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

From Weeks 9-18, Lawrence ranked seventh in the league with 2,273 passing yards, second with a 69.7 completion percentage, ninth with 15 touchdowns and third with a 0.7 interception percentage.

Jeff Howe·

Staff Writer, Patriots

January 14, 2023 at 3:22 PM EST

How Doug Pederson helped Trevor Lawrence regain his confidence and live up to the hype

There’s something special brewing in Jacksonville.

Trevor Lawrence’s dramatic ascent has propelled the Jaguars to the doorstep of the playoffs and begun to validate years of hype surrounding him as the best quarterback prospect in nearly a decade. His alignment with first-year head coach Doug Pederson has been a significant catalyst in his growth and the team’s sudden success.

Lawrence, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, is morphing into a franchise quarterback in real time. Pederson and his staff believe in Lawrence. The team has rallied behind him. And as they’ve shown in three recent comeback victories, they’re unfazed by any deficit or situation thanks to his clutch performances.

The true measure of any great quarterback is whether he can elevate the players around him.

That’s what Lawrence is doing now.

Read more here.

Jeff Howe·

Staff Writer, Patriots

GO FURTHER

How Jaguars’ Doug Pederson helped Trevor Lawrence regain his confidence and live up to the hype

January 14, 2023 at 3:01 PM EST

What I’m watching in Chargers-Jaguars

Offensively, the Chargers need to run the ball effectively early to mitigate the Jaguars’ pass rush. They found a better rhythm on the ground down the stretch of the season, ranking 10th in EPA per designed rush after Week 14. Especially with Mike Williams out, the Chargers cannot afford to abandon the run early in this game and allow Travon Walker, Josh Allen, Arden Key and Roy Robertson-Harris to attack Justin Herbert with no repercussions. Defensively, the Chargers will need to muddy up the reads for Trevor Lawrence in the quick passing game, especially on early downs. Lawrence ranks second in the NFL in time from snap to throw on early downs since Week 9. Post-snap coverage disguises and designer simulated pressured would allow the Chargers to buy an extra second and force Lawrence to hold the ball slightly longer than he wants to. Then, it is up to Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack to get home. The Chargers must also tackle well on the perimeter in run defense against Travis Etienne — particular corners Michael Davis, Ja’Sir Taylor and Asante Samuel Jr.

Daniel Popper·

Staff Writer, Chargers

January 14, 2023 at 2:33 PM EST

NFL playoffs: A beginner’s guide to the postseason and path to the Super Bowl

After 18 weeks and 17 games, the NFL regular season has come to an end. Now the postseason begins, but the path to the Super Bowl can be confusing if you’re following along for the first time.

Though a couple of top contenders from last season are noticeably absent (where’d the Rams go?), many familiar faces and franchises are back to battle for the Lombardi Trophy.

But how many teams qualify for the postseason? How did they get here? How did the league determine the seeds and where the games will be played?

If you’re looking for answers to all of the above or if you just need a refresher before the final few weeks of the NFL season, we’ve got you covered.

GO FURTHER

NFL playoffs: A beginner’s guide to the postseason and path to the Super Bowl

January 14, 2023 at 1:59 PM EST

NFL postseason QB EPA rankings: Does a great regular season finish lead to playoff success?

Many signs point to Patrick Mahomes ruling the NFL world.

The Chiefs are the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the betting favorite to win Super Bowl LVII. Mahomes leads the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns. He’s the significant favorite to win the league’s MVP award. Mahomes ranks No. 1 in Expected Points Added per dropback, via TruMedia, as the regular season ends.

But how do the rest of the quarterbacks moving on to the postseason stack up? Is Mahomes’ regular season EPA rate a good omen heading into the postseason?

I’m revisiting my quarterback outlooks, this time zeroing in on the quarterbacks with playoff teams.

Read the full breakdown here.

Larry Holder·

Senior Writer, New Orleans

GO FURTHER

NFL postseason QB EPA rankings: Brock Purdy surging; Patrick Mahomes ranks No. 1

January 14, 2023 at 1:27 PM EST

NFL Coach of the Year: Doug Pederson, Nick Sirianni contenders in crowded field

The NFL has on its hands one of the most hotly contested Coach of the Year races in recent history.

Most seasons, by the time December rolls around, it’s pretty clear who truly deserves consideration as Coach of the Year. One or two candidates generally spend the final weeks of the season separating themselves from the pack, and the decision inevitably is pretty simple.

But that’s not the case this year. At least seven coaches seem worthy of the honor, and the argument could be made that another two or three at least deserve to be in the conversation.

Most handicappers have San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan and Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni atop their leaderboards. Each is deserving, but again, they face plenty of competition from their peers.

Here’s a rundown of the leading candidates, and why they deserve the distinction of Coach of the Year. The winner will be announced at the NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 9, as determined by a vote of 50 members of the Associated Press.

(Photo: USA Today)

Mike Jones·

Staff Writer, NFL

GO FURTHER

NFL Coach of the Year: Nick Sirianni, Mike Tomlin contenders in crowded field

January 14, 2023 at 12:58 PM EST

Chargers’ Brandon Staley is polarizing, but his defensive game planning is elite

Few NFL head coaches have become as polarizing as quickly as the Chargers’ Brandon Staley. In his first season, he made waves with his fourth-down aggression, which some pundits considered too aggressive. This season, the talking point is that he might have cut down his fourth-down aggression too much. And when the Chargers were 6-6 and in danger of missing the playoffs for the fourth season in a row, his seat appeared warm. The Chargers then won four games in a row and secured a playoff berth.

Right when Staley seemed to be building public support, he played his starters longer than expected in a meaningless Week 18 game, which resulted in Mike Williams getting hurt, putting his status for the wild-card round in jeopardy.

But regardless of how you feel about Staley’s macro decision-making, he’s been one of the NFL’s best defensive game planners and play callers this season.

Read the full breakdown here.

Ted Nguyen·

Staff Writer, NFL

GO FURTHER

Chargers’ Brandon Staley is polarizing, but his defensive game planning is elite

January 14, 2023 at 12:29 PM EST

NFL playoffs: Key matchups to watch in every AFC wild-card game

Every wild-card round NFL playoff game is a rematch. The AFC side features two matchups between divisional opponents, as the Bills host the Dolphins and the Bengals host the Ravens. The other AFC playoff pairing, Chargers at Jaguars, resulted in a blowout win for Jacksonville in Week 3, but the Chargers have since adjusted and will be as healthy as they’ve been since Week 1, assuming receiver Mike Williams plays. The same can’t be said for the Ravens and Dolphins, who might both start their third-string quarterbacks. But there are still ways those teams can muddy things up and keep the games close.

What factors will decide each of these rematches? Here are key matchups I’ll be watching this weekend.

Ted Nguyen·

Staff Writer, NFL

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NFL playoffs: Key matchups to watch in every AFC wild-card game





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January 14, 2023 at 6:50 PM EST

NFL All-Rookie Team: Jaguars LB Devin Lloyd, Chargers OL Jamaree Salyer among first-teamers

The lack of an obvious star quarterback tempered expectations for the 2022 NFL Draft class, but this year’s rookies wasted little time making an impact on the league. And those overlooked QBs even found a little bit of a groove, led by Mr. Irrelevant himself.

Which 2022 draft picks had the best season? Our NFL Draft experts cast their final ballots for our NFL All-Rookie Team.

(Illustration by The Athletic; Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

GO FURTHER

NFL All-Rookie Team: Garrett Wilson, Aidan Hutchinson and the best of the ’22 class

January 14, 2023 at 6:40 PM EST

NFL Wild Card model projections: Predictions, totals for every Wild Card playoff game

Welcome to my game projections for Wild Card weekend. If you’re new here, I project the score for every game and the win percentage for every team using my NFL betting model. The model phases out older data and uses data from this year as the season progresses.

My NFL betting model takes in a flurry of different metrics and creates a projection for each team. Those projections are then used to project a spread and total for each game. My model can find the chance a game covers the spread or total. I use an “edge threshold” to determine what to bet on.

Read all the projections here.

Austin Mock·

Staff Writer, NFL

GO FURTHER

NFL Wild Card model projections: Predictions, totals for every Wild Card playoff game

January 14, 2023 at 6:32 PM EST

Ranking the NFL playoff teams: Who is best prepared to make a long run?

The NFL playoffs start Saturday without a clear-cut favorite. Do you like the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes? How could you bet against the Bills after these last two weeks? Is 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan really a wizard? There’s a lot to digest, so we’ve tried to break it down into digestible nuggets here with the help of advanced analytics from TruMedia.

Here are our playoff power rankings from 1 to 14.

(Photo: USA Today)

Josh Kendall·

Staff Writer, Falcons

GO FURTHER

Ranking the NFL playoff teams: Who is best prepared to make a long run?

January 14, 2023 at 6:20 PM EST

Super Bowl-winning head coaches in the postseason

The Jaguars’ Doug Pederson is one of five head coaches in this year’s playoffs who have previously won a Super Bowl:

  • Pete Carroll, Seahawks (Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle)
  • Mike McCarthy, Cowboys (Super Bowl XLV with Packers)
  • John Harbaugh, Ravens (Super Bowl XLVII with Baltimore)
  • Doug Pederson, Jaguars (Super Bowl LII with Eagles)
  • Andy Reid, Chiefs (Super Bowl LIV with Kansas City)

Does that kind of resume give their teams an edge? The last three Super Bowl champions were led by coaches who won their first title that season:

  • 2019: Andy Reid with Chiefs
  • 2020: Bruce Arians with Buccaneers
  • 2021: Sean McVay with Rams

The last Super Bowl won by a head coach who had previously won a title came in 2018 when Bill Belichick and the Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, his sixth Super Bowl title.

Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 6:14 PM EST

From wild-card weekend to the Super Bowl

Since 2000, nine of the 22 Super Bowl champions started their title runs with a win in the wild-card round including the last two champs: 2020 Buccaneers and 2021 Rams.

Super Bowl Champions Who Won Wild-Card Game – Since 2000

  • 2021 Rams
  • 2020 Buccaneers
  • 2012 Ravens
  • 2011 Giants
  • 2010 Packers
  • 2007 Giants
  • 2006 Colts
  • 2005 Steelers
  • 2000 Ravens

Will another team win four straight games and capture the Lombardi Trophy this season?

Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST

Coaches in first year with team to reach Super Bowl

There are five playoff teams with head coaches hired prior to this season: Jaguars (Doug Pederson), Dolphins (Mike McDaniel), Vikings (Kevin O’Connell), Giants (Brian Daboll) and Buccaneers (Todd Bowles). That’s the most such playoff teams in a single season in NFL history.

  • The last head coach in his first season with a team to win a Super Bowl was Gary Kubiak with the Broncos in 2015 when they won Super Bowl 50 (Kubiak had previously coached the Texans).
  • The last rookie head coach to win a Super Bowl was George Seifert with the 49ers in 1989.
  • The last rookie head coach to reach the Super Bowl was Jim Caldwell with the Colts in 2009.
Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 5:44 PM EST

Jaguars seeking postseason first

Tis season, the Jaguars (AFC South) became the first team since the 2008 Dolphins (AFC East) to win a division title the year after finishing with the NFL’s worst record.

No team in NFL history has won a playoff game the year after finishing with the worst record in the league.

Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 5:31 PM EST

Chargers star QB Justin Herbert is tough, steady and ready for his playoff debut

On Sept. 21, six days after the Chargers had lost to the Chiefs on a Thursday night, a piercing air of uncertainty hovered around Hoag Performance Center. It seeped through doorways and spread its unnerving scent. It was omnipresent, coloring every conversation, every meeting, every thought.

In the fourth quarter of that 27-24 loss, a Murphy’s law scenario had come to life. Justin Herbert, the Chargers’ talisman tasked with turning their playoff and Super Bowl dreams into reality, had gotten hurt. On a third-and-2 with just more than five minutes remaining, the Chargers trailed by seven points, and Herbert dropped back to pass, seeking to lead a tying drive. He looked left. He looked right. At that moment, Chiefs defensive end Mike Danna came flying up the middle unblocked. As Herbert geared up to throw, Danna delivered a blow into the quarterback’s midsection and drove him to the ground.

Read more here.

(Illustration by The Athletic; Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

Daniel Popper·

Staff Writer, Chargers

GO FURTHER

Chargers star QB Justin Herbert is tough, steady and ready for his playoff debut

January 14, 2023 at 5:14 PM EST

Each NFL playoff team’s chances to win championship games and Super Bowl

The three best teams in the NFL this season, by record, each lost three games this season. The next-best trio, by record, lost 25 percent of the time.

There are no perfect teams in the league as the playoffs commence Saturday, but there are many potent ones. Some that didn’t look that way earlier this season, such as the Bengals and Jaguars, leaned into their identities and won their divisions. Others that did look stellar early in the 2022 season, such as the Cowboys and Dolphins, are in but bring with them as many questions as they have victories.

The following is a breakdown, by conference, of each team’s chances to win their conference championship and the Super Bowl based on the model run by The Athletic’s Austin Mock.

GO FURTHER

Each NFL playoff team’s chances to win championship games and Super Bowl

January 14, 2023 at 5:00 PM EST

QBs selected first overall to win postseason debut

Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence was drafted first overall in 2021 and is making his postseason debut.

Since 2000, four quarterbacks selected first overall won their first postseason start:

  • Michael Vick (2002 Falcons)
  • Alex Smith (2011 49ers)
  • Baker Mayfield (2020 Browns)
  • Joe Burrow (2021 Bengals)
Jason Starrett·

Deputy Managing Editor, College Football

January 14, 2023 at 4:32 PM EST

Mike Williams’ importance to Chargers

Pretty much any metric shows the Chargers’ passing game is better when receiver Mike Williams is on the field. That’s why Chargers fans were so upset when Williams suffered a back injury in a meaningless Week 18 game, sidelining him for Saturday’s game.

Williams’ absence could be especially important against a Jacksonville team that utilized man coverage at the NFL’s 10th-highest rate during the regular season. Williams, who excels in contested catch situations, is one of the NFL’s best receivers against man coverage. Since 2019, he ranks 14th out of 92 qualified wide receivers in yards per route run against man coverage (2.37), according to TruMedia. His Chargers counterpart Keenan Allen ranks 21st with 2.21 yards per route run vs. man coverage.

This season, Williams has received a target on 31.8 percent of his routes against man, compared to 16.6 percent against zone.

With Williams out, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is likely to lean more heavily on Allen, the only Chargers receiver who’s been targeted on a higher rate of his routes against man than Williams. But Allen has battled injuries all year and will now not have the benefit of Willims drawing attention away from him.

Aaron Reiss·

Staff Editor, NFL

January 14, 2023 at 3:59 PM EST

Christian Kirk has been worth the money

The initial report of Christian Kirk’s free agent contract with the Jaguars included an inflated total salary number based on incentives that made it appear the Jaguars vastly overpaid for a player who had never been a passing game’s top option. In reality, though, Kirk has lived up to a four-year, $72 million deal that ranks 19th at his position in average annual value, according to Over The Cap.

While ranking fifth among all receivers in routes run this season (618), Kirk has set career highs in targets (133), receptions (84) and yards (1,108). But his breakout year isn’t simply a function of more opportunities. He’s turned 64.3 percent of his receptions into first downs — another career high — despite his average depth of target being a career-low 9.1 yards downfield.

Over The Cap values Kirk’s production this year at $17.2 million, about in line with the annual value of his contract.

(Photo: USA Today)

Aaron Reiss·

Staff Editor, NFL

January 14, 2023 at 3:34 PM EST

Trevor Lawrence has been at his best down the stretch

Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is making his highly anticipated playoff debut after a breakout second season.

The No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft took off as the Jaguars won seven of their last nine games, and he is validating the hype as the best QB prospect of the last decade. If Lawrence can nail down his first playoff win, he’ll be on a fast track to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

From Weeks 9-18, Lawrence ranked seventh in the league with 2,273 passing yards, second with a 69.7 completion percentage, ninth with 15 touchdowns and third with a 0.7 interception percentage.

Jeff Howe·

Staff Writer, Patriots

January 14, 2023 at 3:22 PM EST

How Doug Pederson helped Trevor Lawrence regain his confidence and live up to the hype

There’s something special brewing in Jacksonville.

Trevor Lawrence’s dramatic ascent has propelled the Jaguars to the doorstep of the playoffs and begun to validate years of hype surrounding him as the best quarterback prospect in nearly a decade. His alignment with first-year head coach Doug Pederson has been a significant catalyst in his growth and the team’s sudden success.

Lawrence, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, is morphing into a franchise quarterback in real time. Pederson and his staff believe in Lawrence. The team has rallied behind him. And as they’ve shown in three recent comeback victories, they’re unfazed by any deficit or situation thanks to his clutch performances.

The true measure of any great quarterback is whether he can elevate the players around him.

That’s what Lawrence is doing now.

Read more here.

Jeff Howe·

Staff Writer, Patriots

GO FURTHER

How Jaguars’ Doug Pederson helped Trevor Lawrence regain his confidence and live up to the hype

January 14, 2023 at 3:01 PM EST

What I’m watching in Chargers-Jaguars

Offensively, the Chargers need to run the ball effectively early to mitigate the Jaguars’ pass rush. They found a better rhythm on the ground down the stretch of the season, ranking 10th in EPA per designed rush after Week 14. Especially with Mike Williams out, the Chargers cannot afford to abandon the run early in this game and allow Travon Walker, Josh Allen, Arden Key and Roy Robertson-Harris to attack Justin Herbert with no repercussions. Defensively, the Chargers will need to muddy up the reads for Trevor Lawrence in the quick passing game, especially on early downs. Lawrence ranks second in the NFL in time from snap to throw on early downs since Week 9. Post-snap coverage disguises and designer simulated pressured would allow the Chargers to buy an extra second and force Lawrence to hold the ball slightly longer than he wants to. Then, it is up to Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack to get home. The Chargers must also tackle well on the perimeter in run defense against Travis Etienne — particular corners Michael Davis, Ja’Sir Taylor and Asante Samuel Jr.

Daniel Popper·

Staff Writer, Chargers

January 14, 2023 at 2:33 PM EST

NFL playoffs: A beginner’s guide to the postseason and path to the Super Bowl

After 18 weeks and 17 games, the NFL regular season has come to an end. Now the postseason begins, but the path to the Super Bowl can be confusing if you’re following along for the first time.

Though a couple of top contenders from last season are noticeably absent (where’d the Rams go?), many familiar faces and franchises are back to battle for the Lombardi Trophy.

But how many teams qualify for the postseason? How did they get here? How did the league determine the seeds and where the games will be played?

If you’re looking for answers to all of the above or if you just need a refresher before the final few weeks of the NFL season, we’ve got you covered.

GO FURTHER

NFL playoffs: A beginner’s guide to the postseason and path to the Super Bowl

January 14, 2023 at 1:59 PM EST

NFL postseason QB EPA rankings: Does a great regular season finish lead to playoff success?

Many signs point to Patrick Mahomes ruling the NFL world.

The Chiefs are the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the betting favorite to win Super Bowl LVII. Mahomes leads the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns. He’s the significant favorite to win the league’s MVP award. Mahomes ranks No. 1 in Expected Points Added per dropback, via TruMedia, as the regular season ends.

But how do the rest of the quarterbacks moving on to the postseason stack up? Is Mahomes’ regular season EPA rate a good omen heading into the postseason?

I’m revisiting my quarterback outlooks, this time zeroing in on the quarterbacks with playoff teams.

Read the full breakdown here.

Larry Holder·

Senior Writer, New Orleans

GO FURTHER

NFL postseason QB EPA rankings: Brock Purdy surging; Patrick Mahomes ranks No. 1

January 14, 2023 at 1:27 PM EST

NFL Coach of the Year: Doug Pederson, Nick Sirianni contenders in crowded field

The NFL has on its hands one of the most hotly contested Coach of the Year races in recent history.

Most seasons, by the time December rolls around, it’s pretty clear who truly deserves consideration as Coach of the Year. One or two candidates generally spend the final weeks of the season separating themselves from the pack, and the decision inevitably is pretty simple.

But that’s not the case this year. At least seven coaches seem worthy of the honor, and the argument could be made that another two or three at least deserve to be in the conversation.

Most handicappers have San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan and Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni atop their leaderboards. Each is deserving, but again, they face plenty of competition from their peers.

Here’s a rundown of the leading candidates, and why they deserve the distinction of Coach of the Year. The winner will be announced at the NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 9, as determined by a vote of 50 members of the Associated Press.

(Photo: USA Today)

Mike Jones·

Staff Writer, NFL

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NFL Coach of the Year: Nick Sirianni, Mike Tomlin contenders in crowded field

January 14, 2023 at 12:58 PM EST

Chargers’ Brandon Staley is polarizing, but his defensive game planning is elite

Few NFL head coaches have become as polarizing as quickly as the Chargers’ Brandon Staley. In his first season, he made waves with his fourth-down aggression, which some pundits considered too aggressive. This season, the talking point is that he might have cut down his fourth-down aggression too much. And when the Chargers were 6-6 and in danger of missing the playoffs for the fourth season in a row, his seat appeared warm. The Chargers then won four games in a row and secured a playoff berth.

Right when Staley seemed to be building public support, he played his starters longer than expected in a meaningless Week 18 game, which resulted in Mike Williams getting hurt, putting his status for the wild-card round in jeopardy.

But regardless of how you feel about Staley’s macro decision-making, he’s been one of the NFL’s best defensive game planners and play callers this season.

Read the full breakdown here.

Ted Nguyen·

Staff Writer, NFL

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Chargers’ Brandon Staley is polarizing, but his defensive game planning is elite

January 14, 2023 at 12:29 PM EST

NFL playoffs: Key matchups to watch in every AFC wild-card game

Every wild-card round NFL playoff game is a rematch. The AFC side features two matchups between divisional opponents, as the Bills host the Dolphins and the Bengals host the Ravens. The other AFC playoff pairing, Chargers at Jaguars, resulted in a blowout win for Jacksonville in Week 3, but the Chargers have since adjusted and will be as healthy as they’ve been since Week 1, assuming receiver Mike Williams plays. The same can’t be said for the Ravens and Dolphins, who might both start their third-string quarterbacks. But there are still ways those teams can muddy things up and keep the games close.

What factors will decide each of these rematches? Here are key matchups I’ll be watching this weekend.

Ted Nguyen·

Staff Writer, NFL

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NFL playoffs: Key matchups to watch in every AFC wild-card game





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