- The Ravens and Jets face off on Thursday night.
- Lamar Jackson has the chance to make history as a runner and passer.
- But Baltimore’s biggest concern is getting a win to strengthen its playoff position.
Lamar Jackson is an overwhelming MVP frontrunner, and the 11-2 Baltimore Ravens have already clinched a playoff berth. Needless to say, their nationally televised tilt with the New York Jets on Thursday night doesn’t exactly seem ripe for primetime.
But even if Jackson and the Ravens run roughshod over the toothless Jets as expected, they’ll hardly have done so for bragging rights alone. Here’s what’s at stake for Baltimore when it meets New York on Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Quarterback Rushing Record
Jackson enters Week 15 with 1,017 rushing yards, the ninth-highest total in football. No other quarterback ranks among the NFL’s top-40 rushers, and his 6.7 yards per carry is highest in the league by a wide margin.
Jackson has been perhaps the most dangerous runner in football this season. Even so, he remains just shy of surpassing Michael Vick’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Not for long, though.
If Jackson gains just 23 yards on the ground against the Jets, he’ll break the record Vick set with the Atlanta Falcons all the way back in 2006. And considering Jackson has rushed for fewer than 40 yards just once this season, it seems a formality he’ll etch his name in the league-wide history books on Thursday night.
Vick isn’t surprised by it, either, even if he never quite saw Jackson breaking his record so fast. Vick said, per the Ravens’ website:
When Lamar was coming out of college, we had conversations. I used to tell him, ‘Play your game, be you.’ But I couldn’t even foresee Lamar doing this so quickly. It shows if you’re with the right teammates, the right coaches, the right organization, what can happen.
Baltimore’s Passing History Books
It’s a testament to Jackson’s incredible growth as a passer that he’s set to make history with his arm in the same game he’s almost bound to do so with his legs.
The sophomore signal-caller comes into Thursday’s game with the Jets having thrown for 28 scores this season. That total doesn’t just lead the league but is only five touchdowns shy of Vinny Testaverde’s single-season record for passing scores by a Ravens quarterback.
Jackson probably won’t break Testaverde’s record on Thursday night; his career-high for touchdown passes in a single game is five, reached twice this season. But Testaverde is also the only player in Baltimore annals to toss for at least 30 scores, and the Jets rank 22nd in pass defense efficiency.
Reaching the hallowed 30-touchdown threshold while breaking Vick’s longstanding record for quarterback rushing yards? It would be quite a coronation of Jackson’s epic breakout season.
A Second Straight AFC North Crown
The Ravens enter Week 15 as one of just three teams to have clinched a playoff berth and are in pole position for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But there’s still work for John Harbaugh’s team to do.
If Baltimore beats New York on Thursday, it will win the AFC North for the second consecutive season. A victory of their own and a loss by the New England Patriots or loss and/or tie from the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, meanwhile, will cement a first-round bye for the Ravens. They could even clinch home-field advantage until the Super Bowl if they take care of business and both the Patriots and Chiefs lose.
Obviously, Baltimore is in fantastic position as the playoffs fast approach. But as much as Thursday night’s game seems about Jackson first and foremost, the Ravens’ team goals still loom far larger – and they’ll be a step closer toward accomplishing them with a victory over New York.