Ravens-Bills: Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen set to take center stage

One is a 237-pound bruiser who plants linebackers into the turf with a vicious stiff arm when he is not hurdling over their heads.

The other is the embodiment of 4.3-second speed, who spins out of tackles and tiptoes the sideline like a ballerina.

With two very different styles, the Bills’ powerful Josh Allen and the Ravens’ electric Lamar Jackson are two of the most dangerous rushers in the NFL. Oh yeah, they are quarterbacks, too.

“There’s an added dimension to their game when they are mobile,” said Bills head coach Sean McDermott, a former defensive coordinator. “Defenses have gotten so fast, but at the same time they’ve had to counter what the offenses are doing with these mobile quarterbacks. It’s a continual cat-and-mouse game. These guys are headaches that can do both.”

The full talents of Allen and Jackson will be on display Saturday night as their teams square off in the AFC divisional round matchup. It will be their third career meeting — second as opposing starters — in the three years since Allen went No. 7 overall and Jackson No. 32 in a first-round draft class that included Baker Mayfield (No. 1), Sam Darnold (No. 3) and Josh Rosen (No. 10).

Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen
Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen
AP (2)

With apologies to Mayfield — whose Browns are playing the Chiefs in the other AFC playoff game — Allen and Jackson look like the cream of the crop. Jackson is the reigning MVP, and Allen is a dark-horse candidate to steal the award in 2020 after finishing third in the NFL in total offense for the No. 2-ranked scoring offense.

Allen, during last week’s win over the Colts, became the first quarterback in playoff history to pass for 300-plus yards, rush for 50-plus yards and complete more than 70 percent of his passes.

“Talking about Josh, people always say, ‘His big arm,’ ” Jackson said, “but he’s doing it all out there. He’s getting out of the pocket, taking advantage of what the defense gives him, throwing the ball on a rope. He’s slinging the ball like a Patrick Mahomes. He’s one of the key reasons they’re putting up so many points and winning games.”

To the surprise of many, the red-zone threat Allen actually ran for more touchdowns than Jackson this season by an 8-7 margin. Allen made an impression on Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh as a rookie, when he was knocked into the Baltimore sideline after a play.

“He came up jawing and talking and shoving and pushing,” Harbaugh said. “Rookie quarterback. Man, I love this guy.”

There’s plenty to like about Harbaugh’s guy, too.

The conversation with Jackson begins with his legs, because his passing accuracy remains under scrutiny. Jackson is responsible for two of the three 1,000-yard rushing seasons by a quarterback in NFL history and his game-changing 48-yard touchdown scramble on a stalled play against the Titans last week was the second-longest rushing score by a quarterback in playoff history.

“For him to kind of have the adversity of coming out the first year and people doubted him, and then go out and explode on the scene last year and just be this dynamic quarterback, I root heavily for him,” Allen said. “How he’s been able to do it, and how humble, how awesome he is off the field. But we’re enemies Saturday and we both know that.”

One factor that could impact the quarterbacks are the freezing temperature and near-70 percent chance of snow forecasted at kickoff. Allen grew up in California’s Central Valley, played collegiately at Wyoming and calls Buffalo home. Jackson grew up in Florida, played at Louisville and has limited experience with snow.

“Saturday would be my first time playing football in the snow, if it does. Hopefully, it don’t,” Jackson said. “We had a snowball fight [at Louisville], so that’s totally different from playing in it.”

No wonder then the Bills are slight favorites. But, with these two quarterbacks, neither team should be counted out.

“They’ve come up on the quote-unquote, ‘other side of the tracks’ from a football perspective, where they came up the hard way, doubted often, and had to overcome that,” Harbaugh said. “I always like the underdog.”

New York Post

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