Ravens' Lamar Jackson can take MVP lead vs. Patriots on Yahoo Sports app

Unlike most Heisman Trophy winners, Lamar Jackson didn’t really have one “Heisman moment” in 2016 for Louisville.

There were big games and plays — the hurdle against Syracuse, a game-winning touchdown against Virginia, a blowout of Florida State, a classic battle in a loss to Clemson — but he was awarded the Heisman based on the totality of a phenomenal, exciting season for the Cardinals.

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Funny enough, Jackson could have an “MVP moment” for the Baltimore Ravens this week.

The Ravens battle the 8-0 New England Patriots on Sunday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app. The Patriots not only have the best defense in the NFL after eight weeks, it’s tracking as one of the greatest defenses ever.

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Jackson is off to a fine start for the Ravens this season. With a big game Sunday night, he could wake up Monday as the clear MVP favorite.

Lamar Jackson on a historic pace

Jackson is 10th in the NFL in rushing yards. He has rushed for more yards than guys like Sony Michel, Aaron Jones and James Conner. His 6.9 average per rush is 1.4 yards better than any of the other top 30 rushers this season.

Jackson’s passing grade from Pro Football Focus ranks him 12th among all quarterbacks with 200 dropbacks. That’s better than pocket passers like Matt Ryan and Jared Goff.

We’ve seen plenty of dual-threat quarterbacks and some like Randall Cunningham, Russell Wilson, Steve Young, Cam Newton and Mike Vick have been stellar players. Even in that company, Jackson seems like a unicorn.

The Ravens have built their passing and rushing offense around Jackson. Jackson set an NFL record for quarterbacks with 147 rushing attempts last season, and he started only seven games. He’s on pace for 190 rushing attempts this season. He’s also on pace for an astonishing 1,317 rushing yards, which would shatter the single-season record for a quarterback.

He has been pretty good passing the ball too.

Lamar Jackson is on a record-setting pace this season. (Getty Images)
Lamar Jackson is on a record-setting pace this season. (Getty Images)

Jackson has tough challenge vs. Patriots

People will probably always be quick to criticize Jackson for his passing. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard for anyone to comprehend how one player can be one of the most productive runners and passers in the NFL at the same time.

Jackson is likely never going to be Joe Montana throwing the ball, but he doesn’t need to be. He has 1,650 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 94.1 passer rating. That’s not bad for one of the top-10 rushers in the NFL. He’s a much better passer than many want to give him credit for.

The Patriots present a different challenge than he has faced this season. They’re absolutely dominant. They’re second in passing yards allowed and fourth in rushing yards allowed. They have forced a league-best 25 turnovers. Opponents have a 40.6 passer rating against the Patriots, which doesn’t even seem real. New England has allowed two passing touchdowns with 19 interceptions. We’ve never seen a defense put up numbers like this.

The knock against the Patriots is the soft schedule they have faced. That changes on Sunday night against the 5-2 Ravens and their unique, enthralling quarterback. Bill Belichick will have some new tricks to slow down Jackson. He’ll need them.

And if Jackson can have a big game and the Ravens win, he’ll head to the front of the line in the MVP race.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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