Roddy White made his preference clear in an NFL Network interview that aired in late September. He noted the competition coming from the wide receivers in New York, but he cooly brushed them aside.
“The thing that me and (Julio Jones) bring to the game,” White said, “we’re probably the best duo in the league right now.”
The counterargument came a few weeks later, from Giants defensive end Justin Tuck.
“Well, I know that the ones down in Atlanta get a lot of pub too, but I think you'd be (hard) pressed to show me anybody better than Victor (Cruz) and Hakeem (Nicks)," Tuck said. "That combination, those two guys ... Hakeem has had some issues staying healthy a little bit lately here, but when those guys are healthy and rolling ... I think they are one of the -- if not the -- greatest combos of wide receivers there is."
One thing seems certain when considering what team has the most dymanic duo of receivers in the NFL: There is a big drop off after the two in Atlanta and the two in New York. And the truth is, it’s almost impossible to separate the top two tandems based on ability and statistics. And the choice may have to do with your preference, and even then it could change week to week.
So who are the top tandems in the league, and the most dangerous receiving duos in the game today? Here’s one list. And again, it’s close between 1 and 2.
Not so close after that.
1. Victor Cruz/Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
One year ago the idea that they’d be the top tandem would’ve been laughable, especially since Mario Manningham was the starter opposite Nicks and Cruz was a bottom-of-the-roster player. Then Cruz exploded for a franchise record 1,536 yards and has followed that up this season with some of the best stats among receivers in the NFL (50-627-7). Nicks’ numbers aren’t there because he’s been hampered by foot and knee injuries – which, admittedly, hurts his value. But look at what they did together in Week 2, when Nicks was at his healthiest. Cruz had 11 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown, and Nicks had 10 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown. It’ll be tough for anyone to beat that. Plus, as evidenced by Cruz’s 77-yard, game-winning touchdown catch against the Redskins on Sunday, the Giants’ wideouts have a knack for the big play.
2. Roddy White/Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
These two have the advantage in pedigree, no doubt. White is a four-time Pro Bowler and Jones was the sixth-overall pick in the 2011 draft. And their stats this season are pretty impressive. White has 37 catches for 553 yards and four touchdowns and Jones has 30 catches for 376 yards and four touchdowns. They are both explosive, good route runners and have everything you’d want in a wide receiver. Maybe the only thing that makes them qualify as the No. 2 tandem instead of No. 1 is this: Neither one of them are the leading receiver on their own team. That honor goes to tight end Tony Gonzalez (43-430-4). Jones and White are tremendous in their own right, but having one of the greatest tight ends in history to draw some of the attention is a huge advantage to have.
3. Miles Austin/Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
For a moment, put aside Bryant’s off-the-field and character issues, forget about all of Austin’s injuries, and ignore the up-and-down nature of their quarterback, Tony Romo. Based on pure ability, explosiveness and the danger to make a big play, these two might be right on the heels of the top two duos. Bryant has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best if he can ever get his head screwed on straight. He has 36 catches for 378 yards and two touchdowns this season, which is good but hardly great considering he had 63 catches for 928 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. Austin’s numbers aren’t up to par either (25-428-4)but it was only two years ago that he was coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. This may be based more on potential than current production, but the danger is undeniably there.
4. Mike Wallace/Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
He hasn’t put up huge numbers this season, but Wallace (29-397-4) is one of the fastest, most dangerous receivers in the NFL. There’s no doubt, though, he’s been hampered a bit by an offense that has struggled, especially in running the ball. Still, while he’s drawn the double teams, he’s opened the door for his dangerous sidekick, Brown, who leads the team with 36 catches for 442 yards (and a touchdown). Brown is less of a breakaway threat than Wallace, but two complement each other well. And if the Steelers can ever get a rushing attack going, their numbers should shoot way up.
5. Anquan Boldin/Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Ray Rice is the star of this team and the defense sometimes gets the headlines (undeservedly so, lately), but the Boldin-Smith combo has “danger” written all over them. Boldin has been a terrific receiver for years. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler still averaging 14.6 yards per catch (31-453-1) at age 32. And while Smith is only fourth on the Ravens in catches (behind Dennis Pitta and Rice), he’s averaging an impressive 17.4 yards per reception (25-435-4) and has very explosive potential. For proof, just look at his six-catch, 127-yard, two-touchdown game against New England in Week 3. Smith is also just 23 years old, so he’s getting better. They could easily start inching up this list by the end of the year.
—By RALPH VACCHIANO