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Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Both Pats, Giants have potent weapons

By Jeremy Lundblad

The 10,168 combined passing yards between Tom Brady and Eli Manning is the most in Super Bowl history. That's largely due to the wealth of options each quarterback has at his disposal.

But which team has the more dynamic receiving weapons? Let's dive into some of the numbers.

* Rob Gronkowski (17 touchdown receptions and 1,327 yards) had the most productive season ever by a tight end. Couple that with Aaron Hernandez, and the Patriots set NFL records with 169 receptions and 2,237 yards out of their tight ends.

Those two have helped overshadow another prolific season from Wes Welker, who led the NFL with 122 receptions, one shy of his franchise record.

* Consider that the trio of Welker, Hernandez and Gronkowski combined for 3,806 receiving yards, most for any set of three teammates, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The next trio on that list? Welker, Gronkowski and Deion Branch (3,598 yards).

* The top trio on another team came from the Giants. Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard combined for 3,332 yards. In other words, New England's top receiving trio has 474 more yards than any other team's top three receivers.

* While the Patriots' combinations are tops in the league, the Giants can boast the top duo of wide receivers. Cruz and Nicks had nearly 300 more combined yards than the next highest duo of wide receivers (Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson). Throw in Mario Manningham, and the Giants also have the top trio.

* Of course, the Giants' weapons are far different, doing much of their damage outside the numbers. Nicks led the NFL with 771 yards outside the numbers, while Cruz was fourth with 747. That's an area of concern for a Patriots defense that allowed 8 yards per attempt outside the numbers.

* More than any other defense, the Patriots' D was susceptible to the big play. New England allowed 79 passing plays of 20 or more yards, 27 more than the league average. Cruz and Hicks could prove to be very difficult matchups. Only eight wide receivers had at least 14 catches on throws of 20 yards or more. Both Cruz and Nicks are on that list. Just how dangerous is Cruz? He had five touchdown catches of 65 yards or more. According to Elias, that's the second most in NFL history behind six by Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch in 1951.