Before the season started, I asked Lamar Jackson what's the first thing that pops into his mind when he hears, "Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs."
"Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs," he said.
In other words, he has no reaction.
Or course, a player as competitive as Jackson is not happy with the fact that he's lost two games to the Chiefs. Since taking over as the Ravens' starting quarterback midway through 2018, Jackson has suffered just three regular-season losses. Two have come at the hands of the Chiefs.
But as the NFL's most highly anticipated 2020 regular-season game approaches, with the Ravens and Chiefs both sitting at 2-0 and looking like Super Bowl favorites, Jackson still feels the same way he did a month or so ago.
To steal Bill Belichick's line, it's just another nameless, faceless opponent.
"It's just like any other game. I don't have to focus on Mahomes," Jackson said Thursday. "I have to focus on their defense. I have to focus on scoring. I have to focus on my job and making my offense do our thing. But my defense has to worry about him."
That's how Jackson has always been. He's not one to build up rivalries too much.
He gets that the Ravens have them, of course with the Pittsburgh Steelers and others. And this week, we'll hear a lot about how Ravens-Chiefs is going to be the next great rivalry for years to come, which is a very legit conversation. It's just that Jackson doesn't want to play along.
"I don't really care for rivalries or thinking about another QB," Jackson said last month. "I play offense, he plays offense. We've got to worry about each other's defenses. … I don't have any problem with them. Those two losses definitely make me mad, but it is what it is. Move on."
"He never talks about Mahomes. Never even crosses his mind," said his personal throwing coach, Joshua Harris. "I love it about him. He's really not fueled by jealousy, envy, hatred to beat anybody. He's really not focused on anybody else except himself. His goal is to win a Super Bowl and he knows if we're at our best, we're there."
There are just so many similarities for Jackson and Mahomes not to be linked. They both play the game in a highly unique and entertaining way. They were the back-to-back MVPs, back to back cover stars of "Madden."
The way in which they play the position does have its differences. Mahomes can run, but not like Jackson. Jackson can escape the pocket and make long completions down the field, but (at least not yet) like Mahomes.
Some would label Mahomes as more of a pure passer, but Jackson had a slightly higher completion percentage last season. It's just that Mahomes threw it a lot more, and for more yards (4,031 to 3,127). Regardless of the stats, the eye test tells you one thing. They're the two best young quarterbacks in the NFL, and it's not really close.
Jackson did say it's "really cool" that they'll be looked at as two of the faces of the NFL for years to come. On Super Bowl night, after winning the game's MVP, Mahomes was asked if he sees himself as the new face of the NFL. He brought up Jackson's name.
Jackson is just as complimentary the other way. When Jackson was ranked as the top player of the NFL entering 2020 by his peers, he immediately pointed to Mahomes.
"I'm going against a great talent like him – a guy who can throw the ball anywhere he wants on the field and make things happen each and every game," Jackson said. "It's very exciting – very exciting."
They will be linked, compared, and contrasted for many years. For now, Mahomes has the upper hand because he's 2-0 head-to-head, and because he has a Super Bowl ring. And Mahomes knows that means Jackson will be gunning for him.
"I had a very similar situation playing Tom Brady," Mahomes said in a sitdown interview with ESPN this week. "I won all those games my first two years, but I lost to Tom twice. So I understand he's going to be driven. Whenever you play a team that is of his caliber and our team coming off a Super Bowl win, you know it's going to be a great game."
The Ravens and Chiefs were on a collision course for the AFC Championship game at M&T Bank Stadium last year, but Baltimore fell to the Tennessee Titans before they got there. Jackson was asked Thursday whether he looks at the Chiefs as a team he has to beat in order to reach his Super Bowl goals.
"Yeah, eventually," he said. "And they're in our way right now, so that's our goal."