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Comparing the receivers for the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.
Before last season's NFC Wild Card game and during this past offseason, Atlanta Falcons' wide receiver Roddy White enjoyed taking some jabs at New York Giants' receiver Victor Cruz. White said that Cruz is more of a slot receiver and, "big boys play the outside."
Why does White like to take jabs at Cruz so much? I don't know. That's up for one's opinion. However, White's barbs led me to use this week's spotlight to take a look at the two receiving corps. After all, White does like to boast about how much better the Falcons' receivers are than the Giants
Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan is having one of the best years of his career. Ryan has three different receivers that he's targeted this season with ease. Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez leads the team in catches with 81. He's also scored seven touchdowns and has collected 831 yards.
According to Pro Football Focus, Gonzalez surprisingly received the lowest grade in that NFC Wild card game (-3.5) against the Giants due to poor run blocking. He does lead all tight ends this season with +18.1 and has the most receptions in the slot with 47. Last week the Giants were able to shut down New Orleans Saints' tight end Jimmy Graham with Will Hill and Jacquian Williams, and are looking to repeat that this week.
The Giants have the Black Unicorn, Martellus Bennett, at tight end. He might not be a future HOF tight end, but Eli Manning has had no problem getting him the ball the last few weeks. He gained a season-high 82 yards receiving against the Washington Redskins Week 13 and has two touchdowns in the last two weeks. Bennett struggled some of the year with catch some of the easier passes Manning's thrown to him, but he's seem to pick up his game the last few weeks.
As far as wide receivers go, White and Julio Jones have been great this season. White has 77 receptions for a team-high 1,140 yards and Jones has 63 receptions for 997 yards. The Giants are still waiting to give news on starting cornerback Prince Amukamara, who suffered a hamstring injury late in last Sunday's game. Losing Amukamara for Sunday could be vital as the secondary has struggled a lot this season. White has also been struggling with a knee injury and has not practiced this week, which is a vital situation for the Falcons.
Giants' wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has been battling a number of injuries this season. He had a broken foot in the offseason and a swelling knee during the the regular season. Nicks, however, has held his own this season and is starting to look like the Nicks we know well the last few weeks. Last week against the Saints he had 67 yards and a touchdown and has two touchdowns in the last three weeks.
This season appears at first to be not as good as last for Cruz, but he still does have 1,004 yards and nine touchdowns. He had all of nine touchdowns last season and there's still three more weeks left this year. The biggest difference for Cruz is that he averaged 18.7 yards per catch last season, but that numbers is down to 13.2 this season. White might have the better stats throughout the season, but Cruz has come around the last few weeks and is starting to make big yardage plays. Cruz is also healthy, unlike White.
This morning I heard on SportsCenter from Antonio Pierce that the Falcons have an advantage Sunday because they're at home and are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Carolina Panthers. However, I think there will be only one game on their minds and it's that NFC Wild Card game in January. I think both teams match up really well and it will be a battle from start to finish.
-- You can follow Kelsey O'Donnell on Twitter @KelsODonnell