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Chargers Mailbag: Wild Card X-Factors Against the Jaguars & Van Noy's Impact

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Welcome to the Chargers Mailbag! I'm Senior Writer Eric Smith, and I answer questions from the Bolt Fam each and every week.

Send in submissions for the Mailbag here on Twitter or by sending me an email.

Off we go…

Winning the turnover battle.

Yes, I know that's a cliché that applies to every NFL game of all-time. But it especially matters in the playoffs.

And it especially matters when you dive into the numbers with the Chargers and Jaguars, two teams that tied for seventh in the league with a plus-5 turnover margin this season.

Let's start with the Bolts.

A little research shows that, unsurprisingly, the outcome of Chargers games mostly coincides with how the team fared in the turnover battle in that particular game.

Over the course of this 17-game season, the Chargers won the turnover battle in seven games, going 6-1.

In the four games the Bolts lost turnover battle, they were 1-3. And in the six games it was even, the Chargers were 3-3.

Those are pretty strong and clear numbers that show the Chargers are a team that thrives when they are winning that facet of the game.

And the Bolts will need to hold onto the ball against an opportunistic Jaguars defense that seems to be living off takeaways right now.

Jacksonville recorded nine games this season with multiple takeaways. And during the Jaguars five-game win streak to close out the season and help them win the AFC South, they have at least two takeaways in all but one contest.

And it's not just that the Jaguars take the ball away, they score with it, too.

The game-changing play for Jacksonville in Week 18 was a fourth-quarter fumble return for a score that proved to be the difference. That was one of four total defensive touchdowns for the Jaguars this season, the third-most in the league behind the Patriots and Cardinals.

So yes, all of this goes to say that if the Chargers can win the takeaway battle, they have a good chance to leave Jacksonville with a win.

One final note: the Bolts worst game of the season for turnover margin (a 2-0 deficit) came in Week 3 against the Jaguars.

I imagine this will be a talking point for Chargers players and coaches in meetings this week.

Honestly, I'm not putting much stock into that game.

Are there things that Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley and his staff will pick out and show the team that could help them out Saturday night? Of course.

But overall, both teams just feel vastly different than the ones that took the field in late September at SoFi Stadium.

Jacksonville won that game big, but then stumbled to five straight losses before turning their season around with six wins in their final seven games.

James Robinson, who led the Jaguars with 100 rushing yards and a score, isn't even on the roster anymore.

And we all know how different the Chargers are now compared to back then.

For fun, here's a list of Chargers players who either didn't play at all or left Week 3 with a serious injury: Joey Bosa, Rashawn Slater, Jalen Guyton, Corey Linsley, Keenan Allen and J.C. Jackson.

Justin Herbert, of course, started after fracturing his rib cartilage the game before but wasn't even on the field for pregame warmups.

Both teams look completely different right now, and both teams are much better than they were back then.

The playoffs are a brand-new season, so whatever happened four months ago likely won't have much of an impact on Saturday night.

Big fan of this question.

Offensively, I'll go with Jamaree Salyer, who didn't even see the field in Week 3.

Jacksonville's trio of edge rushers in Josh Allen, Arden Key and Travon Walker looked dynamic against the Titans in Week 18.

Salyer has been an unheralded player for the Chargers this season and will be called upon again to deliver in the biggest game of his professional career. Keep in mind that Salyer played at Georgia and won a national title before getting drafted, so I don't think the moment will be too big for him.

Defensively, I expect Khalil Mack to shine under the postseason lights.

Mack is 31 years old and doesn't have a win in his previous three trips to the postseason. He also hasn't recorded a sack in those games either, so he'll likely be just a little bit hungry in his postseason return.

And with Joey Bosa starting to round more into pass-rushing form more on the opposite side, Mack could see fewer double teams than he has most of this season.

Andrew brings up the Xs and Os schematics that I am most interested to watch Saturday night.

According to NFL NextGen Stats, Trevor Lawrence had the fourth-quickest average time to throw this season at 2.59 seconds.

Against the Bolts in Week 3? He got rid of the ball even faster, posting an average time to throw of 2.39 seconds.

That helped Lawrence throw for 262 yards and three scores with no interceptions. And it was a massive reason why he wasn't sacked at all in Week 3.

Andrew's point about playing press coverage to try and eliminate the quick throws is a good one.

It worked to near perfection against the Dolphins, and it could be a strong gameplan in the playoffs if Staley choses to go with it.

He's certainly at, or near, the top of the list.

On the field, Van Noy went without a quarterback sack for the first dozen games of the season. But he was red-hot down the stretch as he'll go into the playoffs on a five-game sack streak.

But Van Noy would make my list for his off-field and locker room contributions. He's got two Super Bowl rings and knows exactly what it takes to endure and be successful during the grind of the season.

Van Noy wasn't voted a captain this season, but he's been among the most influential players on the roster in only his first season. And with the playoffs on the horizon, the Bolts will be leaning on the veteran in more ways than one.

Here's what Staley said Tuesday:

"You want to be that player-driven team. There's nothing better than when you have a player who has gone through the same exact thing that you're about to go through."

Surprisingly, it's going to be somewhat chilly Saturday night by Jacksonville standards.

The forecast shows the high is 56 degrees while the low in 32 degrees. Keep in mind that kickoff Saturday evening is at 8:15 p.m., meaning we'll likely get closer to the lower end of that, maybe around 40 degrees or so.

For comparison's sake, the temperature at kickoff this past Sunday in Denver was 51 degrees.

I would have never of guessed that Jacksonville would be warmer than Denver this time of year, but here we are.

Zero doubt in my mind they can.

But all the focus is on this Saturday, which is going to be the toughest game of the season thus far for the Chargers.

And if the Bolts manage to win that one, the next one would be the toughest game yet. That's simply how the playoffs go.

I believe the Chargers-Jaguars matchup has the potential to be one of the best Wild Card games of the weekend.

You've got two young and talented quarterbacks, a pair of head coaches who put pressure on the opposing team and two franchises that are hungry for playoff success.

If the Chargers can find a way to win on the road, they will likely have played perhaps their best game of the season to date.

They would likely need to do the same to get past one of the 'Big Three' in the AFC of the Chiefs, Bills or Bengals.

But that conversation is for another time and another Mailbag.

All eyes are on Jacksonville as we get ready for the Chargers first playoff game in four years.

It should be a fun one.

That will do it for this week.

As always, you can find me on Twitter at @EricLSmith and submit your questions for the Chargers Mailbag.

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