The 2011 NFL season has been all about quarterbacks, but even the best passers need someone catching the ball on the other end. As marquee names like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers shine in the postseason, it’s easy to overlook the contributions of the wideouts getting open and making plays of their own in the passing game.
This trio of pass-catchers looks to be set for especially big performances in this weekend’s divisional matchups:
Victor Cruz, New York Giants
One of the biggest breakout stars of the year, Victor Cruz took advantage of injury woes in the New York receiving corps to go from zero career catches to 82 on the season. Cruz, who specializes in implausible juggling catches, will get plenty of opportunities against a shaky Green Bay pass defense tomorrow night.
When the two teams met in Week 13, Cruz didn’t score but he did rack up 119 yards on seven catches. Look for a big-play TD in a losing cause from the Giants’ highlight machine this weekend.
Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Running mate Lance Moore is out of action for today’s meeting with the 49ers, so Colston will get a bigger share than usual in the prolific New Orleans passing offense. Although he was only third on the roster in catches in the regular season—trailing Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles—Colston still racked up 1,143 yards and eight TDs.
With Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson likely to be occupied on TEs and backs, Colston will see plenty of single coverage. He’s well-equipped to take advantage, even against a stout San Francisco defense.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Tim Tebow’s favorite target, Eric Decker, has already been ruled out for tonight’s meeting with the Patriots. That puts the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Thomas, last week’s hero with an 80-yard TD catch to win the game in OT.
Against a New England secondary that’s battling injuries of its own and has played terribly even when healthy, Thomas will have ample opportunity for another sensational play or two. It’s unlikely to be enough to outscore Tom Brady, but don’t be surprised if Thomas puts on a show in a losing cause.