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While defense may, in theory, win championships, quarterbacks tend to grab the headlines. In modern football, few players are more dynamic than Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. Those two young signal-callers will go head to head on Monday Night Football, when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Baltimore Ravens.

Although the Kansas City offense can intimidate even the most hardened NFL veteran, Lamar Jackson isn’t falling into that trap. Coming into the game, the Ravens quarterback has been clear that he’s not focusing on his own game, not Patrick Mahomes.

Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes have both become stars

As a sports fan, few things are more exciting than seeing a young star burst onto the scene. During the past few years, both Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson have done just that.

Mahomes made a name for himself at Texas Tech before joining the Kansas City Chiefs as the 10th-overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft. While he spent a year learning from Alex Smith, that shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of his skills; once he stepped into the starting job, the quarterback proved that he had everything required to be a star. The quarterback threw for 50 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards during an MVP-caliber sophomore season. He, of course, led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title as his encore performance.

Jackson won the Heisman Trophy at Louisville but, despite that success, didn’t enter the NFL star as a sure-fire star; at the professional level, though, he’s silenced most of his critics. During his first season as the Ravens full-time starter, the quarterback proved himself to be a legitimate dual-threat, capable of rushing and throwing with equal ease. While Baltimore fell short of their ultimate goal, Jackson did claim a unanimous NFL MVP title and strike fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators everywhere.

Lamar Jackson is focusing on his own performance, not the Chiefs offense

Heading into Monday Night Football, it’s easy to frame the Chiefs-Ravens game as a direct battle between Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. The Baltimore quarterback, however, isn’t falling into that trap.

“I don’t have to focus on Mahomes,” Jackson said, according to Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich. “I have to focus on their defense. I have to focus on scoring. I have to focus on my job and making my offense do our thing. But my defense has to worry about him – and their offense.”

At the end of the day, Jackson knows that it doesn’t matter which quarterback puts up better numbers. While the Ravens quarterback wants to do his part, the important thing is winning the game against another top-tier AFC team.

“When we go into the game, like I said, we’re going to focus on our assignment, focus on doing what we’re supposed to do, which is go win that game. That’s what our goal is,” the quarterback continued. “We’re focusing on winning this game. All [of] our goal is beating the Chiefs right now. They’re the only ones in our way for on and on in the season right now. We just have to focus on beating them – that’s all.”

Patrick Mahomes will have other ideas on Monday Night Football

On paper, Lamar Jackson’s quote is both smart and accurate. As the quarterback correctly noted, he and Patrick Mahomes won’t be on the field simultaneously; there’s no reason to create a direct rivalry that doesn’t exist. With that being said, though, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback won’t make it easy for the Baltimore Ravens to claim victory on Monday night.

During his two full seasons, plus a few extra games, as an NFL starter, Mahomes has repeatedly proven that he can do the impossible. During the 2019 postseason, he led the Chiefs to three-straight comebacks; in Week 2 of the 2020 campaign, he struggled, but still managed to squeeze enough out of the Kansas City offense to avoid defeat. Whether you try to turn the game into a shoot out or a low-scoring slugfest, it’s tough to keep Mahomes quiet for a full 60 minutes.

In the past, Jackson said that he hated competing against Mahomes for that very reason; every time the Chiefs quarterback led his team down the field, the Ravens offense had to respond. Every player, even the reigning NFL MVP, wants to play with a margin for error. Playing against Patrick Mahomes, however, doesn’t allow for that luxury.

On Monday Night Football, two of the NFL’s top young stars will take the field. Even if they’re not competing directly against each other, any game involving both Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson will be must-see TV.