Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will be just three days past his 24th birthday when the weight of the football world piggybacks him into Sunday's wild-card playoff game at Tennessee.
A unanimous MVP selection a year ago, Jackson is one of the greatest and most unusual young quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. But he plays at a time when the bar has never sat higher for quarterbacks his age.
And, unfortunately, if he doesn't keep pace Sunday and beat the team that upset him as a No. 1 seed a year ago, all the amazing things he's done before turning 24 will be dismissed. The 30-7 record, the 68-18 touchdown-to-interception differential and the historic back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons will be overshadowed by a dismal postseason stat that places him alongside Andy Dalton as the only quarterbacks to start their careers by losing playoff openers in three straight seasons.
No pressure, young fella.
No problem, says coach John Harbaugh, whose fifth-seeded Ravens are the quintessential "team nobody wants to face in the postseason." And that includes the No. 4 Titans, who used Derrick Henry and an opportunistic defense to steamroll the 14-2 Ravens in last year's divisional round.
"Lamar is a guy that can look tough situations squarely in the eye and try to figure out a way to overcome them," Harbaugh said. "He never gets too down about anything," including a 10-day isolation for testing positive for COVID-19 during the season.
Jackson, who has more turnovers (five) than touchdowns (three) in two playoff games, will need to figure out how to overcome his hiccups, especially going forward in the AFC.
The first 14-team NFL playoff field features six quarterbacks under the age of 27. Four of them – Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield – are in the AFC.
Meanwhile, the AFC also includes Deshaun Watson and promising rookies Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow. And the top two picks in the 2021 draft belong to Jacksonville, who will undoubtedly select Trevor Lawrence, and the Jets, who also could select a quarterback.
The guess here – and risk of looking foolish come Sunday – is to say Jackson will rise to the occasion and join Mahomes as only the second quarterback to win a league and Super Bowl MVP before turning 25. Mahomes did it last season while helping the Chiefs win their first Super Bowl in 50 years.
As Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman put it, Jackson became the best player in the league again while leading Baltimore on a five-game season-ending winning streak – third-best in the playoffs behind the six-game winning streaks for Buffalo and Green Bay.
Needing to win their last five games, Baltimore went from 6-5 to 11-5 as Jackson completed 67% of his passes with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 430 yards, a 7.7 average and four touchdowns.
On Dec. 14, Baltimore was trailing Cleveland on "Monday Night Football." Jackson was in the locker room getting treated for cramps.
He reappeared just in time to save the game twice in the last two minutes. On his first play back, he threw a 44-yard go-ahead touchdown pass on fourth-and-5. Later, he moved Baltimore into position for a 55-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.
This year's playoff field also features six quarterbacks on the other side of their 36th birthday. Four of them are in the NFC, including six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady (43) and presumed 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers (37).
Will the NFC send one of its old guys to Tampa for Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7?
Will the AFC send one of its young guns?
Final: Ravens 31, Packers 30.
No pressure, young man. No pressure at all.