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Jacksonville Jaguars 3, Los Angeles Chargers 10: What did we learn from Sunday’s games

Published: September 25, 2022, 11:22 p.m. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong, and the Jacksonville Jaguars were one of them. I predicted they’d be a team no one wanted to play late in the season when the season started. They’re a team that no one wants to play right now. The Jaguars, who had the league’s worst record the previous two seasons, followed up a 24-0 thrashing of the Colts with a 38-10 thrashing of the Chargers on Sunday in SoFi Stadium, putting together back-to-back victories for the first time since October 2019 and sending a message that they’re no longer a “gimmie” on the schedule. Yes, they beat an Indianapolis team that was breaking in a new quarterback and missing its defensive captain; and yes, Los Angeles finished the game without at least five starters, three of whom did not play at all due to injury, and quarterback Justin Herbert was playing with fractured rib cartilage. But the outcomes were determined by what Jacksonville’s opponents lacked, not by what the Jaguars possessed, namely good players and good coaches. After the disaster that was Urban Meyer, the latter cannot be overstated. During his one season in Jacksonville, the former Ohio State coach never connected with the players. He acted as if he would rather be anywhere but with the team at times, once staying behind for personal reasons while the team flew home after a loss. Doug Pederson is the polar opposite of Meyer: a proven, Super Bowl-winning coach who is instilling a culture in which success is expected rather than hoped for. “I’m just so proud of these guys,” Pederson said after the game to reporters. “They’re starting to see what it takes to win in this league based on how they work during the week. It takes time, effort, and planning. They’re starting to gel as a football team, which is all I can ask for. They worked very hard. After the game, I told them that if they continue to do these small things correctly, good things can happen for this football team. Today was a prime example of this.” Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season: What We Learned From Sunday’s Games Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season: notable injuries and news from Sunday’s games Following their loss to the Packers, the Buccaneers appear to be their own worst enemy. All of the talent accumulated by the Jaguars through high draft picks, as well as the record dollars spent in free agency over the last two seasons, is finally paying off. Pederson has quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the first overall pick in the 2021 draft, proving why he was regarded as a generational talent coming out of Clemson. Lawrence is only going to get better. What’s more, the defense has refused to play in the shadow of the offense. The unit, which includes No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker in 2022, has allowed just 10 points in the last two weeks. It’s clear that the players are starting to feed off of one another. They are expecting to win rather than hoping to win, which reflects on their most important offseason addition: Pederson. We’ll learn a lot more about the Jaguars this weekend when they face the undefeated Eagles. But, for the time being, their performance, like the Colts’ in their upset of the Chiefs, reflects an AFC that has been anything but routine. Other thoughts on the AFC following another chaotic week in the conference: The Dolphins had a notoriously slow start the previous three seasons, going 0-7, 1-3, and 1-7. However, thanks to offseason additions such as wideout Tyreek Hill and left tackle Terron Armstead, the maturation of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and continued playmaking on defense, the Dolphins have emerged as the team to beat in the conference. I know it’s early, but they beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday after outscoring their first two opponents (the Rams and Titans) by a combined 72-17. Many considered the Bills to be the preseason favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, if not win the game outright, so losing a head-to-head matchup to Miami makes the Dolphins the conference front-runner – at least for the time being. The Bills were crowned after crushing the Rams and Titans, but Sunday demonstrated that they, too, bleed when they are cut. Injuries, turnovers, and poor clock management all played a role in the Dolphins’ loss, as did the heat index on the field, which reached 100 degrees. There is no reason to lower expectations for the Bills, but Sunday reminded us that nothing is guaranteed. On paper, the Chargers have the most talented roster, but games are won and lost on the field. Sure, the Rams are dealing with a slew of injuries, but calling their loss to the Jaguars a fluke would be disrespectful to the Jaguars’ promising young team. L.A. entered Sunday’s game without center Corey Linsley, wideout Keenan Allen, and cornerback J.C. Jackson, then suffered injuries to edge rusher Joey Bosa and left tackle Rashawn Slater. Herbert, on the other hand, is the main source of concern. If he’s not 100%, as he appeared to be with the rib injury, the Chargers will struggle to live up to expectations. The only surprise here is that quarterback Lamar Jackson has performed even better than expected, despite the fact that his expectations were extremely high. He has 12 touchdowns, including 10 passing, and has been completely in control when the situation calls for it, such as in Sunday’s 37-26 win over New England, when he led the Ravens on a 73-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Jackson and the team were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension before the start of the season, so each strong performance increases his leverage when the sides resume talks next offseason. If Baltimore can improve its defense, it will be a tough playoff opponent. Seemingly no one had the Bengals opening the campaign 0-2 after reaching last season’s Super Bowl, but that’s where they found themselves entering Sunday’s game against the Jets. The team’s sense of normalcy returned with its 27-12 win over New York, but it’s still too early to declare that everything is fine in Cincinnati. A larger sample size is required, as well as improved play from Joe Burrow, one of the game’s top young quarterbacks. The Raiders still are searching for an identity under new coach Josh McDaniels — unless you consider their identity to be a team that can’t get out of its own way. With so much talent at the skill positions, the offense always seems to be a play away from making a statement. Quarterback Derek Carr admits that he’s still trying to execute the offense as McDaniels wants it, but, in the meantime, there are growing pains and little margin for error. That’s part of what made Sunday’s 24-22 loss to the Titans so painful. Darren Waller, one of the NFL’s top tight ends and the recent recipient of a big-money extension, arguably played one of his worst games since joining the team. He appeared lackadaisical on a deep incompletion, putting up one hand for the ball when it looked like he could have made the catch with two. He also had a ball bounce off his hands near the goal line, resulting in a Tennessee interception. And, finally, he deflected a pass in the end zone that appeared to be targeted for Davante Adams. If any of those go the other way, perhaps the Raiders are 1-2 instead of 0-3. Defensively, the Raiders surrendered touchdowns on each of their first three series on Sunday. The team has allowed at least 24 points in every game, including 29 after halftime against Arizona, squandering a 20-point lead in the overtime defeat. Each of their losses has been by one score, but close defeats is not the reason McDaniels was brought to Las Vegas. Wins were. There is time to get better, but it’s getting late early. The perception was that the Browns simply wanted to hold on until quarterback Deshaun Watson returns from his 11-game suspension. But they are doing more than that. They are 2-1 and easily could be 3-0 if not for poor late-game management by coach Kevin Stefanski in a 31-30 loss to the Jets in Week 2. With their next three against teams that are all currently 1-2 (Falcons, Chargers, Patriots) they could legitimately be in the playoff hunt when Watson returns.