UPDATE: Never mind. We'll have to wait until Sunday to see if Jackson can do this.
I'm not much of a finance guy, but I believe I'm using the terminology right when I say that Lamar Jackson's stock is currently very low. The reigning MVP skipped the whole "sophomore slump" thing last year, when he decimated defenses in his second year en route to a 14-2 record and the top seed in the AFC. This year has... not been the same.
Maybe it's all the tape teams have on Jackson after last year. Maybe it's the poor injury luck the Baltimore Ravens have suffered this year. Maybe it's because he's trying to focus on playing football while the coronavirus pandemic rages around him. But Jackson simply has not been as good this season.
Through 10 games in 2019, Jackson threw for 2,258 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions to go along with 781 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Through 10 games in 2020, Jackson has thrown for 1,948 yards, 15 touchdowns, and six interceptions while running for 575 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, Jackson's Ravens were 8-2 at this point last year, and are only 6-4 this season.
You can see from all those numbers that it's not like Jackson has been bad. He just hasn't been the most dangerous player in football like he was last year. These last two weeks in particular have been a struggle for the young QB. The Ravens lost to the New England Patriots, who then went on to lose to the 3-7 Houston Texans. That game admittedly was held during a monsoon, but that's still a tough loss to swallow. This past Sunday, they lost in overtime to the Tennessee Titans. No shame in that; the Titans are a good team and appear to have the Ravens' number after ousting them in the playoffs last year. But in both instances, Jackson was needed to save his team. And in both instances, he faltered.
Now the Ravens are up on Thanksgiving against division rivals and the only undefeated team in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore will be missing several key contributors after a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this week, including their two preferred running backs in Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins. Baltimore was already going to have a tough enough time trying to even up the season series with Pittsburgh, and now they'll be short-handed on a short week on top of everything else.
Which means this is the time for Jackson to remind everyone why he was the MVP last year. The Ravens really need a win after two straight losses to keep them in the playoff picture. They're already behind the Titans and Cleveland Browns for the two wild-card spots and will lose a tiebreaker with the Titans if it comes down to it. Given everything mentioned above, it's a real tough week to have what could be argued as a must-win game.
The only way to accomplish that goal, especially without any depth at running back, is for Jackson to have himself a game. He's entirely capable of doing so, as we saw all last season. The Steelers defense is as stingy as they come and will capitalize on every potential mistake. It will not be easy. But great players come up big in big moments, and there is no bigger moment in regular season football than going up against an undefeated division foe on Thanksgiving.
At the very least, all of us casual viewers should be rooting for Jackson to have a great performance because there are very few players in the NFL more fun to watch than he is when everything is going right. He's absolutely electric. If he shows off, it might wash the stain of the previous two inevitably awful games (Houston vs. Detroit and Dallas vs. Washington) clean from our minds. So here's to hoping.