If for some odd reason you hadn't yet placed Lamar Jackson into the conversation for candidacy of 2019 NFL MVP honors, you'd be hard-pressed to not do so right this moment. A dual-threat quarterback of the highest order, Jackson was paramount in leading the Baltimore Ravens to a 37-20 rout of the undefeated New England Patriots on "Monday Night Football", and although it wasn't an evening wherein he'd put up massive numbers -- it was one in which he took everything a usually-stingy Patriots defense gave him.
Jackson delivered two rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown, with several of his completions having been well-timed drive-extenders and, more importantly, he never once turned the ball over against a Patriots defense that leads the league in forcing takeaways.
Impact plus efficiency is a tough tango for any opposing team to deal with, as the Patriots found out, and Jackson not only has the Ravens solidifying their hold atop the AFC North; but he also has Baltimore within striking distance of the No. 1 spot in the conference -- held by the very same Patriots he just helped eviscerate. It's no wonder teammates like All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, who spent most of his career watching Russell Wilson torch defenses, is calling Jackson the frontrunner for league MVP honors in 2019.
"The offensive line looked great, and gave a lot of time for Lamar -- who played MVP-type football," Thomas said in his post-game press conference. "He's separating himself [from the pack]. ... Big picture: we get better every week. It starts with Lamar and that offense.
"Us on defense, we just try to give the ball back to them and let the MVP do his thing. ...I'm right with the crowd [chanting MVP for Jackson]. I mean that. This man is the MVP. I'm right behind him. I'm backing him. He makes my job easier."
The race for that honor is tight, but downing future Hall of Famer and six-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady helps his cause. Willie Snead echoes Thomas' vote, and the wide receiver offered up a large grin for anyone who thinks different.
"Dude, you can't handle Lamar," Snead said. "You just have to go with it. Lamar is just a game-breaker at any time. Just to have him on our team is just a difference-maker.
"It's hard for teams to be able to game plan for a guy like that. He's special. He leads our team, and we follow him."
What Jackson is demonstrating this season is special, and has drawn both comparison to and praise from Mike Vick.
"I think it's a good comparison," Vick recently told TMZ Sports of Jackson. "If it's anyone [in the NFL] looking like me, it's Lamar. That's a dangerous man behind center. [My advice to him] is to keep doing what he's doing.
"Don't change anything. He's works hard in the offseason, and that hard work is paying off. ...He ain't no fluke. I'm excited for the guy.
"He's going to be hard to deal with for a long time."
As it stands, there's no reason to doubt Vick's prediction. Jackson has passed for just under 2,000 yards to go along with 12 passing touchdowns and only five interceptions, but also has 576 yards rushing with three touchdowns on the ground. He's broken records this season and shows no signs of slowing down, either, making the Ravens a difficult foe to topple. The former 32nd-overall pick still carries a chip on his shoulder after being the fifth quarterback selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he's using that as added fuel to help prove a point.
For his part, while Jackson appreciates being in the MVP conversation, he isn't dwelling on anything other than playing.
"It's pretty cool," Jackson said after defeating New England. "But I'm focused on winning."
That's exactly what the Ravens have done, now enjoying a four-game win streak that includes seeing Jackson outduel both Russell Wilson and Brady in back-to-back contests -- two frontrunners to land the honor of MVP this season. This logically now puts Jackson neck-and-neck with both of them, at the very least, and sets up what might be a fun ride in the second half of the season, as we wait to see who is truly the most valuable in the NFL.
Thomas has already placed his bet, though, and all of Baltimore agrees.