There isn’t a team that will have more eyes on them coming into the NFL playoffs than the Baltimore Ravens. They enter the postseason on a roll, winning their last five games by an average of 19.4 points. Their run game has been the catalyst behind their recent win streak, with Lamar Jackson leading the way.
Jackson’s play this season has been a mixed bag of good and bad. He seems to be peaking at the right time, coming into a big wild-card matchup against the Tennessee Titans. He has the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone if he gets the win.
Lamar Jackson has struggled in the playoffs
There is a narrative surrounding Lamar Jackson, and it isn’t a good one. The third-year quarterback is electrifying during the regular season but doesn’t carry that into the playoffs. Jackson has actually played awful in the playoffs, which has many wondering if he can show up when it matters most.
The sample size is small, given that Jackson has played in two postseason games. However, the stats show just how poorly he has played. In two playoff games, Jackson has completed 51% of his passes, averages 279.5 passing yards, and thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions per ESPN. Fumbles have also been an issue, putting the ball on the ground four times.
The playoff struggles have been a pain point for Jackson early in his career. Having an 0-2 postseason record doesn’t make things easier for the league MVP. He understands that he hasn’t shown up in the playoffs and wants to erase this narrative. If he loses against the Titans, he will become the second quarterback to lose three playoff openers in their first three seasons, per ESPN.
Other than wanting to get his first postseason victory, there is another reason why Jackson might come into this game motivated. The team he is facing in the wild-card is the same team that sent him home last year and beat them earlier this year.
The Titans have had Lamar Jackson’s number
The two teams met again during the 2020 season in Week 11. Tennessee limited Jackson’s effectiveness a second time, holding him to 186 yards passing and 51 yards rushing. Jackson threw one touchdown and one pick, ending the game with 39.3 QBR. The Titans’ defense is mediocre at best, but they raise their play level when No.8 for Baltimore takes the field.
Tennessee’s method of slowing Jackson down is condensing space on the field. Using cornerback blitzes and forcing Jackson toward the sidelines, the Titans have limited the big plays Jackson is known for. Tennesse might implement that same formula, as Jackson has returned to his MVP-self during the Ravens’ five-game win streak.
Lamar Jackson hasn’t played his best against the Titans, but that can change. With the way he is playing coming into the postseason, Jackson can check two things off his list, given that he plays well and the Ravens get the victory.
Lamar Jackson can hush all the noise with a playoff win
There is so much noise surrounding Jackson because of his playoff struggles, how he performs against the Titans, and how he hasn’t won a playoff game. For Jackson, a simple remedy will hush all of the talk and narratives.
If Jackson plays like he has on this win streak in the wild-card game, the talk will cease. He has 15 total touchdowns during the streak, signaling that he is on fire. What will be the difference against the Titans will be the running game. Baltimore leads the league in rushing, averaging 191.9 yards per game. The Titans allow 120.8 yards on the ground and have failed to show any resistance in recent weeks.
Beating Tenessee will also be another thing Jackson can cross off. An MVP performance that eliminates the Titans would be the perfect revenge after they’ve contained him in previous matchups. The biggest thing that Jackson is looking for though, is that elusive playoff win. If he plays up to his capabilities, he should get that win.
It doesn’t seem right that there is so much pressure on a 24-year old quarterback going into his third playoff game. Nevertheless, Lamar Jackson has to respond to it. He can exact revenge on a bitter opponent and change the playoff narrative around him with a big game and a postseason win. This has the feeling of a career-defining game for No. 8.
All stats courtsey of ESPN