Super Bowl 2012: Which Group of Receivers Is Better, Giants or Patriots?

Dan Vasta@CI_StatsGuruSenior Writer IIIJanuary 27, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22:  (L-R) Mario Manningham #82, Hakeem Nicks #88 and Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants walk back ot the sideline in the fourth quarter after Manningham scored a 17-yard touchdown against the af during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The countdown has already begun for Super Bowl XLVI between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.

The Giants, of course, won Super Bowl XLII back in 2008 (17-14), which ended the legendary undefeated season of the Patriots.

Tom Brady had the most passing touchdowns in a season (50) and Randy Moss had the most receiving TDs (23), yet the Giants defense made the Pats offense look ordinary.

There are several factors as to why both of these teams are back at it once again, but let us talk about nearly every matchup there is that will determine your Super Bowl XLVI winner.

I will break down a different matchup every day leading up to what many believe is the best sports day of the entire year.

After talking about the Giants' chances to run the ball against the Patriots run defense, the fun is starting to begin.

Both teams possess arguably the most explosive and talented set of receivers/tight ends in the NFL.

So, which group of stars is better?

The New York Giants are led by Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, compared to New England's Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez.

A lot of this may depend on the health of Gronk's high ankle sprain, but this is the Super Bowl we are talking about and barring anything drastic, we will see all the stars on the field in nine days.

"Gronk" is considered the brightest star in this game, as he hauled in 90 passes for 1,327 yards and an NFL-high (among receivers/tight ends) 17 touchdowns (18 total) this season.

The Giants' top target throughout the regular season was Victor Cruz, who stretched the field for 1,536 yards on 82 receptions and nine touchdowns.

The "salsa dance" machine man himself can turn a short catch into a touchdown that goes the distance.

His teammate Hakeem Nicks has gone bonkers in the postseason (18 catches for 335 yards and four TDs), but he was consistent when he was on the field during the regular season. Nicks had 76 receptions for 1,192 yards and seven TDs, but his big paws have given opponents' nightmares.

Mario Manningham has stepped up considerably in the postseason as the Giants' third receiver, since he had just four touchdowns in the regular season.

He has posted a touchdown in each of the playoff games and will likely be counted against a Patriots secondary that ranks second to last in the NFL, allowing 293.9 yards per game.

In fact, Manningham has already spoken his mind on how he feels being matched up against Julian Edelman, and the Giants had better expose the Patriots secondary if they expect to have any chance of walking out victorious.

Speaking of nightmares, Wes Welker has quietly been the most consistent receiver in the NFL for the past few seasons.

Welker once again dominated the slot position, hauling in 100-plus (122) for the fourth time out of the last five seasons. He had a career-high 1,569 yards on top of a career-high nine touchdowns.

Throw in Aaron Hernandez with his ability to tote the rock out of the backfield as well as stretching the field all over the field, and the Patriots offense is worth the hype.

Hernandez hauled in 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns, which are fantastic numbers for a third receiver. Hernandez has often went off this season because of the bracket coverage that "Gronk" and Welker have seen.

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  (L-R) Aaron Hernandez #81, Deion Branch #84 and Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots celebrate after Branch scored a 61-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos during their AFC Divisional
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Giants are not far behind the Pats in passing offenses, since second to fifth is a small drop-off (317-296) in the NFL.

However, the veteran leadership by Wes Welker and Deion Branch (Super Bowl XXXIX MVP) on top of the red zone ability by "Gronk" and Hernandez gives the slightest of edges to the Pats.

Slight Edge: Patriots