Stat your case: Better receivers, Eli/Peyton?
September, 13, 2013
By John Carr & Evan Kaplan | ESPN.com
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesThe Mannings can both throw it, but which has the better teammates for catching it?
The Manning brothers take center stage Sunday when the Denver Broncos visit the New York Giants.
Which of the two has the better receiving corps to work with in 2013? Read our debate and cast your vote.
The case for Eli
The combination of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, along with the emergence of Rueben Randle, gives Eli the best receiving corps in the family, and maybe the best in the NFL.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Eli Manning has thrown for the fifth-most yards in the NFL, and his ability to find Victor Cruz for big plays is a major reason for his success. Cruz has eight touchdowns of at least 50 yards in the last three seasons, two more than the next closest receiver in the league.
While Cruz excels with big plays, his ability to put pressure on defenses from the slot position makes him a tough cover. Wes Welker is widely regarded as the best slot receiver in the NFL, but Cruz has six more touchdowns when lined up in the slot since the start of the 2011 season.
Hakeem Nicks was once Eli’s go-to-guy, but injuries have hampered him in the last few seasons. He caught 18 touchdowns between the start of the 2010 season and the end of 2011, tied for the fifth most in the league.
After catching a career-low three touchdowns in 2012, Nicks had 114 receiving yards in Week 1, his most since Week 2 of last season. His 22.8 yards per reception against the Cowboys was tied for the highest in his career, minimum five receptions.
The final reason why Eli has the better receivers is the emergence of Rueben Randle. He had one touchdown catch in his first 15 career games, but caught two in Week 16 last season and had his first career 100-yard receiving game in Week 1 this year.
Eli knows Randle can be the big-play threat to compliment Cruz and Nicks; 22 of Randle’s 38 career targets have come on throws of 10 or yards downfield.
The case for Peyton
Peyton Manning may have the best receiving corps in the league, let alone compared to Eli’s.
With the offseason acquisition of Wes Welker, Peyton has three receivers coming off of 1,000-yard seasons: Demaryius Thomas (1,434), Eric Decker (1,064) and Welker (1,354).
The last team to start a season with three receivers who had over 1,000 yards in the previous season was the 2009 Arizona Cardinals.
With his ability to rack up yards after the catch, Welker may end up being the big-play catalyst for the Broncos this season. His 4,098 yards after the catch is the most for any player since he joined the league in 2004 and he has the five highest single-season totals in yards after the catch since the beginning of 2001.
Last season, his 669 total yards after the catch were just ahead of his new teammate Thomas, who was second among receivers with 543.
Last season the Peyton-to-Demaryius combo was deadly on the deep ball. Peyton hit Thomas 11 times on balls thrown 25 yards or more downfield, tied with Drew Brees and Lance Moore for the most in the league.
Thomas was also one of three Broncos players to catch two touchdown passes from Peyton on the opening night of the season, along with Welker and Julius Thomas. According to Elias, it’s only the second time in NFL history that three teammates have each had two touchdown receptions in the same game.
There’s also Eric Decker, who has been a stalwart for the Denver receiving corps since joining the team in 2010. Decker’s 13 receiving touchdowns last season were second only to James Jones’ 14 among wide receivers, and were the most by a Broncos player in a single season since the beginning of 2001.