Last year, it was Patrick Mahomes. This year, it’s Lamar Jackson. Before them, it was anyone other than the Patriots.
Not necessarily in Vegas, and certainly not here in New England, but throughout the rest of the country, NFL hot-takers have been begging for someone to be “the guy” that knocks Tom Brady and Bill Belichick off the top of the mountain in the AFC. This year is no different, even if the Patriots are currently the favorite to win Super Bowl LIV at +250. Still, the talk of the league is Jackson and the 7-2 Baltimore Ravens, entering Week 11.
The 8-1 Patriots are coming off their Week 10 bye to face the Eagles in Philadelphia this Sunday at 4:25 p.m., continuing the Pats’ toughest stretch of the season, followed by games against Dallas, at Houston, and then against Kansas City.
Baltimore hosts the 6-3 Houston Texans this Sunday at 1 p.m. in a battle for the all-important head-to-head playoff tiebreaker. The Ravens already own one head-to-head tiebreaker over New England after defeating the Patriots in Week 9, handing the Pats their first loss of the season.
It was an impressive win on the national NBC “Sunday Night Football” stage. And right now, as the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff picture, Baltimore looks like the real deal with a five-game win streak. If they can also beat Houston, the already-high praise for the Ravens might rise to a whole new level.
I’m here to respond to all that hysteria with a more realistic take: Jackson will not beat the Patriots again this season.
Obviously, they won’t play a second time in the regular season. But if Baltimore lives up to the hype and meets the Patriots in the playoffs, then I’ve got some bad news for everyone who’s already crowned Jackson and the Ravens as the AFC’s next big thing.
And I don’t want to have to do this. I don’t want to be that guy. But they’re forcing me to do it with their constant overreactions about an exciting young player who I hope has a long and successful NFL career.
Jackson is maybe the most exciting player in the league right now. There seemingly isn’t much he can’t do. And his speed and athleticism makes him nearly unstoppable at times.
But a day after the Ravens whooped the now 0-9 Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday, former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky called Baltimore’s offense “indefensible.”
Orlovsky was responding to colleague Mike Greenberg, who said, “What we see from Lamar Jackson, we have to stop asking, ‘Is it sustainable?’ We have to start asking, ‘How do you stop it?’” Keep in mind, this is after the Ravens beat the winless Bengals.
Well, if you can find a way to stop it, then Jackson’s dominance will not be sustainable. And if anyone’s going to stop it, it’s going to be Belichick, if he’s given a second chance to do so in the playoffs.
Jackson threw for one touchdown and ran for two touchdowns in Baltimore’s Week 9 win over the Patriots. Through nine games this season, Jackson has 15 touchdown passes. Eight of those touchdown passes have come against two of the worst teams in the NFL, Cincinnati and Miami. That means, in the other seven games, Jackson is averaging just one touchdown pass per game.
However, Jackson’s 702 rush yards and six rushing touchdowns has proven that he doesn’t have to throw the ball to get his team in the end zone. Right now, that’s working out wonderfully for a Ravens team that’s seeing praise from anyone who has a live microphone in front of them.
But as a former NFL coach once said, “If you want to crown them, then crown their [expletive]!”
Will Jackson and the Ravens be crowned AFC Champions after a potential rematch in Foxboro on Jan. 19?
I wouldn’t put my money on it.
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