Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.
In this space, I articulate positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Below, I highlight five of the NFL's most formidable tag teams.
NBA Jam was one of my favorite video games growing up. I spent way too much time playing it and, of course, I rocked the best duo in the game (don't @ me): the Orlando Magic's Scott Skiles and Shaquille O'Neal. Obviously, it was the arcade version of NBA Jam, because the home version didn't have Shaq. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that, while watching Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett play on Sunday, I couldn't help but scream "He's heating up!" as DangeRuss found Lockett for one of the pair's 13 connections (for 152 yards and two touchdowns) against the Buccaneers.
And it led me to this conclusion: Wilson and Lockett are the best quarterback-receiver tandem in the NFL right now. Not the best of all time. But if you were to boil down today's NFL to an NBA Jam-style video game, Wilson and Lockett would be the No. 1 duo. In fact, allow me to present my top five QB-receiver pairings in the league at this moment:
1) Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson is the best quarterback in the NFL right now. He should be the front-runner for NFL MVP, as well, which might seem easy to say on this day, since he's fresh off his third career game with at least five touchdown passes. But there's a lot more to it than that. He currently leads the NFL in touchdown passes (22) and passer rating (118.2). Did you know that in six of the last eight instances of a quarterback leading the NFL in both passing touchdowns and passer rating (outright), that quarterback has won the MVP award? It's true. So, BOOMSHAKALAKA! Sorry, that might have been extreme.
But what about Lockett? The fifth-year veteran is one of the most efficient pass catchers in the NFL right now. He's caught 59 of 72 targets this season. That's 82 percent of his targets! Only two wide receivers have a higher catch rate! And to think, some people doubted if he could thrive as a WR1 after the team lost Doug Baldwin. That question has been put to bed.
2) Drew Brees/Teddy Bridgewater and Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
The difference between the Orlando Magic in the arcade version of NBA Jam (which had Shaq) and the home version (which had Nick Anderson instead of Shaq) was huge. HUGE. And we've seen this play out in the NFL. Sometimes, a star receiver loses his starting quarterback, and he's unable to continue producing at a high level with the backup taking the snaps. But that wasn't the case this season for Thomas, who has played just as well with Teddy Bridgewater as he has with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees (the latter returned from his thumb injury in Week 8). Thomas currently has 73 receptions for 875 yards and four touchdowns. That would be a career year for a lot of receivers, but Thomas is only halfway through the season. He's on pace to break the single-season receptions record (143 by Marvin Harrison in 2002). And again, he's done this despite the fact that his QB1 was on the shelf for five-plus games.
3) Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Ah, man. It's going to be tough to talk about Watson for the rest of my life, considering he was the quarterback I wanted the Bears to draft in 2017. And really, Allen Robinson should be on this list right here with Watson as Bears teammates. (Sad to think the best quarterback Robinson has played with is Chase Daniel.) But we're not here to talk about that. Watson has 63 passing touchdowns in 32 career games (tied for the fourth most in such a span since 1950). He's the first player in NFL history with at least 18 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns through the first nine games of the season. And Hopkins is as solid as ever. He's had 12 consecutive games with at least five receptions, the second-longest active streak in the NFL. The longest active streak? It belongs to Michael Thomas (13), of course.
4) Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
This is a little bit like the situation in New Orleans with Brees/Bridgewater-Thomas, as Hill has continued to do work even with Matt Moore filling in for an injured Mahomes the last few weeks. This duo might rank much higher on the list if both Mahomes and Hill hadn't missed significant time this season (the receiver was out from Weeks 2 to 5 with a clavicle injury). But holding down the No. 4 spot over some other famed duos is a testament to just how productive they can be. I mean, Mahomes is the reigning MVP, and Hill can outrun anyone. What more do you need to know?
5) Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Jerry Rice was a guest on Good Morning Football on Tuesday and said that Julio Jones has the best yards-after-catch skills in the NFL. Who is going to argue with him? Certainly not me. Julio also quieted the "he never scores touchdowns" narrative early in the season, when he notched four TDs in the team's first three games. But he hasn't scored since Week 3, and dammit, those whispers are starting to heat up again. Ryan is coming off an ankle sprain that forced him to miss Week 8, but he's expected to return this week against the Saints. Hmm. Maybe I do have the Ryan-Jones connection too high on this list. But Julio is so great. They need to feed him the ball all the time, which, thankfully, is exactly what Matt Schaub did filling in for Ryan in Week 8, when Jones had a season-high 10 catches for 152 yards.
And while we're here, a couple Bay Area QB-TE connections deserve some shine: