The eye-popping strength in Jay Cutler's right arm has earned him lots of flattering comparisons, as well as lofty expectations.
"He's very talented," Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "He has a great future. He has everything that you look for in a quarterback. He's just getting better every game."
Cutler also doesn't lack confidence. The third-year Broncos quarterback recently boasted he thinks he has a stronger arm than John Elway in his heyday, a borderline sacrilegious statement in Denver. In fact, Cutler said, he'd bet on his arm over anybody else's in the league.
Yes, even Brett Favre.
"Yeah I think so," Cutler said, laughing. "What is Brett? Is he 40 yet? Thirty-nine, soon to be 40? I think he may have given me a run back in his 20s, but I think I got him now."
Cutler's mix of swagger, playmaking arm strength and scrambling ability have some likening him to a young Favre.
"I can see the comparisons," said Favre, who shares the same agent with Cutler. "He's probably a little more advanced as far as being in a passing offense when he came into the league as I was. From a physical standpoint, I see us doing a lot of the same things at that age."
The two will square off Sunday for the second time in their careers when the Broncos (6-5) visit the Jets (8-3) at the Meadowlands.
"I have a long way to go," Cutler said of the comparisons to Favre. "You're talking about Brett Favre, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He's accomplished a lot throughout his career. I'm just kind of getting started. We'll see. Hopefully I'm still a starter five to 10 years from now."
Cutler certainly has his career off to a nice beginning, and the comparisons to Favre aren't outrageous. Through their first 32 starts, their numbers are close, with Cutler actually better. Cutler is 624-of-1,010 for 7,534 yards, 48 touchdowns and 31 interceptions, while Favre was 667-of-1,072 for 6,995 yards, 39 TDs and 39 INTs.
"I grew up a Bears fan, so I watched a lot of Brett Favre growing up," said Cutler, who leads the AFC with 3,036 yards passing. "I still admire the way he plays and the things that he's able to do on the field. He sees the field extremely well, better than most, and makes throws that a lot of guys probably wouldn't attempt. A lot of times, he fits it in there."
That's something that's also been said of Cutler, who's one of the most dangerous passers in the league when he's scrambling.
"He makes a lot of plays on the run and makes a lot of athletic defensive players miss," Jets coach Eric Mangini said.
Cutler has also been knocked for maybe taking too many chances -- another similarity between him and Favre -- as evidenced by his 12 interceptions. He scoffed at the notion that he's been asked to work on his discipline.
"Not really," Cutler said smugly.
"We're kind of having trouble running the ball," he added. "We've been having turnovers early in the game, getting down late and having to make some plays through the air and put some balls in some tight spots."
Favre, then with Green Bay, beat Cutler and the Broncos in overtime last year in their only other meeting.
"The guy can be pretty darn good," Favre said. "Barring some injury, he'll have a great career."
Despite a mediocre record and a disappointing 31-10 loss to Oakland last Sunday, Denver leads the AFC West by two games. The Broncos' biggest strength has been the offense, ranked third overall in the NFL.
"I definitely think that we will have our hands full this week," Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins said. "It's going to be another week where we have to have a big performance."
New York's defense has held five opponents under 50 yards rushing, and hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season while ranking third against the run. The Broncos have gone through a handful of running backs this season, with rookie fullback Peyton Hillis the latest to get the bulk of the carries.
"We're young and we still have a lot of injuries we're battling with," Cutler said. "It's kind of a roller coaster ride right now."
Cutler does have two terrific wide receivers with Brandon Marshall (67 catches, 887 yards) and rookie Eddie Royal (58, 673), although Royal has missed practice time with a toe injury. Still, the Jets know Cutler is capable of throwing or running -- he has 143 yards rushing -- at any time.
"He's very tough," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "We know they throw the ball 60 percent of the time. I think he's more of a threat running. He's a great running quarterback and he can extend plays."
Meanwhile, the Jets have won five straight and are coming off two emotional road victories at New England and Tennessee to firmly establish themselves as one of the AFC's elite teams. Favre's efficient management of the offense has been key. He has five touchdowns and one interception in the last three games while balancing the running and passing games.
"If you're a defensive coordinator, you're scratching your head going, 'What do I do?"' Favre said. "We're going to run it until you stop it, but we'll also mix in the quick passing game, screens, things like that."
With recent talk in the media of a possible New York-New York Super Bowl, the Jets are not concerned about any sort of letdown.
"We can't assume that we are just that good that we are going to walk through everything," Jenkins said. "I think the past has shown a lot of good teams that let a season go because they started feeling themselves a little bit too much."