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How big is this AFC Championship game for Lamar Jackson’s legacy?

The Ravens QB has gone under plenty of scrutiny in his career despite being on the cusp of the Super Bowl and another NFL MVP. How big is this game for Jackson?

Quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with tight end Isaiah Likely #80 after a touchdown against the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Texans 34-10. Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is already considered one of the best of all time despite only being in the league for seven seasons. We’ve entered a new era under center, but Mahomes isn’t the only QB who should already be getting fitted for a gold jacket. Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is likely taking home his second MVP Award of his career, but he has long said that he is focused on winning the Super Bowl this year. How important is the 2024 AFC Championship Game against Mahomes and the Chiefs for Jackson’s legacy?

There are 10 players in NFL history who have won the AP MVP Award more than one time. Seven of them have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame, with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Mahomes presumed to be admitted to Canton when they are first on the ballot. While the group of 10 players are all bonded by multiple MVP awards, they have something else in common — at least one Super Bowl win.

Jackson was drafted with the 32nd overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has played in 86 regular season games and has tallied 15,887 passing yards with 125 touchdowns and 45 interceptions. Jackson is known for his rushing ability and has added 5,258 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground. Despite only being in the league for six years, Jackson already has the fourth-most rushing yards for a quarterback in NFL history and the 15th-most rushing touchdowns.

The Ravens have made the playoffs every season with Jackson as their quarterback outside of 2021, when he played in only 12 games. Despite this, Baltimore had tallied only one playoff win in four trips heading into this season. The knock against Jackson is that he can’t win the big game. After the Ravens earned the No. 1 seed and first-round bye this year, they beat the Houston Texans 34-10 to advance to their first AFC Championship game with Jackson as their quarterback.

To quote Ric Flair, “If you wanna be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” Jackson likely isn’t concerned with being the best quarterback in the NFL if it means Baltimore hoists the Lombardi Trophy again for the first time since 2012. Still, when there is a giant Mahomes-sized shadow cast over all of the quarterbacks in the league, a win in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday will have Jackson one win away from lighting his path toward Canton.