The Chargers almost have to prove themselves all over again following not only a disappointing 21–14 loss on Monday night at Kansas City, but their 17–14 playoff flop to the New York Jets the last time they played at home. While Jacksonville might not be a marquee opponent, the Jags physically dominated the Chargers in a 24–17 victory in 2007. On top of that, the game will be blacked out locally, ending a streak of 48 straight sellouts, playoffs included, dating to 2004.
Keys for the Chargers
• How does rookie running back Ryan Mathews bounce back? Mathews was stripped of the ball by the Chiefs, who turned it into the go-ahead touchdown. Coach Norv Turner admitted that Mathews was a bit tentative after that. Mathews finished with 75 yards on 19 carries in his NFL debut. The Chargers abandoned the run on a last-minute drive that fell short.
• Must put ‘’special’’ back in special teams. The Chargers melted down at Kansas City, allowing Dexter McCluster’s team-record, 94-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Chargers also let Javier Arenas break five long returns. It won’t be any easier on Sunday, when they’ll have to watch their former special teams ace, Kassim Osgood, do his thing for the Jaguars. Plus, the Chargers lost 17-year veteran long snapper David Binn for the season due to a hamstring injury.
Keys for the Jaguars
• Play better on the West Coast. The Jags have a history of playing poorly on cross-country trips, including blowout losses at San Francisco and Seattle last year. Maybe it’ll help that Osgood and linebackers Kirk Morrison and Russell Allen all played at San Diego State, so this will be a homecoming game for them, with familiar faces in the stands.
• Keep throwing the ball to Osgood. Despite Osgood’s playmaking abilities on special teams — he is a three-time Pro Bowler — Turner never gave Osgood a chance at wide receiver with the Chargers, who allowed him to leave as an unrestricted free agent. The Jaguars have given Osgood a chance, and he returned the favor by catching a game-winning, 24-yard TD catch against Denver on Sunday.
The Chargers claim their opening-night mistakes are correctable. Still, they’ve been slow starters under Turner, so it could be close. Chargers 24–17