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Is Stafford-to-Johnson the Best QB-WR Duo in the NFL?

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 30:  Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a first quarter touchdown with   Matthew Stafford #9 while playing the Buffalo Bills during a pre season game at Ford Field on August 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Melissa HeyboerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2012

I could make this the shortest article in Bleacher Report history and simply say “duh.” But that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun now would it?

Nevertheless, the answer is a resounding and unabashed yes.

It might seem unfair to peg two relatively young NFL stars as the most dynamic duo since Batman and Robin. Especially when you consider the fact that they’ve technically played just one full season of football together.

But that’s it. That’s the thing that makes them so superhuman. So special. In just one season of football, Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford looked about as veteran as you can get.

Together, the two combined for 1,681 yards on 96 catches, and 16 touchdowns. The only other tandem to out-catch them was Tom Brady and Wes Welker, who finished 2011 with 122 catches, but fell short of Stafford's and Johnson’s numbers in the other two categories.

There are other great duos in the NFL, but none quite as dynamic, quite as exciting, or quite as productive as Johnson and Stafford.

When you think of the other elite QBs in the league, not one of them has a No. 1 receiver with as much physical ability as Johnson.

Brady has Welker, Drew Brees has Marques Colston and Aaron Rodgers has Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings. None of those guys is on the same level as Johnson. You can argue that Brady and Welker are close, but when it comes to physicality, pure size and strength, the battle between him and Johnson isn’t even close.

And when you look at the other top receivers in the league, none of them has a Stafford-like arm in the pocket. Not Roddy White with Matt Ryan, not Andre Johnson with Matt Schaub, and certainly not Larry Fitzgerald with John Skelton.

So, let's talk about the Johnson-to-Stafford duo a little bit.

Well we already know Johnson's the best wide receiver in the game. I don’t know many people (Cris Carter’s no longer an exception) who would argue that fact.

And as far as Stafford is concerned? He’s quickly climbing the ranks of the NFL's elite.

His potential is irreproachable. Sure he’s struggled to stay healthy in the past, but you simply can’t ignore the fact that in his first full season as an NFL quarterback, he threw for more than 5,000 yards, joining the likes of Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Dan Marino.

You can certainly argue that Johnson makes Stafford look good. But you can also argue that Johnson’s career year happening during Stafford’s first full healthy season isn’t a fluke. They make each other look good, they compliment each other equally, and and it’s thanks in large part to the trust the two obviously share.

How else can you explain Stafford throwing up passes 40 yards downfield while Johnson’s in triple coverage? You can't. Stafford is simply confident that Johnson will be the guy to come down with the ball every time. They have an unspoken communication on the field. And it works. Well. Really well.

It also helps that Stafford and Johnson appear to have been cut from the same piece of cloth. They both have obvious physical prowess. Johnson is 6’5" and 236 pounds. For lack of a better word, he’s a beast.

Stafford is no different. While he might not be the same physical specimen that Johnson is, his arm is deadly accurate and he throws a football harder than some pitchers I’ve seen. 

But that’s the easy part. The God-given talent, the work-your-butt-off-everyday to improve part. The hard part is what most other athletes lack, but what Johnson and Stafford both have: trust in each other, confidence in their abilities, leadership among teammates and maybe most importantly, common sense intelligence on the field.

They are smart. They are aware. And they know their positions inside and out.

When you marry physical talent with intelligence and mental stability, it’s pretty much impossible to stop.

And the best news is this: They are just scratching the surface.

The future of this QB-WR combo is up to them. If they can stay healthy, there’s little doubt in anyone’s minds that they will eventually be named among other all-time great duos. The Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison or Joe Montana/Steve Young-Jerry Rice's of the world.

They may not be there just yet. But I think we can all agree that in the NFL today, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are certainly the highest standard.

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