BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Sunday’s matchup between the (7-2) Baltimore Ravens and (6-3) Houston Texans is one of the marquee games of the season featuring a pair of the league’s leading MVP candidates in quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson.
It’s the first time the quarterbacks are meeting in the pros, but not the first time we have seen them share the same field. Watson’s Clemson Tigers beat Jackson’s Louisville Cardinals 42-36 back in October of 2016 in what was a showcase game for both signal callers. Watson threw for 306 yards and ran for 91 more while totaling five touchdowns. Jackson countered with 295 yards through the air, 162 on the ground and three total TDs. Heading into Sunday, NFL fans are hoping for a similar shootout from the pair of quarterbacks that NFL on CBS analyst Dan Fouts sees a lot of similarities in their games.
“They are both great competitors. That shows up in how they keep plays alive. The play is never really over with either of these guys until the whistle blows,” said Fouts. “They can obviously extend plays and make a defense really have to worry about two plays. The one that is called and the one that is ad-libbed. That, to me, is the fun thing to watch each time you do their games.”
Jackson may disagree, telling reporters this week that he doesn’t see himself in any other players and he plays “Lamar Jackson ball”.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 13, 2019
Either way, it’s hard to ignore the game-breaking abilities that both players have. While Watson is a better passer, completing 70% of his attempts this season, Jackson, according to Fouts, has one big difference in his game.
“The one thing that stands out with Lamar, and this isn’t just comparing him to quarterbacks, it’s comparing him to anybody that runs with the ball, he is as fast as anybody out there,” said Fouts.
That speed has made Jackson, and the Ravens running game in general, one of the biggest offensive threats in the league this season. The Ravens lead the league in rushing averaging nearly 200 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. They are a solid 30 yards per game ahead of the next-best rushing game, the San Francisco 49ers. They’ll find a little tougher sledding against a Texans defense that has allowed opponents just 84 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry on the season so far. But, after seeing what Jackson and company did to the Patriots defense, it’s safe to assume they’re going to put up points.
That same assumption can be made of the Texans, who boast the eighth-best scoring offense this season (26.4 PPG) with Watson leading the way. The Ravens pass defense has struggled to slow opponents this season meaning we might just see the kind of fireworks display that occurred the last time these two met on a football field.
What will make the difference Sunday, according to Fouts, is turnovers.
“When you have a game like this that is penciled in to be close, it goes back to protecting the ball,” said Fouts. “Not making that critical mistake with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. I think it is evenly matched. Both defenses will be stressed because of the quarterbacks and because of the style. The Texans are running the ball well with two running backs of different styles. The Ravens offense is so unique in that they use three tight ends and have two solid running backs in the backfield along with Lamar Jackson. So, it’s all going to come down to turnovers.”
Both quarterbacks have done a good job of protecting the ball to this point (each has 5 interceptions). Which offense blinks first could determine the outcome. Fouts will be on the call in Baltimore alongside Ian Eagle and Evan Washburn when the Ravens host the Texans on Sunday, November 17th with kick-off slated for 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.