It's not uncommon to hear coaches and opponents talk each other up in the week leading up to a game.
But this week, with the Ravens' Lamar Jackson and Chargers' Justin Herbert set to match up for the first time and both coming off monster games, the flattery has reached a new level. The thing is, it's all absolutely justified.
Viewers are in for a treat Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium with two of the most talented quarterbacks in the league squaring off. Even Head Coach John Harbaugh can't wait to watch his opponent take the field.
"I've never seen him throw in-person yet; this will be a first for me, personally," Harbaugh said. "I'm looking forward to it, kind of, sort of, I guess. (laughs)"
Both quarterbacks have already accomplished a lot in their young careers.
Jackson was the unanimous MVP in his second season and is now tied with Dan Marino for the most wins (34) of any quarterback in league history before turning 25. Herbert was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last season after throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns.
They're also both coming off huge games.
Herbert threw for 398 yards and four touchdowns, and ran in another score, against a tough Cleveland Browns defense last week. He probably would have been the AFC Offensive Player of the Week had it not been for Jackson's epic performance the next day, in which he threw for 442 yards and four scores in leading a 19-point comeback against the Indianapolis Colts.
The interesting thing is how they get the job done differently. Herbert is what every team in the league was looking for 10 years ago (and plenty still are). He's 6-foot-6, 237 pounds with a cannon strapped to his shoulder.
Harbaugh called Herbert's arm strength "incredible," saying the Ravens' data shows that he throws the second-fastest ball in the NFL. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale broke out a saying used by one of his mentors, Buddy Ryan.
"I think he's one of those guys who can throw a strawberry through a battleship," Martindale said. "I mean, he's got tremendous arm talent, accuracy. He's the prototypical NFL quarterback, if you will.
"And he's got a lot of talent that goes with that arm, as far as himself, of reading coverages, and he has great targets to throw to. So, it's going to be a big-time challenge."
Herbert has 1,576 passing yards through five games this season – the fourth most in the league. The man right behind him on the leaderboard is Jackson with 1,519. As much as they are different on the surface, Jackson is closing the gap with some of the game's elite passers.
"You're seeing a player that's never played in the NFL. There have been some guys similar, but there hasn't been anybody like Lamar Jackson. He's truly one of a kind. He's truly a rare player, rare competitor," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said.
"I think the thing that's unique about Lamar is that there's danger on every snap – there's danger running the football and there's danger throwing the football. … This league is full of superstars, but he's certainly at the top of the list."
The AFC has no shortage of star quarterbacks. Jackson beat one of them, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, earlier this season on his fourth try. Now Jackson could be faced with another shootout going against Herbert and his full arsenal of weapons, including wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen.
Jackson doesn't watch other teams too closely, but he knows Herbert has been "balling out of control."
"I really haven't watched those guys like that, but I have seen him on Instagram and stuff like that, flashing around, doing his thing. He's a very talented quarterback. He's been doing his thing," Jackson said.
"Hopefully it slows down a little bit when we're playing against him. We don't want to hype him up too bad this week."