Lamar Jackson-Russell Wilson MVP Debate Rages On
The consensus is that Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson are the leading candidates for NFL MVP, but which should win the award remains a hot topic.
The subject was debated by a panel of analysts on "NFL Total Access." Cris Collinsworth feels strongly that Wilson deserves the honor.
"The passing game is so much more reliant upon the quarterback position than anything to do with the running game, which is dependent on the offensive line, tight ends, running backs to block, especially in that offense," Collinsworth said. "Russell Wilson, when you watch him play, it's hard to explain how dominant he is with that team.
"This is an offense that is looking to make big plays, and the more deep balls you throw, the more they back up, and the greater the pressure on a pass rusher. Now you're going to rush four and try to get to this guy. There's gaps to go everywhere. So he controls the offense, both the passing game, the running game, the play action. You want to talk about the most valuable player in the league, all due respect to Lamar, in my mind there's no question right now it's Russell Wilson."
Willie McGinest also went with Wilson, saying there's no one he would want with the ball in his hands and the game on the line.
"With a minute to go in the game you cannot run the football. You have to pass the ball and move the ball 70 yards down the field to put your team into position to win a football game. Who are you gonna pick?" McGinest said. "I think a lot of guys will say, 'We've seen it time and time again from Russell Wilson. We haven't seen a lot of it from Lamar because he hasn't been in that situation because they've been playing from ahead.'"
Lindsay Rhodes countered that perhaps McGinest's last point actually proves why Jackson is more valuable.
"That could be an argument for why you would want [Jackson] from the start of the game, though, which could be a strong argument for why he should be the MVP. He's not in that position," Rhodes said.
James Jones also made the case for Jackson, who this morning was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November.
"One minute left, I might want Russ. But defensive coordinators cannot sleep when they face Lamar Jackson," Jones said. "If you watch Lamar Jackson this season, everybody's saying, 'Play the run, don't let him beat you with his legs.' He sits back in that pocket and he's throwing the ball all over the yard, throwing people open in one-on-one coverage. He cannot be stopped."
Both sides make great points. If only Jackson and Wilson had faced each other this season. Oh, wait …
"I look at when they played head to head. That's all you can go off of," said Jones, referencing the Ravens' 30-16 win in Seattle in Week 7. "They're both having an unbelievable year, but when they played head to head, Lamar Jackson was the best player on the field, and to me that means MVP. There's nobody in this league right now that can stop Lamar Jackson. And there's nobody that wants to face Lamar Jackson. He's too dynamic in the run game and the pass game.
"He had his chance [to lead his team on a late, game-winning drive] last week and he went down the field against the best defense football [in the San Francisco 49ers]and got three points and won that game for his team. Lamar Jackson is the MVP."
And with that, Jones dropped the mic. Well, metaphorically, that is.
Jackson Leads Pro Bowl Voting, Wins Cyber Monday
Obviously, who deserves the MVP award is subjective, but Jackson has the edge over Wilson in a couple areas that cannot be disputed.
One is Pro Bowl voting. Jackson is the overall top vote-getter and is more than 80,000 votes ahead of Wilson, who is second.
Jackson also won Cyber Monday. No athlete sold more merchandise on the biggest shopping day of the year.
In addition, Jackson bobbleheads are a hot item. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, based in Milwaukee, is one of the only places that sells the collectibles, and they've already sold out, per Ebony Bird's Nathan Cunningham. Fans have an opportunity to reserve a Jackson bobblehead from a second production run.
"You never know how a player is going to perform, but we were optimistic that Lamar would have a strong second season," National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum co-founder, Phil Sklar said. "However, we didn't know it was going to be this great or we would have had all of the bobbleheads made right away."
Colin Cowherd Predicts Ravens-Seahawks Super Bowl
There's a possibility Jackson-Wilson II could take place at the Super Bowl in Miami on Feb. 2. While a number of fans and pundits identified this past Sunday's Ravens-49ers game as a potential Super Bowl preview, Fox Sports Radio's Colin Cowherd believes it's the Ravens and Seahawks who will meet in the big game.
The Ravens (10-2) are currently the top seed in the AFC, while the Seahawks (10-2) are the No. 2 seed (behind the 10-2 New Orleans Saints) in the NFC.
"The Baltimore Ravens and the Seattle Seahawks feels like the Super Bowl to me," Cowherd said. "Both have a ton in common. They have A-plus Super Bowl winning head coaches [in John Harbaugh and Pete Carroll], they have dynamic quarterbacks who can do stuff that opposing defenses can't prepare for, they both have dominant run games who can keep a Patrick Mahomes or an Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines, and they're also very good defenses who added a piece – Marcus Peters and Jadeveon Clowney."
Cowherd pointed to the fact that Baltimore and Seattle both defeated a strong San Francisco team as further reason why he thinks they'll be playing for the Lombardi Trophy in a couple months.
"I already saw San Francisco play both teams and lose because Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson simply made plays that not even a great defense could do anything about," Cowherd said.
Front Office Has Played Major Role in Ravens' Success
While Jackson and Coach of the Year candidate Head Coach John Harbaugh obviously deserve a significant amount of credit for the Ravens' success this season, both are always quick to point out that it's been a total team effort.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote that the contributions of the Ravens front office, led by Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta and his predecessor, Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome, cannot be overstated.
"The story far less told about this organization is the bevvy of overachievers who have helped lift it to these heights, the kind of players who have long been a bedrock to a franchise that excels at finding gems deep in the draft, or off the street, in the scouting side, and then helping them maximize their potential through player development on the coaching side," La Canfora wrote.
"Never have those entities seem more married than in 2019, and what's not getting enough attention, frankly, is the work that has been done behind the scenes to make so many success stories out of players no one wanted at one point or another."
La Canfora noted that nine of the 22 starters for the Ravens this past Sunday could be termed "steals."
"Three were undrafted free agents on their rookie deals (DT Michael Pierce, DT/FB Patrick Ricard, C Patrick Mekari), four were drafted in the fifth-round or later (LB Matt Judon, S Chuck Clark, G Bradley Bozeman, TE Nick Boyle), one was acquired for a fifth-round pick in-season (CB Marcus Peters) and one was a veteran-minimum free-agent signing midseason to strengthen a struggling linebacking group at the time (LJ Fort)," La Canfora wrote.
"You add in undrafted free-agent linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, who generally plays regularly on defense as well but missed time with injuries on Sunday. Plus, LB Josh Bynes, who played more than half the snaps Sunday, and, like Fort, was signed off the street a month ago."
La Canfora pointed out how recent first-round draft picks Jackson, wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley have become "pillars of the team." He also praised DeCosta for signing Pro Bowl free agents Mark Ingram II and safety Earl Thomas III this offseason.
"It's not easy to complete reinvent a football team on the fly, as began last November when Jackson took over as starter, but the Ravens coaches and front office have done just that, and there is abundant credit to go around," La Canfora wrote. "And should DeCosta and Co. come up with another offseason in 2020 anywhere close to the past two, the balance of power might be staying in Baltimore for quite some time to come."
Roman, Martindale Candidates for Panthers' Job?
The outstanding work done by Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman and Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale also has been integral to the Ravens' prosperity -- and it hasn't gone unnoticed.
After the Carolina Panthers fired Head Coach Ron Rivera earlier this week, Roman and Martindale were both mentioned as possible candidates for the job next season.
Sportsline gave the best odds to Roman, who also was Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio's top pick. Florio's colleague, Chris Simms, listed Martindale among his top three candidates for the position in Carolina.
It's safe to say that Roman and Martindale are likely to be in the discussion whenever a head coaching job becomes available.
Roman, by the way, was named as one of NFL.com analyst Maurice Jones-Drew's "run-game gurus who deserve a promotion."
"What Roman is doing with Lamar Jackson in Baltimore speaks for itself. His young quarterback is running at a record-setting pace, and the Ravens have the league's top-ranked rushing attack," Jones-Drew wrote. "Roman does a phenomenal job building around his players' skill sets and catering game plans to them. … With the way the NFL is trending, Roman has proven he can coach, scheme and win by crafting creative run-centric offenses."
- "Hollywood" Brown made NFL.com's All-Rookie team. "[Brown is] "the difference-making field-stretcher in Baltimore's historically productive offense," Chris Wesseling wrote.
- The Archdiocese of Baltimore presented a Ravens jersey and "spiritual bouquet" to Pope Francis this week. The "spiritual bouquet" is a book produced by the Archdiocese of Baltimore that contains prayers and greetings from people across the archdiocese in celebration of the pope's upcoming 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination Dec. 13.