4. Lamar Jackson
Facing Lamar Jackson in Week 1 is no easy task. The fact that facing Jackson then is arguably the best week to meet due to the opportunity for extensive game planning during the offseason says enough in itself.
He is the ultimate dual-threat QB which makes him incredibly tough to contain. He will push the Jets' defense and keep them guessing all game. Not many quarterbacks can do that, and Jackson's MVP award in 2019 is a credit to how well he carved up opposition.
There will be some hope for Jets fans as Baltimore's QB is coming off a disappointing season, throwing for just 16 touchdowns and a career-high 13 interceptions. His running game was still an incredible asset, but he was not as much of an aerial threat as he was in 2019.
Robert Saleh’s defensive staff will hope to exploit Jackson’s inconsistent form last year. You would expect a player of his caliber to be efficient when passing, but his quarterback rating dipped to 87.5, far below the 133.3 he put up in his MVP year.
Last year, Jackson took 38 sacks, nine more than he did his previous year, and his rushing yards per carry dropped below 6.0 yards, something that hasn’t happened since his rookie year. On a roster derailed by injury last year, Jackson seemed to struggle.
With a weakened roster and offensive Line, the Ravens could not execute their RPOs to the extent they know they can. In Jackson’s MVP year, the Ravens ran the most RPO plays in the entire league, with 173 RPO plays being called.
However, with the Ravens being the most injured team in 2021, John Harbaugh’s team could not muster the same offensive strength and success, with Jackson not appearing in playoff football for the first time since he was drafted.
While the former Heisman Trophy winner endured 38 sacks, a career-high, in just 12 appearances last season, his time between snap and pocket collapse in 2021 was 2.5 seconds. In his MVP year, it was 2.6.
This does suggest there were inconsistencies in his gameplay, and that the superman of 2019 does indeed have his weaknesses in a season capped off with Jackson missing his final four games.
This will give New York hope, but they must try and contain Jackson from his explosive run game, and keep him in the pocket as much as possible.
Make no mistake, the former Louisville star is a freak athlete. Combine this with a bolstered roster through an exceptional draft and free agent piece, and this Week 1 matchup will strain the Jets defense to the limit as they try to prevent Jackson’s two-pronged attacks from causing them serious damage in the home opener.