Sunday’s AFC championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs has so many intriguing storylines attached. It will mark the first time in NFL history that two former league MVP-winning quarterbacks under the age of 30 will have met in the playoffs and the first postseason matchup between Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes altogether.
But who has the most at stake between the two star signal-callers and their respective franchises?
With a chance to compete in Super Bowl 58 on the line, let’s ponder which quarterback and team overall has the most riding on the result of this epic clash of titans by making a case for each team and then delivering a final verdict with an explanation followed by a poll.
Case for Ravens
This game will mark the first AFC championship appearance for Jackson in his entire six-year career and the first for Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh since he guided the team to three in his first five years at the helm from 2008-2012. While Harbaugh already has a Super Bowl title under his belt, his quarterback doesn’t and is chasing his first championship at any level after striking out in both high school in college despite being the most dominant player at each.
As long as the Ravens have Jackson under center and healthy, they’ll have a chance to contend for a title every year. However, this season feels like the best opportunity he has ever had and might ever get given how deep and complete this roster is and how dominant and complementary they’ve played on both sides of the ball up to this point. Their 11 wins over teams that finished with a winning record led the league and their eight wins by double figures over teams three or more games over .500 is an NFL record.
The Baltimore Ravens are the hottest team ever at this point in the postseason, according to weighted DVOA. But now they have to face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. #RavensFlock— Aaron Schatz (@ASchatzNFL) January 22, 2024
Updated DVOA ratings and commentary here:https://t.co/C271nIJKxu
Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta navigated murky waters last offseason and was able to not only lock up his soon-to-be two-time league MVP to a long-term deal after he publicly requested a trade but he assembled arguably the best team in franchise history. They seem to have the perfect blend of young talent that is hungry and ascending and established veterans at premium and nonpremium positions alike that have recent championship experience to draw from. With so many key players playing on one-year deals or in the final year of their rookie contracts, this group has to seize this moment because it’s the only one they’ll ever have with these exact components and immaculate vibes.
As Jackson aptly and eloquently stated earlier this week, “To be a champion, you’ve got to go through a champion” and that’s exactly what he and the Ravens need to do in order to unseat the Chiefs. A win would establish a legacy of their own in this new era where Kansas City has reigned supreme in the AFC and NFL as a whole for nearly half a decade.
Hunters never the Hunted— Ray Lewis (@raylewis) January 27, 2024
Fight your Fight
BALTIMORE let’s Go!!!!!!@Ravens @Lj_era8 #RL52 #Ravens #Baltimore #NewReels #RavensFlock #PurpleFlock #RavensNation #PurpleLove #NFL #SuperBowl #GameTime #BaltimoreRavens #RayLewis #52
: @1JRocINC pic.twitter.com/TUVbFc9Psb
Case for Chiefs
While making it to the conference title is a new experience for Jackson, it has become the expectation for Mahomes and Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid since they have made each of the previous five. As the reigning Super Bowl champions, they are not just playing for a chance to successfully defend their title for the first time and hoist their third Vince Lombardi trophy since the 2019 season. They’re fighting to maintain their stranglehold on the conference coming off a season in which they looked as vulnerable as they’ve looked prior to Mahomes’ emergence in 2018 in his first year as the full-time starter.
The Chiefs were able to prove their doubters wrong with their impressive run last year despite having traded away five-time All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill that previous offseason. This year, they have the best defense that Mahomes has ever played with but the offense had looked uninspiring and lethargic for the vast majority of the regular season prior to showing some strong signs of life against compromised defensive units in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
In a conference where more promising young quarterbacks are being drafted and a developed at much higher rate than the NFC, the Chiefs might not have long as the unquestioned top dogs. They’ll be looking to capitalize on being the underdogs for once heading into this matchup and a win against the top-seeded Ravens with the No. 1 ranked defense on the road would add to Mahomes already illustrious career lore and firmly cement the team’s status as the official post-New England Patriots’ dynasty of this generation because it would be their fourth Super Bowl appearance in the last five years.
After breaking down the cases of both teams from multiple angles and considering all the facts and narratives, the clear answer in my opinion is Jackson and the Ravens. The Chiefs have already been there and done that with two rings to show for it and frankly have overachieved by reaching this game given how inept they looked for most of the season. However, on the other side, the Charm City franchise and their superstar quarterback have a prime opportunity to complete the most electrifying and dominant season in team history by claiming the ultimate prize in a Super Bowl but will need to go through last year’s champions first in order to do it.
Who has more at stake in the AFC championship?
This poll is closed