Sunday night's primetime showdown features two high-profile teams led by former MVPs Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. The Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) and the Baltimore Ravens (0-1) have been perennial playoff contenders since the inception of their respective quarterbacks, yet their regular-season meetings haven't constituted a well-defined rivalry.
Meeting once in each of the past three seasons, the Ravens are 0-3 versus the Chiefs. The glaring disparity was recognized by Jackson following the latest installment, calling the Chiefs their 'kryptonite' after a 34-20 defeat in Week 3 of last season.
Entering Sunday night, Jackson is well aware of his past assessment and hopes to fix what has been a troubling trend against the reigning AFC champions.
"I said that because they did beat us three times," Jackson said this week, via the team's website. "So it's like, 'Man, we've got to find a way to win.' And hopefully this Sunday night coming up it will be different."
Jackson posted career-low passing numbers in the latest defeat to K.C., completing just 15 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown (9 rushes, 83 yards) while getting sacked four times and losing one fumble. The fourth-year QB has completed just 52.6 percent of his passes in the three games against the Chiefs while averaging 170.3 passing yards per game. In 35 games against the rest of the league, Jackson has a completed 65.3 percent of his passes with an average of 170.3 passing yards per game while accumulating a 30-5 regular-season record.
On the other hand, Mahomes has put up great numbers against the Ravens -- averaging 378.7 passing yards per game at a 71 percent completion rate while throwing nine TDs to just one interception.
"It's not about me and Mahomes – not to me, probably to everyone else," Jackson said. "It's the Ravens versus the Kansas City Chiefs. They did beat us three times or whatever, but that's in the past. We have a better opportunity this time to come around, and we'll take the advantage and win at our home stadium. But I'm not dwelling on those losses; come Sunday night, we're going to play."
Ravens wideout Sammy Watkins, who spent the last three seasons with Mahomes in Kansas City, believes it's an unspoken rivalry between the two star QBs and that the team recognizes how important a win over the Chiefs would be for Jackson going forward.
"I think those guys definitely view it that way," Watkins said Thursday. "You can say you're not, but the world is watching two of the best, youngest MVPs in the league and very talented guys. I'm definitely looking at it that way like, man, Lamar needs to win. He's been doing a great job in this league with how he's carrying himself as a teammate and as a guy that does the right things off the field. I just think it's time for him to take that next hump and try to get a win. And I hope this team, we prepare and the coaches prepare to do our best to will a win for the organization and him."
Baltimore stumbled out of the gate in Week 1, falling to the Raiders in a winnable game that was burdened by two costly fumbles from Jackson. The loss is an immediate extension of what has been a rough start to Baltimore's 2021 campaign due to numerous preseason injuries.
Jackson, who has continued to prove doubters wrong over the course of his young career, is poised to right a wrong on Sunday night against the Chiefs, though it will take a concerted effort from the Ravens in their home opener.
"The way you go about changing it is addressing it how it is: looking at it head-on and go into the game and just try to beat them," cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "It's a great opportunity for us to go out there Sunday night and show we belong on the field with them."