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Late for Work: Lamar Jackson Leaps to Forefront of MVP Race

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla.

Lamar Jackson on the Cusp of Winning His Second MVP

Under the lights of EverBank Stadium in his home state of Florida, Lamar Jackson delivered wizardry that stunned the Jacksonville Jaguars. His performance in the Ravens' 23-7 playoff-clinching win brought joy to NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth, who made Jackson's MVP case.

Jackson didn't post gaudy numbers, finishing 14-of-24 for 171 yards with one touchdown and one interception through the air, and 97 yards on the ground.

But his performance amidst frequent pressure amazed fans and media members and flustered Jaguars pass rushers.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Backed by a night of timely defense from his Baltimore Ravens teammates, Lamar Jackson didn't need to don a cape Sunday night to top the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-7. But in the fourth quarter, Jackson flexed his superpowers anyway."

**The Baltimore Sun’s** Brian Wacker: "And once again Jackson continued to add to a Most Valuable Player-worthy season. It wasn't always pretty, but he was effective in controlling the offense and essentially the game the longer it went. Jackson remains a unique talent and continues to build chemistry with his receivers, most notably tight end Isaiah Likely on two long passes, one of which went for a touchdown."

Jackson's dazzling performance on Sunday night has pundits wanting to watch more. One pundit even compared him to hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

**The Baltimore Sun’s** Tim Schwartz: "Lamar Jackson is now clearly in the top two of the NFL Most Valuable Player race, and there's a good chance the award is decided next Monday night when the Ravens travel to San Francisco to take on Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey and the 49ers."

**’s** Bobby Kownack: "The former most valuable player was electric Sunday night, his first time suiting up beyond Week 15 since 2020. … he consistently made chain-moving throws or left defenders in his wake on highlight-reel runs when the Ravens required it. Jackson paced Baltimore's 251-yard rushing outing with 97 of his own. He combined the best he has to offer with his arm and legs on the play of the night when he shrugged off a Dawuane Smoot sack, dropped farther in the pocket to buy time and uncorked a long ball for Isaiah Likely to collect with a leaping grab between two defenders."

The MVP race may be decided in the next two weeks during head-to-head matchups.

The Ravens will face the 49ers and current MVP odds leader Brock Purdy on Christmas night a week from today. Purdy has San Francisco in the NFC's top seed, the second-most passing yards in the league (3,795) and leads the league in passing touchdowns (29).

Last night, Purdy campaigned for teammate, running back Christian McCaffrey, to win the MVP after McCaffrey, who has 1,801 total yards and 20 touchdowns, put up 187 total yards and scored three times.

After that, the Ravens host Tyreek Hill and the Dolphins as Hill, who missed yesterday's game due to injury, tries to reach 2,000 receiving yards in a single season for the first time in league history.

Ravens are "Scariest Team in the AFC"

The Buffalo Bills have been on a tear, defeating both the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys the past two weeks. Some pundits are giving them the moniker of being the AFC's most "dangerous" or "scariest" team.

But CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr isn't having it, calling that an overreaction and pointing to the No. 1-seeded Ravens as the most dangerous.

"The Bills appear primed to make the playoffs in the AFC and will be a problem for anyone they face. But until Baltimore slips up, the Ravens get that 'most dangerous team' nod," Kerr wrote.

"Good Morning Football's" Jason McCourty believes the same.

Kyle Hamilton Is 'A New Breed of Defensive Back' Says Former All-Pro Devin McCourty

On Sunday, second-year safety Kyle Hamilton demonstrated his determination to play through injury and his unyielding playmaking ability.

While Hamilton continued to make his All-Pro case, he's earned the respect of three-time All-Pro and three-time Super Bowl champion Devin McCourty, who said Hamilton "represents a new breed of defensive back without a position."

McCourty spoke with Pressbox’s Glenn Clark to talk about what's he's seen from the Ravens this season. The player who stood out for McCourty was the second-year safety.

"I'm watching and I'm like, 'Damn, they just left him one-on-one with Ja'Marr Chase on an out route. Oh wow, he's one-on-one with Tyler Boyd,'" McCourty said. "That's when I was like, 'OK, this kid's not normal. He's not just playing a safety role. He has the versatility to do everything.' And then you keep watching and it's like, 'All right, he's blitzing. All right, he sees the run and he's taking off and getting a TFL.' You can't define his position."

Though the NFL has had versatile players in the past and they're becoming more common, McCourty said it's a rarity to have somebody like Hamilton.

"And now I think you're seeing some of these guys who are hybrid corner/safety/linebacker, which is ridiculous to think of, but Kyle Hamilton fits that mold," McCourty said. "There's not a Kyle Hamilton on every team, but I think you're going to start to see teams go out there and really search to find guys like him because they're difference-makers."

Winning Is All That Matters

The most important thing to come away with in each game this season has been a win. The Ravens have done so 11-of-14 times and find themselves atop the AFC with a playoff berth. While some can sift through the film to find areas that need improvement, the Ravens are No. 1 in the conference.

"Back in Week 11, all four AFC division leaders were surging toward the end of the season with three losses apiece. Since then, the Dolphins have lost one, the Chiefs have dropped two and the Jaguars are mired in a three-game losing streak," Kownack wrote. "The Ravens? They're now winners of four straight. … The Ravens are now officially the AFC's first team in the playoffs. They should be brimming with confidence heading into two matchups that could be game-of-the-year caliber against the 49ers and Dolphins."

Many pundits feel the same way: winning is what's important.

"But, as the Ravens glower down at the rest of the AFC from atop their perch, it's hard not to be impressed with the team's ability to pull out win after win," The Baltimore Banner's Paul Mancano wrote. "Every team is racking up injuries. Every team has holes to fix. But, as their 11-3 record and four-game win streak have proven, the Ravens appear to be the team best equipped to weather each storm. The Ravens just win and, for now, that's enough."

"Defensively, the Ravens did struggle some in the first half, but they clamped down in the second half, holding Trevor Lawrence to just 116 yards with 65 of that coming on one play," CBS Sports’ John Breech added. "The Ravens weren't flashy, but they came away with the victory, and that's all that counts."

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