OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Chiefs is much more than just a matchup of two 2-0 teams.
It’s a rematch of last year’s Week 14 thriller, a 27-24 Chiefs overtime win. It’s a game with one of the league’s best secondary’s pitted against one of the league’s best receiving corps. Ravens coach John Harbaugh once answered to Chiefs coach Andy Reid on the sidelines in Philadelphia.
But in a lot of ways, fair or unfair, this Sunday’s game is being billed as Lamar Jackson versus Patrick Mahomes.
Jackson, however, doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s Ravens vs. the Chiefs,” Jackson said. “I don’t really look at it like I’m competing against him. I’m competing against their defense if anything. I depend on my defense to do a great job of stopping him. It’s my job to score points.”
Still, the comparisons between Mahomes and Jackson aren’t hard to find.
Mahomes is in his third year in the NFL, his second as a starter, and is the league’s reigning MVP. Jackson is in his second year, his first full season as a starter.
Jackson won AFC Player of the Week in Week 1; Mahomes won in Week 2. Jackson has thrown for seven touchdowns and zero interceptions through two games. Mahomes has the same statistics. Mahomes has 822 total yards on the year. Jackson has 722.
The respect is there from Jackson, who said Mahomes is on the way to becoming a quarterback like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.
“He’s on his way,” Jackson said. “Those guys have Super Bowls. He’s a dynamic quarterback. It’s his third year and he’s been doing a tremendous job. [He’s a] former MVP. I just can’t wait to compete against him again.”
Both quarterbacks can make plays off-script, albeit in different ways.
Mahomes can run from sideline-to-sideline and throw the ball across the field. He’s thrown no-look passes and is incredibly dangerous outside of the pocket.
“You keep him in the pocket as much as you can,” coach John Harbaugh said of Mahomes. “You make him throw under pressure as much as you can. You cover the guys as well as you can. Then, you play football. That’s what you try to do. If he throws one up down the middle again, hopefully, we’ll get it this time.”
Jackson is just as dangerous outside the pocket, but because he can escape the pocket and forces defenses to commit to his running ability. His speed was a problem for the Cardinals last Sunday, who allowed him to rush for 120 yards.
“The coordinators and the quarterbacks coaches, they’ve opened the gates for him,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said on Jackson. “They’re doing a million different things, and he’s doing it well, and it looks like he’s loving doing it.”
Both quarterbacks have made a living by playing off-script and unexpected, whether or not their playing styles are similar.
It’s why both teams will spend this Sunday trying to get the ball back in their own quarterback’s hands.
“I think he can continue doing what he’s been doing,” Earl Thomas said. “He’s been very consistent. He’s basically like the big energy ball we need. Whatever he’s doing, if he’s running the ball, if he’s passing, he’s making it happen for us. Us on defense, we just try to keep getting him the ball.”
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