Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, who faces Mahomes on Monday night, considers that a bargain.
“They could’ve paid him a billion,” Martindale said Friday. “I’d still think he’s underpaid.”
Martindale has a lot of respect for the reigning Super Bowl MVP because Mahomes is the one quarterback who has consistently gotten the better of Baltimore. The Ravens have allowed the third-fewest passing yards in the league (203.7) since Martindale took over as defensive coordinator at the start of the 2018 season.
The issue with Mahomes was a free-wheeling style that clouded his evaluation, a daring looseness with the ball that led some to believe he’d be a turnover waiting to happen in the pros, and an offense that routinely churned out cartoonish passing numbers, even with average quarterbacks at the helm. With Jackson, it was how reliant Louisville was on his legs, and whether his frame—he’s not built like Cam Newton or Tim Tebow—would hold up if he had to run that much in the NFL, plus his ability to pick up a pro offense.
That stuff is right there in my notes from the April of their draft years. On Mahomes, one AFC QBs coach said to me, “He has the best wrist of any of them, he flicks the ball, puts it wherever he wants it. And he’s smart enough. That system’s different obviously, but he gets their system and can learn what he doesn’t know. Now, there’s gonna be a major learning curve.” And on Jackson, an AFC OC said, “There’s obviously a lot of projection there on how much he can or can’t improve. He’s a great athlete. But you’re drafting a quarterback.”
What to know for fantasy: The quarterbacks will get the headlines, but when these two teams met in Week 3 last season, there were three running backs who reached double-figure point totals. See Week 3 rankings.
Betting nugget: In the past 20 seasons, reigning Super Bowl champions are 11-1 ATS as underdogs within the first three weeks of the season. And Mahomes is 10-2 ATS in September games with 28 passing TDs and zero interceptions.
Football is a team sport, and these two franchises probably have the most well-rounded rosters in the game right now. But it’s hard to look at this matchup and not focus on Mahomes and Jackson. Monday night will be the first time two league MVPs younger than 25 years old have met in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. These are the two present and future faces of the league who have not only taken their teams to new heights, but have made football cooler and the quarterback position more accessible and diverse than it was just a few years ago. Plus, they play on teams that expand our imagination of what is possible on the football field. Any time they play each other, it’s must-watch television.
Marc Ross: Patrick Mahomes has only eight losses in 38 career games as a starter, including the playoffs, with an average loss differential of a minuscule 4.5 points and a seven-point difference serving as his widest margin in defeat. But in the battle for AFC and NFL supremacy, as well as bragging rights for best player in the world, Lamar Jackson will be the one dominating with 350 combined yards and three total TDs, handing Mahomes the first double-digit loss of his career.
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In the COVID-19 offseason, Newton couldn’t work out for teams, so questions about his health went unanswered. Newton, of course, battled shoulder and foot injuries the past two years, the latter of which limited him to two games last season. This particular obstacle—that players couldn’t freely fly around the country, working out and meeting with teams’ medical staff—didn’t stop, say, the Jets from signing Flacco. Flacco, who had offseason neck surgery, didn’t participate in a full practice until this week and isn’t expected to be active and available to back up Sam Darnold until Week 4. Flacco, incidentally, is making a smidge more than Newton in 2020. Newton is clearly better than any team’s veteran backup. He’s also not coached by Adam Gase. Perhaps Newton would only have taken so little money to play for the Patriots. Again, this is all deeply hypothetical since no one else bothered to call and find out.
Instead, the league let Belichick have a bargain. This is like giving Shakespeare a pen or Jimmy Butler something to be angry about: just sit back and wait for greatness to unfold.
“I’m a blocking tight end. I came here to block, baby,” Gronkowski joked Friday. “So four targets is four more than I thought I was gonna get.”
It’s the lowest production of the five-time Pro Bowler’s career through the first two weeks of any season. In his seven other seasons in which he’s played in Weeks 1 and 2, he’s averaged 8.7 catches on 13.4 targets, 127 receiving yards and 1.85 touchdowns.
Ahead of Sunday’s slate of NFL games, the league issued a memo Friday reminding clubs about game day protocols.
The memo, obtained by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, included another emphasis on face covering requirements and the NFL’s intention to continue to impose discipline on any people or clubs who do not comply with this rule.
The memo also revealed that an unnamed club is “currently under investigation for unauthorized locker room access,” Pelissero reported. Under the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, access to the locker room is restricted to 40 individuals from six specific categories, plus three ownership representatives, he added.
“All individuals, except for active players in the bench area, are required to wear face coverings at all times on game day, including on the sidelines and in the coaches’booth,” the memo read in part, per Pelissero. It was also noted that “players who are not substituting into the game are strongly encouraged to wear masks on the sidelines, except for games played in stadiums with state or local regulations that make the wearing of masks mandatory.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
“Listen... I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep this week,” he acknowledged. “Let’s just say that. They’re tough to defend.”
Most fans would tell you that the Ravens offense begins with Jackson — but in Spagnuolo’s mind, the problem is that it doesn’t end there.
“He’s a dynamic running back.” he said of Jackson. “But let’s not forget about those three running backs they throw at you [and] the tight end that can catch the football. I’ll start with the running backs: it’s a downhill power running game. If your eyes keep worrying about No. 8 having it, that’s not going to be a good day; he’ll never have it. They’ll just hand it off to the three backs.”
Your Monday just got a little bit better— PFF (@PFF) September 25, 2020
Patrick Mahomes vs. Lamar Jackson pic.twitter.com/oRBnoCKTdM