The most prolific individual accolade in football is the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award. Two years ago, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson become the second player to not only earn the award, but do so with unanimous concession among the voters. His season was one for the record books, combining 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground with 3,100 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air.
Following this up would be no easy feat, but GMFB’s Kyle Brandt predicts Jackson will win his second league MVP award in 2021.
There are many good players.— Kyle Brandt (@KyleBrandt) September 8, 2021
I predict this player will win MVP.
Nakatomi not included. pic.twitter.com/yYIrERqriz
“I don’t know if he has the help he needs,” Brandt said. “I don’t know if his team has the health he needs. But I know this, here’s the poster: ‘11 tacklers. One hero. The odds are against Lamar Jackson and that’s just the way he likes it.’”
A lot of times, narrative is involved in these kinds of things, be it with Aaron Rodgers MVP win last year with his saga of, “Does he still have it,” or Jackson’s, “Who can stop this kind of revolutionary player?” This year, the narratives are set for Jackson to have a shot at winning the award for a second time.
Injuries and Health
The Ravens are already missing running back J.K. Dobbins for the year. The Ravens’ rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman is set to miss a few games. The health of wide receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Sammy Watkins has been touch-and-go during training camp and the preseason. If Jackson were to post another impressive season with his starting weapons in and out of the lineup, with numbers similar to his 2019 campaign, he’ll quickly earn the voters’ favor.
Improvements in Passing
Possibly the greatest advantage Jackson has in the MVP race is the narrative surrounding his throwing ability. If the signal-caller can show off his arm, he’ll be turning heads and earning votes for MVP. If he “just” rushes for another 1,000 yards, it won’t be as impressive due to it being an expectation. Even though a quarterback rushing for 1,000 yards is exciting, doing so when it’s an expectation somehow loses its luster.
More would find it impressive if Jackson were to rush for under 800 yards and increase his passing yardage to 3,500, or even 4,000, than if he were to rush for over 1,200 yards again and stick around 3,000 yards passing.
The Ravens face a gauntlet of a schedule in 2021. According to CBS Sports, they face the second-most challenging schedule, with their opponents’ combined 2020 win percentage at .563. If Jackson and the Ravens come out and defeat a majority of the big-name teams on said schedule, a la, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers, Jackson may win over voters with the head-to-head victories over quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and reigning MVP Rodgers.
The Ravens’ schedule also features five primetime games. If Jackson breaks off a few highlight plays on the national stage, that’s all the more likely he earns voters’ attention.
Return to Form
Jackson’s regression from 2019 was a highly-discussed topic this offseason. If Jackson can take the next step and simply improve closer to his 2019 season, he’ll be in the conversation. After all, his 2019 campaign was unanimously voted as an MVP season. If he brings his totals near the same level and the team wins somewhere 11-plus games, he’ll be in the conversation.
Jackson is primed for an opportunity to be mentioned with quarterbacks Joe Montana, Steve Young and Kurt Warner. All three won two league MVP awards. All three were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.