Pundit Says Only Lamar Jackson Should Be in Consideration With Patrick Mahomes for MVP
Thanks to a blistering start to the season, Lamar Jackson emerged as the early MVP front-runner, but talk of the dynamic Ravens quarterback winning his second MVP award in four seasons has tailed off.
Jackson currently has the fifth-best MVP odds on sportsbooks BetMGM, Caesars, and DraftKings, trailing Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
However, while Jackson may not be posting the gaudy passing numbers of some of his peers, the case for him being the league's MVP remains strong, The Ringer’s Austin Gayle said.
"Hot-take alert: Lamar Jackson is the only player who should be in consideration with Patrick Mahomes as the league's MVP this season. Jackson and Mahomes are the only two consistently elevating their offenses above the means of their supporting cast and coaches," Gayle wrote. "Jackson is nearly single-handedly positioning the Ravens as deep postseason contenders and is well on his way to a record-breaking payday this offseason."
Ebony Bird’s Kristen Wong also believes Jackson is having an MVP-worthy season because the success of the Ravens offense hinges so largely on him.
"One could easily argue that Miami's and Philly's success this season isn't necessarily quarterback-driven — those teams have the star-studded rosters to make their signal-caller look better than he may be," Wong wrote. "Tagovailoa gets Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, two of the top five receivers in the league right now based on yardage; Hurts has A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith, two also very talented receivers who have combined for 1,160 yards so far this season.
"By contrast, Jackson had Rashod Bateman, who played in six games and recorded 285 yards, but Bateman will sit out for the rest of 2022. His top four other pass-catchers (including Mark Andrews) have combined for 1,163 receiving yards, just a few yards more than Brown and Smith."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec acknowledged that Jackson has had some rough patches this season, but he agrees that his value to the Ravens cannot be overstated.
"A strong case could be made that no NFL team depends on one player as much as Baltimore depends on Jackson," Zrebiec wrote. "He shoulders the burden admirably well, and his toughness, competitive drive and playmaking ability are the reasons the Ravens remain one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL and a legitimate Super Bowl hopeful."
Two Ravens Among Top Six in ESPN's Early Free-Agency Rankings
While Jackson is a top five MVP candidate, he's the clear-cut No. 1 player in ESPN's early free-agency rankings.
Jackson, whose contract situation remains one of the NFL's hottest topics, is playing this season on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract.
"Jackson is the league's most electric player, with an upper-tier skill set that creates major issues for opposing defenses," ESPN's Matt Bowen wrote. "He ranks fifth in Total QBR this season (65.0, up from 56.8 in 2021) and is averaging 7.4 yards per carry when he runs. With more than 2,000 total yards already this season — and the positional value to demand a multiyear contract — Jackson is clearly the top free agent next year."
The Ravens have made it clear they are committed to sign Jackson to a long-term deal, so it's all but certain he won't hit the open market.
"Baltimore will do all that it can to keep him, even if that means using the franchise tag on Jackson, who will be entering his sixth season in 2023," ESPN's Mike Tannenbaum wrote. "The situation got slightly more complicated when the Ravens acquired linebacker Roquan Smith, another pending free agent who they will want to re-sign."
Speaking of Smith, he's No. 6 in ESPN's free-agency rankings.
"The Ravens sent multiple picks to Chicago to land Smith, so they absolutely will try to keep him," Tannenbaum wrote. "But if they opt to use the franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, that takes that option away for Smith."
Statistics That Have Defined the Ravens' Season
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer identified 10 statistics that have defined the Ravens' season on offense, defense, and special teams. Here's a look at one from each category:
"The Ravens rank second in ESPN's pass-block win rate (70%), which measures how often players can sustain their blocks for 2.5 seconds or longer, and first in ESPN's run-block win rate (76%), which measures how often players 'win' their block, or blocks, on designed running plays. They finished 10th and fifth, respectively, last year."[quote]
Justin Houston's liftoff
"The Ravens missed outside linebacker Justin Houston dearly. From Week 3, when a groin injury sidelined Houston early in an eventual win over the New England Patriots, to Week 6, the defense ranked 25th in pressure rate (27.6%) and 11th in sack rate (7.8%) with a 22.4% blitz rate. His return has boosted the Ravens' pass rush. Over the past four weeks, they're 12th in pressure rate (33.6%) and seventh in sack rate (10.6%) despite having a lower blitz rate (19.8%, 11th in the NFL) and facing two sack-averse quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Andy Dalton."
"There might not be a more reliable unit in the league than the Ravens' special teams. Last year, the team finished first in the league in Football Outsiders' special teams DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), at 5.0%. Through 10 weeks, they've been even better, with an NFL-best DVOA of 6.8%.Led by kicker Justin Tucker and returner Devin Duvernay, the Ravens rank second in DVOA in field goals and extra points, first in kickoff returns and third in punt returns. Even their two weakest groups, kickoff and punt coverage, grade out among the middle of the pack."
Patrick Queen's 'Hot Seat' Has Considerably Cooled
Patrick Queen was on ESPN's Jamison Hensley's preseason "hot seat watch," but as the temperature outside has cooled, so has the hot seat for the inside linebacker, which Hensley now categorizes as only "lukewarm."
"Queen has found his niche playing alongside newly acquired Roquan Smith, producing the best season of his three-year career as a weakside linebacker," Hensley wrote. "He leads the Ravens with 58 tackles and has recorded 3.5 sacks."
Queen's improved play this season has not gone unnoticed by his coaches.
"Patrick's all over the field; he just gets better every single game," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's becoming one of the dominant linebackers; you kind of see him growing up right before our very eyes. So, I can't wait to see where he keeps going, but he's playing good football."
Inside Linebackers Coach Zach Orr said: "I think he's very underrated in what we ask him to do and what he's done for us. He's been on the field every snap. … We haven't seen the best of Patrick Queen, but we've seen a pretty good version of him. So, that makes me so excited for him about where he's going."