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Jackson sees NFL ‘heavyweight fight’ in Ravens-Chiefs matchup

todayJanuary 26, 2024 2

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Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson expects a “heavyweight fight” when he leads the Ravens against rival quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in an NFL playoff showdown on Sunday.

Two-time Super Bowl champion Mahomes, 28, was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2018 and 2022 while Jackson, 27, took the award in 2019. They’re the first under-30 MVP quarterbacks to meet in the NFL playoffs.

“Just two greats, up-and-coming greats just going toe-to-toe, like a heavyweight fight,” Jackson said. “Heavyweight matchup, that’s what I see.”

The AFC Championship game showdown will determine which team advances to next month’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas against either the Detroit Lions or San Francisco 49ers.

“We have to finish,” Jackson said. “We’re not in the dance yet. I’m not even thinking about the Super Bowl until we handle business.”

The Chiefs will play in the AFC Championship for a sixth consecutive season seeking a fourth Super Bowl trip and third Super Bowl title in that run.

Run-pass threat Jackson completed a career-high 67.2% of his passes this season for a career-best 3,678 yards, sparking the Ravens to the NFL’s best record at 13-4 and likely capturing this season’s MVP award.

“He’s going to be the MVP for a reason,” Mahomes said. “He goes out there, he leads his team, he scores, he runs, he throws, he does whatever it takes to win. That’s what the great greats do.

“It’ll be a great challenge for our defense, but also a great challenge for offense going against their defense. It’s going to take a full team effort if we want to find a way to get a win.”

Jackson also led NFL quarterbacks by rushing for 821 yards and five touchdowns, but this season he has been a much more dangerous passer, an evolution he felt was needed to give the Ravens a better chance at the NFL title that has eluded him.

Now he’s one win away from his first Super Bowl with last year’s winner blocking his path.

“To be a champion, you’ve got to go through a champion,” Jackson said. “That’s pretty much the mindset.”

The Ravens have played in four conference finals, all on the road, but it’s the first AFC Championship to be played in Baltimore since 1971, when three-time NFL MVP Johnny Unitas led the Baltimore Colts over Oakland 27-17.

Jackson is 1-3 against Mahomes, his most losses against any rival NFL quarterback, entering their first playoff matchup.

“It’s challenging the way he’s able to just be a competitor and score the football,” Mahomes said of Jackson.

“I’ve admired watching him from afar and know it’s going to be a great challenge for us. I knew we were going to play in a lot of games like this as our careers have gone on and I’m sure this will be the first of many.”

Jackson praised Mahomes as well, calling him “a great quarterback, definitely a Hall of Famer.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid calls Jackson a “special” talent.

“Lamar is special,” Reid said. “He’s fast and one of the faster guys on the field when it’s all said and done and he’s shifty. He’s a fast kid. He has run away from secondary players.

“This kid, he throws it well, he throws it on the move well, runs the ball well so we’ve just got to stay on top of that part of it. You have to stay disciplined with any quarterback that runs.”

The Ravens defenders were the NFL’s best in scoring defense, allowing only 16.5 points a game and leading the league in sacks.

“I know this defense is really good, and we’re going to do everything in our part to show that to the world,” Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith said.

He’s not awestruck by Mahomes or his championship resume.

“He puts his pants on just like any other quarterback,” Smith said. “He’s an elite quarterback, but at the end of the day, we’re an elite defense.”

Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton often will have the challenge of denying Mahomes his favorite target — tight end Travis Kelce, singer Taylor Swift’s heartthrob.

“He has been a great player for as long as I can remember,” Hamilton said of Kelce. “He’s earned every ounce of respect that he’s gotten. It’s going to be a challenge.”




Written by: Staff Writer

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