OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens can send a message to the rest of the NFL by beating Patrick Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.
On Thursday, Jackson’s statement was this: “It’s just like any other game.”
During his 10-minute media session with reporters, Jackson downplayed Monday’s game, which is a showdown of the two hottest teams in the league and the past two NFL MVPs.
In fact, this will mark the first matchup in NFL history between former MVPs who are 25 years or younger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I don’t have to focus on Mahomes,” Jackson said. “I got to focus on their defense. I got focus on scoring. I got to focus on my job and making my offense do our thing.”
In Kansas City, Mahomes praised Jackson as a “great player” who he has gotten to know personally and said he looks forward to the matchup.
“He can make all the throws; he can run with the ball; he can really do it all. And so it’s always fun to watch guys like that — that work hard, put in the work, and they’re able to go out there and have success on the field. And then as far as our relationship, talking and stuff like that — we kinda have the same endorsements with Oakley and EA Sports, and so we’ve seen each other through that. And then when you play this quarterback position, there’s kinda like a group; it’s a tight group where you kinda shoot ideas off each other and stuff like that. So he’s a great player, and I look forward to the contest this week.”
Although he’s not playing Jackson “face-to-face,” Mahomes said he is competing against him in trying to guide his team to more points.
“It’s a little different ’cause when you’re on offense, you’re never gonna go face-to-face; you never get to go straight-up against Lamar, but you know that he’s gonna go out there and put up points. So you just have to trust in your defense that they’re gonna make stops when they’re needed, they’re gonna find ways to do whatever they can to stop all the great stuff that he does. And then as an offense, you’re facing a great defense, and so you’re gonna have find ways to put up points on the board if you want to get the win,” he said.
When the Ravens play host to the Chiefs, it will feature two teams who hold the two longest active win streaks in the league.
The Ravens have won 14 straight regular-season games, and the Chiefs have won eight consecutive games, including the playoffs. The last two teams to meet on eight-plus-game win streaks was in 1969, when the Rams (winners of 11 straight) played host to the Vikings (10 straight), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
While many of Jackson’s teammates recognized the significance of this game, Jackson essentially answered questions with a shrug.
How important is it for Jackson to beat the Chiefs after losing the past two meetings? “It’s always a statement,” Jackson said.
Is it too early to think of home-field ramifications from this game? “We’re focusing on winning this game,” he said.
To take the Ravens where you want to go, do you feel you have to eventually beat the Chiefs? “Yeah, eventually.”
For Jackson, Mahomes represents one of the few hurdles in his career. Jackson is 21-3 as a starter in the regular season, with two of his losses coming against Mahomes.
“I don’t think [there’s] any more pressure than [what] Lamar ever puts on himself all the time,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s the same Lamar, week in, week out, play in, play out at practice, from meeting to meeting. He’s always excited to play; he’s ready to roll. I don’t believe he looks at it like that; I think he’s looking at it like our offense against their defense; that’s what he’s focusing on, and trying to find a way to put the best performance he can, and put up as many points as he can.”
While Jackson prefers not to hype up the game, others acknowledged that there’s a different feel between the two Super Bowl favorites. Both are listed at 4-1 odds, according to Caesars Sportsbook. “It’s a team that we know we need to beat. If we want to be champions, this is one of those teams that you have to get past,” Ravens All-Pro offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “We all understand we can’t afford to make mistakes. We have to be at our best. Anything less will come up with results we had in the past.”
ESPN’s Adam Teicher contributed to this report.