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Saturday, October 23

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Bears Mon Oct 13 2014

Marshall & Jeffery Prove They're the Premier Receiving Duo

Chicago BearsPrior to the season, the Bears ranked ninth in Bleacher Report's wide receiver depth chart list, primarily because they were ultra-thin, with unknown Marquess Wilson playing the slot, and a line of nobodies behind him. It was a legitimate concern that was magnified by Wilson's long-term injury, along with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery playing hurt in a few games this season.

When you're talking about the best receiving duos in football, however, the discussion typically comes down to Chicago and Atlanta. Julio Jones is probably the best out of the four, and Roddy White is easily fourth in the group. So would you rather have the Falcons tandem, or the Bears? The two guys from the Windy City answered that question with an exclamation point during yesterday's victory.

Both Jay Cutler (+6.6) and Matt Ryan (+5.0) played fantastic games, each ranking in the top five among quarterbacks in Week 6 according to Pro Football Focus. Ryan was under a considerable amount of pressure throughout the game due to his porous line, but still managed to get a lot of passes out on time and on target. The difference yesterday was the drops. Atlanta receivers muffed seven balls, including two each by Jones and White that cost the Falcons numerous first downs. Credit the Bears defense with being right there almost every time to deliver big hits on those drops, but the plays were there for the taking.

Marshall led the league in drops last season, and bobbled a couple of passes he eventually reeled in yesterday, but he makes up for it with his league-leading blocking from the wide receiver position, along with his incredible ability to break tackles and use his height and frame to maximize his catch radius.

Jeffery is no slouch in the blocking department either, ranking fourth in the NFL this season in run block grade (with Marshall lapping the field again). He compliments the possession abilities of Marshall with his game breaking speed on deep routes, smoke screens, and end around runs. He makes spectacular catches in key situations, and is top ten in the league in yards after catch.

Jones is fully recovered from his foot injury last season, and has returned to lead the league in catches while ranking third in yards. His four drops and two fumbles have hurt the Falcons pretty bad this season, but when you're one of the most targeted players in football, negative plays are bound to happen. He's still the same burner he was before his injury, and the only reason he's lacked a lot of long receptions this season is because Ryan doesn't have near enough time to throw.

After dealing with his own injuries last season, White has seen the most falloff. The soon-to-be 33-year-old ranks in the bottom 15 of receivers who have played more than 50 percent of their team's offensive snaps this season. He's dropped the same amount of passes as Jones while being targeted 30 fewer times, and averaging just 2.9 yards after the catch when he does hang on.

Ryan is the fifth ranked quarterback according to PFF, while Cutler is 15th, so the excuse of poor QB play is a non-starter for the Atlanta combination. The simple fact is that the Bears' receivers outplayed Jones and White yesterday, and have done so over the course of the season despite dealing with injuries and having a less accurate quarterback.

The Falcons possessed the best receiving duo in the NFL only a couple seasons ago, but it's pretty clear that the torch has been passed. Marshall and Jeffery are both complete players, and together are the best wide receiver tandem in the league.

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