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Next Era Rivalry: Watson vs. Jackson

Next Era Rivalry: Watson vs. Jackson

It has been three years since Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson have faced each other on a football field. Take it back to Oct. 2, 2016, when the electric signal-callers compiled 854 yards of total offense and 8 combined touchdowns. Spectators were gifted with a 42-36 shootout win for Watson and his Clemson team over the Jackson led Louisville squad.

Fast forward to week 11 of the NFL’s 100th season, where the two young faces of their respective franchises are set to square off for the first time as pros. Fans and pundits alike anticipate Sunday’s game to boast the best quarterback match up so far this season.

The anticipation is warranted as both Jackson and Watson have made doubters eat their words. General managers and owners have long preferred the prototypical “pocket-passer” style quarterback that has dominated the NFL for generations, and this predisposition led teams to pass over the now prolific NFL studs on draft day.

Deshaun Watson fell to the 12th pick despite earning multiple Heisman nods and a national championship. He was the 3rd QB taken off the board in the 2017 NFL draft. The likes of Mitchell Trubisky (2nd overall) and Patrick Mahomes (10th) went before him. While Analysts were quick to jump Watson for his “wreckless” style of play when scrambling out of the pocket, they doubled down after his ACL injury in his record-setting rookie campaign. Now Watson is praised for never giving up on a play and his “Houdini-like” elusiveness that often leads to a big gain. Not only can Watson extend plays with his legs, he’s able to keep his eyes downfield and make throws on the fly. It seems he has at least one play every game where viewers are left asking themselves, “How did he do that!?”

Flip over to the Raven’s offensive play-caller. The lightning fast Lamar Jackson has sprinted his way to the forefront of the competition, leaving a horde of naysayers in his dust. Jackson was passed over by 31 NFL teams before being selected 32nd overall in the 2018 NFL draft. Shortly after, the emotional Jackson said he was proud to be a Raven and vowed to earn a Super Bowl for the team. Drafted to be a backup in his first year, Jackson took over for Joe Flacco at the halfway point of the season and led Baltimore to the playoffs. Despite the success, coming in to this season many claimed Jackson could not keep the same pace on the ground, and that his lack of passing prowess would not lead to wins in the NFL. While Jackson has improved his aerial attack (ranks 20th in 2019), he is still getting it done with his legs, amassing 702 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns via the ground thus far. That’s good enough for 11th in league, including running backs. The opposition may not admit it, but there is no stopping him, defenses can only hope to slow Jackson down right now.

Both quarterbacks will be playmakers on Sunday’s early afternoon showdown. The Ravens are riding a 5 game win streak in which they defeated the likes of the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. The Texans are returning from an extra week to prepare after bye week and should have some weapons returning on both sides of the ball. The outcome of the game will likely depend on which team defense can come up with the stops or at least disrupt the opposing offense.

Whatever transpires on Sunday, fans can expect thrilling plays and exhilarating athleticism from the former ACC rivals who now bring their competitiveness to the AFC for what many hope will be years to come.

Miles Peacock hosts the Fantasy Football Flex On ‘Em Podcast and can be found on Twitter @ff_peacock

Next Era Rivalry: Watson vs. Jackson

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