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Lamar Jackson: Chiefs-Ravens showdown ‘a heavyweight fight’

Sep 19, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrates scoring a fourth quarter touchdown  against the Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs are in the AFC Championship Game for the sixth straight season and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson indicates that it’s time to put up your dukes.

Jackson sees a slugfest on the horizon as the top-seeded Ravens host the third-seeded Chiefs on Sunday afternoon with a Super Bowl LVIII berth on the line.

Jackson is the heavy favorite to win his second NFL MVP award as he steps into the big-game ring with Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City’s two-time MVP and owner of two Super Bowl rings.

“I don’t like competing against him at all,” Jackson said of Mahomes with a laugh. “He’s a great quarterback. It’s a no-brainer; he’s definitely a Hall of Famer.

“I believe it’s two up-and-coming greats going toe to toe, like a heavyweight fight, a heavyweight matchup. That’s what I see.”

The two signal-callers have met four times in the regular season with Mahomes winning three times. In the most recent matchup, Jackson and the Ravens pulled out a 36-35 home victory on Sept. 19, 2021.

The stakes are significantly higher this week with Baltimore looking to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since winning the title in the 2012 season. Sunday’s showdown is the Ravens’ first conference championship game since that time.

The Chiefs have won at least two playoff games in five straight seasons and Mahomes is 13-3 as a playoff starter. The game in Baltimore follows a 24-21 win against the Buffalo Bills that marked Mahomes’ first postseason road start.

Mahomes now goes from a brawl in Buffalo to trading jabs with Jackson.

“It’s challenging. The way he can be a competitor and score the football and the way their entire team plays, it’s a tall task,” Mahomes said. “You have to go out and play your best and if you make any mistakes, it seems the game is going to go the other way.

“I have admired watching him from afar and know it’s going to be a great challenge every time we go up against him.”

Jackson passed for a career-high 3,678 yards in the regular season while throwing 24 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He also led all NFL quarterbacks with 821 rushing yards.

He also posted a career-best 67.2 completion percentage.

“He’s a MVP-caliber quarterback,” Chiefs star defensive end Chris Jones said. “Just how dynamic as a player he is. … It’s going to be tough. It will be a challenge.”

Mahomes saw his passing yardage (5,250 last season to 4,183) and touchdown passes (41 to 27) dip substantially while throwing a career-worst 14 interceptions.

Baltimore led the NFL in scoring defense (16.5 points per game) and was sixth in total defense (301.4 yards per game). Star linebacker Roquan Smith made it clear he doesn’t fear anyone.

“He puts his pants on just like any other quarterback,” Smith said. “Yes, he’s an elite quarterback, but at the end of the day, we’re an elite defense. And that’s our job — to stop the opposing offense. That’s our job play-in and play-out and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Mahomes threw two touchdown passes to Travis Kelce against Buffalo to give them a postseason record for a duo at 16. They broke the mark set by former New England Patriots Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

Star safety Kyle Hamilton is one of the Baltimore players who will have Kelce in his sights.

“He’s earned every ounce of respect that he’s gotten to this point and it’s going to be a challenge,” Hamilton said of Kelce.

Kansas City hard-charging running back Isiah Pacheco (toe) missed Wednesday’s practice but said he’ll be on the field Sunday.

“Absolutely,” Pacheco said. “Working with the training room … will continue to get better every day.”

Standout left guard Joe Thuney (pectoral) also sat out after being injured against the Bills. He is expected to miss Sunday’s game.

Also missing practice for the Chiefs were safety Mike Edwards (concussion), nose tackle Derrick Nnadi (triceps), receiver Skyy Moore (knee) and guard Trey Smith (illness).

For Baltimore, tight end Mark Andrews (ankle) and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf) were on the practice field and aiming to play Sunday. Andrews practiced in full. He has missed the past seven games since being injured on Nov. 16 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Humphrey was limited. He has missed two games, including last weekend’s 34-10 win over the Houston Texans in the divisional round. Returner/receiver Tylan Wallace (knee) missed the session.

–Field Level Media

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