Super Bowl 2012: Is Cruz/Nicks or Gronk/Hernandez the Better Receiving Duo?

Matt SteinCorrespondent IIJanuary 29, 2012

Super Bowl 2012: Is Cruz/Nicks or Gronk/Hernandez the Better Receiving Duo?

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    The 2012 Super Bowl is only one week away. The New York Giants and New England Patriots will play in Super Bowl XLVI, and one of the best positions in this game is at the wide receiver/tight end.

    Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez all had extremely impressive individual seasons. But which receiving duo is actually better?

    Let's take an in-depth look at whether Cruz/Nicks or Gronk/Hernandez is the better receiving duo.

Statistics

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    While statistics don't paint the entire picture for receivers, it is a good place to start. 

    During the 2011 season, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz combined for 158 receptions, 2,728 yards and 16 touchdowns. On the other hand, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 169 receptions, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns.

    In the playoffs, Nicks and Cruz have totaled 35 receptions, 579 yards and four touchdowns in three games. Gronkowski and Hernandez have 26 receptions, 353 yards and four touchdowns in only two games.

    When comparing these two duos, the statistics are rather close in both the postseason and the regular season. What ultimately gives Gronkowski and Hernandez the advantage in this area is their ability to score touchdowns.

    Those two have combined for 28 touchdowns in the regular season and postseason, compared to 20 touchdowns for Cruz and Nicks. They've also done it in one less game than the New York Giants' receiving duo.

     

    Advantage: Gronk/Hernandez

Versatility

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    Another way to compare these two receiving duos is in the versatility that they bring to their respective teams.

    As talented as Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are way more versatile.

    Wait, let me rephrase that: Aaron Hernandez is way more versatile.

    What the New England Patriots are able to do because of Hernandez is just ridiculous. He brings such a uniqueness to the game that New England is able to line him up on the line as a natural tight end in the slot or in the backfield.

    When was the last time that a tight end was able to do that?

    Don't get me wrong, Cruz and Nicks bring a lot to the table, but Hernandez is too versatile to ignore.

     

    Advantage: Gronk/Hernandez

Big-Play Ability

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    Few players during the 2011 regular season and postseason have been able to make big plays like Victor Cruz has. He has this unique ability to make something out of nothing, as evidenced by his 18.7 yards per reception average during the regular season.

    Not only can Cruz make plays after the catch better than either Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez, but he can also make spectacular receptions that result in big gains.

    Hakeem Nicks is no slouch either. In fact, it would be safe that Nicks has more big-play ability than either Gronkowski or Hernandez.

    This is a huge advantage for the New York Giants and their receiving duo.

     

    Advantage: Cruz/Nicks

Creating Mismatches

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    To be honest, this category isn't even close.

    There is just simply no way to have a fair matchup when going up against Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

    They are too quick and talented at running routes for linebackers to stop them. They're too big and physical for cornerbacks or safeties to slow them down.

    While Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks may be able to create some mismatches against some secondaries, there isn't a defensive unit in the league that can slow down Gronkowski and Hernandez.

     

    Advantage: Gronk/Hernandez

Importance to Quarterback

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    There is no doubt that Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are important to Tom Brady. However, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are even more important.

    Part of the reason that this is true is how good Brady is. You see, Brady is going to produce no matter who he throws the ball to. He could have three chickens and a rooster to throw to, and he'd still find a way to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns.

    That's just how good he is.

    On the other hand, if Eli Manning didn't have Cruz or Nicks, he would be in a load of trouble. You'll often see Manning get into trouble in the pocket and instantly look in the direction of his top two receivers.

    Even if they aren't open, he'll throw them the ball, and they'll somehow come down with the reception. Manning depends greatly on Nicks and Cruz. Even though Brady depends on Hernandez and Gronkowski, they aren't quite as important.

     

    Advantage: Cruz/Nicks

Final Analysis

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    With a final score of 3-2, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have proven to be a better receiving duo than Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

    There is no doubting that Cruz and Nicks are two of the better receivers in the NFL and one of the best receiving duos in the league, but Gronkowski and Hernandez are simply better.

    What really pushed them over the edge is their versatility and their ability to create mismatches against any opponent. Having two players that are so difficult to cover on their roster is a huge advantage for the New England Patriots.

    Look for all four of these players to be targeted early and often during Super Bowl XLVI.

    It's likely that the receiving duo that has the better game will help lead their team to victory.