Is Eli Manning-to-Victor Cruz the Best Connection in the NFL?

Lou Rom@louromliveContributor ISeptember 21, 2012

September 16, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) runs past San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) after making a catch in the first quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE
Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

Joe Montana to Jerry Rice.

Zorn to Largent.

Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison.

In NFL history nothing is more fun to watch than a great quarterback and wide receiver tandem at work. And nothing gets a great debate going over which is the best.

And after last Sunday's performance in which the New York Giants' Eli Manning and Victor Cruz teamed up for 11 connections for 179 yards and three touchdowns, it may be time for this dynamic duo to enter the conversation.

No doubt, today's NFL boasts a handful of great quarterback/receiver combos, and this is our up to the minute, last time we checked, who's the best of all report on the whole lot.

Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson

Stafford and Megatron led the league in yards per game (105.1) and perhaps pure athleticism.

The duo also ranked second in touchdowns and led the Lions to their first playoff game since 1999.

All this while Stafford became the fifth quarterback in NFL history to rack up more than 5,000 yards in a season and Johnson broke records for sending opposing cornerbacks to the crazy house.

Stafford and Megatron are like peas in a pod, they go together like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, they're more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Well, you get the picture. They just plain rock.

Tom Brady to Wes Welker

The Brady to Welker tandem was interrupted by injuries twice in the last five years, first by Brady then by Welker.

Still, ignore the 2008 and 2010 campaigns, and the duo has paired up for  357 receptions in three years—an astonishing 7.7 receptions per game.

Brady continuously finds Welker when he needs him, across the middle for a long first-down pass, off the screen, quick flares out to the sideline as a second option.

And Welker, sans his Super Bowl XLVI drop, is almost always there—fighting for the ball, coming back to the rare under-thrown pass, getting separation at that critical time.

Eli Manning to Victor Cruz

It's hard to believe that Manning and Cruz have barely one season together given the magic they've managed to weave in that short time.

In only seven starts, Cruz hauled in 82 catches for 1,536 yards (third in NFL), nine touchdowns, and an amazing 18.7 yards per catch.

His YPC clip was No. 1 in the league for players with 45 or more receptions

It also did not hurt that Manning and Cruz helped the Giants win their second Super Bowl in five years.

So, Who's No. 1 or The Last Word

On raw athletic talent alone, you have to put Stafford and Johnson at the top of the list. Brady and Welker get the nod for consistency. And Manning and Cruz for their knack for the big, come-from-behind catch.

But there can only be one No. 1, right?

First, to the Manning/Cruz combo. Here's a question: How can you be the No. 1 quarterback/receiver tandem in the NFL if you're not even the best tandem on your team?

Hakeem Nicks has averaged 1,000 yards over three season with Manning, at a 15.1 clip with 24 TDs over that time, stats that many say mean he's the more potent weapon than Cruz. And Monday night, when Cruz had a chance to shine with Nicks out, he caught a pedestrian six catches for 42 yards.

Now to New England. The Brady/Welker tandem is the most reliable pairing in the NFL, but for the most part it is unspectacular.

It reminds me of the Roger Staubach Cowboys: consistent, small ball, dunks and dinks, screens and fades, you know, zero to 60 in about the time it takes to make grits.

Stafford to Johnson is far away the best tandem in the league right now. Stafford's arm and his accuracy combined with Megatron's burner speed and octopus hands is an unparalleled pairing. Clearly, head and shoulders above the rest.

Honorable Mention:

Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace: These two are a workmanlike pair that are money when the game is on the line.

Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall: They have the talent and the offensive line to take this title next year.

Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson: Johnson is a beast, but Schaub does not have the chops to put these guys at the top.

Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson: Reliable, they make the big play, and could find the end zone in war zone.


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