The playoffs are here, and the wild-card weekend is giving us a treat between two young, star quarterbacks who look like they’ll be faces of the league for a long time in the future. Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers will be traveling to Jacksonville to take on Trevor Lawrence and the AFC South champion Jaguars.
The league has seen a lot of turnover as far as established, veteran quarterbacks go, but this game is a chance for two younger franchise quarterbacks to fully arrive into NFL lore with strong showings this weekend. While their legacies still have to be ironed out over the next decade, what makes this game intriguing is the fact that Lawrence and Herbert have already arrived into NFL stardom.
In some ways, Lawrence and Herbert mirror each other on the field. They’re both tall, long pocket-passers who have the arm talent to throw all over the field (though Herbert has a level of arm strength rarely seen in NFL history). Both players are athletic and can make plays out of the pocket. And both players carry an immense load as far as the offense functioning through them. Both the Jaguars and Chargers ask their quarterbacks to be primary playmakers within the offense, which should set the stage for a game that reminds people why they love football so much.
Herbert this weekend might be without the services of Mike Williams, who suffered a back injury in a meaningless Week 18 loss to the Denver Broncos. On Monday, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said Williams had a back "contusion" and expects him to practice this week, but who knows? Herbert has already been playing with a pretty high degree of difficulty due to injuries and personnel and coaching limitations for the vast majority of the season, and he has been able to deliver just about every time the Chargers needed him to. Even if he has to play without Williams, the expectation for Herbert should still be a strong game, given that he has already established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Lawrence has grown into his own over the back half of the season, too. The talent that made him the unquestioned first overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft has always been there, but he needed some time to figure out what worked and what didn’t for him at the NFL level. This season, he has even been able to carry the Jaguars to some clutch, late-game wins, such as in their games against the Cowboys and the Ravens. This Jaguars roster isn’t quite ready to sustain a title run or a strong regular season, but that has only accentuated how much Lawrence means to this team. They needed him to become the assassin that he has grown into. The Jaguars finished the season 9-8 after starting 2-6, and Lawrence deserves a huge chunk of credit for that turnaround.
The playoffs this season are going to bring a new guard of quarterback talent to the forefront of the league, and the duel that Herbert and Lawrence figure to have should show why these two quarterbacks are so highly thought of. It’s rare to find quarterbacks with such limited experience who have the ability to put an entire offense on their backs. Wild-card weekend is delivering a game with two of them right at the start of the weekend. Buckle in.