Lamar Jackson made it clear he intended to win a Super Bowl the night he was drafted.
He keeps his Heisman and MVP trophies in a closet, where he says they'll stay until he wins a Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the day after he signed a record-setting contract this summer, Patrick Mahomes was in the gym at 7 a.m. saying he "Still got rings to collect."
Driven by two obsessed quarterbacks on a collision course, Ravens vs. Chiefs has quickly become a marquee NFL rivalry. The next installment takes place Monday night at M&T Bank Stadium, and there are many reasons to think the Ravens-Chiefs rivalry is just getting started.
Since Jackson entered the NFL in 2018, it's almost like his career path has followed the same arch as Mahomes'. First Mahomes was the NFL's MVP in 2018, then Jackson won the award last year. The Chiefs had a disappointing playoff loss at home in 2018, but bounced back to win the Super Bowl the following season, which is exactly what the Ravens hope to do this season.
The Ravens and Chiefs share respect for each other, but they can't share championships. The Chiefs plan to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl again, and the Ravens plan to prevent that from happening. Ravens vs. Chiefs has quickly become an AFC rivalry, and over the next few years, it figures to get even better. We saw Tom Brady and Peyton Manning give us memorable battles during their primes with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts respective. The Chiefs led by Mahomes and the Ravens led by Jackson has the same kind of feel.
"I definitely think so," Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "Mahomes just signed for 10 years - whatever - $500 million, and (he's ) a MVP quarterback. And then we have Lamar. MVP, and he'll be a Raven for life. So, with those two teams, I think when the NFL is picking out the schedule, they'll always find a way to keep these two teams going at each other. When those two quarterbacks are on the field, it's magic on both sides."
Both the Ravens and Chiefs have stable front offices, and teams led by Super Bowl-winning head coaches, John Harbaugh and Andy Reid. Jackson and Mahomes are surrounded with plenty of young talent which should help their teams remain contenders.
To complement their prolific passing attack, the Chiefs drafted running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round, who is averaging 5.0 yards per carry in two games. Kansas City's top wide receiver, Tyreek Hill is only 26 years old, explosive wide receiver Mecole Hardman is just 22. Tight end Travis Kelce is the oldest of Mahomes' primary weapons, but he turns 31 in October, and looks like he has plenty left in the tank.
Jackson is working with four young wide receivers drafted over the last two years, led by Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, and a Pro Bowl tight end in only his third NFL season, Mark Andrews. Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. are both Pro Bowl offensive tackles still on their rookie deals. The Ravens also added second-round pick J.K. Dobbins to their running back stable, another playmaker with a bright future.
Baltimore had the NFL's highest-scoring offense last season and the Chiefs were No. 2. That's another reason to love this rivalry, because offensive fireworks are almost guaranteed.
Jackson is 0-2 against the Chiefs in his young career, but whether the Ravens can turn the tables against the Chiefs may depend more on Baltimore's defense. The Ravens traded for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters last season, and they added more speed to their defense with rookie inside linebacker Patrick Queen, and seriously upgraded the defensive front with veterans Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe.
The Ravens feel better equipped to keep Mahomes from making key plays in big spots, but Monday will put that theory to the test. As this rivalry evolves, it's like a chess match with both teams learning more about the other. Mahomes knows Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale will have new looks in mind using his new personnel.
"When you play a defense like this that does a lot of different things, very multiple, does a lot of different blitzes, a lot of different coverages, you have to make sure that your're ready to go and have answers for everything," Mahomes told reporters this week via the team's website. "I'll just try to do everything I can to make sure I'm prepared for everything they show us."
After losing to the Chiefs in 2018 and '19 in Kansas City, the Ravens feel it's time to turn the table at home on Monday night. A rivalry becomes even more intense when its back and forth, when the victories and defeats never get one-sided.
The ball is in the Ravens' court, and Monday's game is on their home turf. They may see Kansas City again in the playoffs, and Baltimore would like to end any talk about their inability to beat the Chiefs.
"(It's) not to prove to ourselves that we can. I think we know we can," Stanley said. "I think it's more because that's what we expect out of ourselves, week-in and week-out. No matter who it is, we feel like we have to win that game. We feel like it's a make-it or break-it game. With that mentality, it's just going to make us mentally stronger and more capable down the line."