The AFC is loaded with elite-level quarterback play. As a result, there are multiple playoff and Super Bowl contenders to watch this season. While the AFC West will be a war zone with quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr, the AFC North (on paper) has Joe Burrow, Deshaun Watson, a mix of Kenny Pickett/Mitch Trubisky and 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson.
The battle for the top seasonal rewards will be constant and weekly. Think about the BCS system in college football, one or two bad weeks and your team is out of the picture. I envision the NFL MVP race to be as tightly judged as that, even if Most Valuable Player typically doesn’t go to the player that truly embodies the phrase. Per Vegasinsider, the top-ten odds favorites for the 2022 NFL MVP.
- Josh Allen +700
- Patrick Mahomes +800
- Aaron Rodgers +900
- Tom Brady +900
- Justin Herbert +1100
- Joe Burrow +1300
- Dak Prescott +1400
- Matthew Stafford +1500
- Russell Wilson +1500
- Kyler Murray +1800
Just missing the cut with +2200 was Lamar Jackson but those are still pretty good odds.
Looking back at his 2019 season, Jackson took the league by storm by leading the Ravens to a 13-2 record. He had a completion percentage of 66.1, threw for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns, and threw just six interceptions. He rushed for an NFL record 1,206 yards for a quarterback. Also, ran for seven scores, totaling 4,333 total yards with eight total turnovers.
Outside of Jackson, the Ravens’ offensive roster makeup overall is very similar to the 2019 version. That offense was heavily run-oriented with multiple tight end sets. They nearly had three 1,000-yard rushers and three of their five leading receivers were tight ends. The recipe and ingredients are eerily similar heading into the 2022 season.
Jackson saw his team trade his best receiver, draft highly touted defenders and add two more tight ends to the roster. Paired with a healthy return of his top-two running backs and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman’s dream can be a reality.
This offense moves by the beat of Jackson’s drum regardless, but this season it may be more than ever. The read option, quarterback-designed runs, and play action should be their calling card yet again. Isaiah Likely should be a nice complementary movement tight end to star Mark Andrews. Providing more options to attack defenses from a base/run defensive look.
Lamar Jackson is a better passer in the short to intermediate regions of the field. Especially, between the hashes in the middle of the field. The deep ball has been hit or miss for Jackson throughout his career. Luckily, the offense is built more to his skill set.
Will Jackson have to account for over 4,300 total yards from scrimmage? Absolutely. If not for injuries, he would have hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark for a third consecutive year. His trump card remains his ability to gash teams with his legs. Add continuous improvement with his lower body mechanics as a passer and Jackson’s impact can be greater than in 2019.
Will that be enough to overtake the loaded field of MVP-caliber players in the AFC alone? Time will tell, but do not count Jackson out.
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