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Bills' Josh Allen vs. Ravens' Lamar Jackson: 'Fun' Proving NFL Draft Critics Wrong

Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills will face the Baltimore Ravens and their equally hungry quarterback on Sunday. Allen knows it's far from the first time he and his fellow thrower have faced adversity.

Being a first-round quarterback in the NFL is like being in the cast of a horror movie: you start with a modest group of main characters, each with their own unique traits before the titular monster takes them down one-by-one until there's one ... or even none ... remaining. 

Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson are the two left from the 2018 draft, gridiron carnage having already doomed their classmates Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen to perpetual backup duties. Darnold, in fact, backs up the mediocre outlier from the group, Baker Mayfield in Carolina, each clinging to their NFL lives by a thread. 

Allen and Jackson are by far the class of the class, the pair firmly entrenched in the present and future of their respective franchises in Buffalo and Baltimore. Ironically, both perhaps faced the most scrutiny upon their NFL entries, critics being wary of their mobile talents leading to potential disaster, their athletic rewards equally prone to risk. 

Four years later, each stands as one of the league's star attractions, mainstays on the networks' weekly highlight reels. Critics, of course, still linger ... neither Allen nor Jackson has yet to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy, perhaps the ultimate immunity from the remorseless eyes of football observers. But each has undeniably established himself as a mainstay in the cutthroat world of NFL football in the wake of some early struggles and adjustments.

Allen, for his part, can't help but relish what he and Jackson have done to quell those who doubted the potential of their talents carrying over to the NFL.

"There were a lot of different notions and opinions about both of us coming out of the draft. We're just trying to find ways to help our team win football games," Allen told the official team site. "Guys respect (Lamar) and love how he plays the game of football. He has a lot of fun doing it, I have a lot of fun doing it."

The two will do battle on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore (1 p.m. ET, CBS), each heading AFC contenders facing down different brands of adversity: Allen and the Bills, other-worldly after one-sided triumphs over Los Angeles and Tennessee, are coming off a surprising, if not entertaining loss in Miami. Jackson's Ravens handled business against mediocre competition from Pittsburgh and New England though similar South Beach heartbreak befell them in Week 2, blowing multiple three-possession leads en route to a 42-38 loss at home. 

Sunday's game will provide ammunition for critics to use against the loser, the winner granted only a temporary reprieve. But Allen undoubtedly knows it's a game that would do wonders for the contending Bills' confidence after a rare regular season disappointment. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh knows that Allen is by far the greatest obstacle toward getting his franchise moving toward the right note in a competitive AFC North.

"He’s a big, strong quarterback; he’s on time in rhythm. He can do that. He can hold the ball and get the ball downfield," Harbaugh said of Allen, per Ravens Country. "He can throw it to every part of the field, obviously. He’s a tough tackle, even just moving in the pocket, then throwing, then getting out and running. Not only that, but they’re pretty expansive in their offense."

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Allen, like it or not, will be forever linked to the Ravens: the Jackson connection aside, Baltimore hosted his first regular-season snaps when he entered the 2018 kickoff game in relief of Nathan Peterman. The two highlight-makers have done battle twice this far, the most recent get-together coming in the 2020-21 AFC Divisional playoffs. Allen has been the victor in each instance, though he was nowhere near the height of his powers in the first meeting in December 2019. 

Allen was indirectly responsible for any lingering negative narratives about Jackson in their postseason staging, amassing 206 yards and the de facto game-winning score to Stefon Diggs in the 17-3 triumph that punched Buffalo's first ticket to the AFC title game since 1994. 

But Allen is well aware of what Jackson brings to the table, and how dangerous of an obstacle he can be as the Bills try to get back on track, acknowledging such dangers in the friendliest way possible ... expressing awe at Jackson's daring quest to turn down a massive new contract in favor of playing this fateful season out ... in further comments to the official team site.

"Given all the drama and the details that go along with all that contract situation that he's got going on, he's just like, 'I'm gonna bet on myself,'" Allen said. "I'm pretty sure it's gonna pay off."

It's safe to say that Allen has no envy of teammates responsible for keeping Jackson contained. For his part, Jackson could have plenty of ill feelings to hash out against the Bills: they had an opportunity to call Jackson's name with the seventh pick of that fateful spring night but he lingered for 25 more selections before the Ravens found his number."

"Lamar is as dynamic as it gets. Early on in his career, (critics) tried to say he was just a runner."

"He did nothing but prove that he's a total package,"


Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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