Ranking the eight wide receiver duos remaining in the NFL playoffs

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Ranking top eight wide receiver duos remaining in NFL playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Star receivers are in abundance as the NFL playoffs wind down.

Eight teams are still fighting on as the divisional round begins this weekend, and in a playoff setting defined by the slimmest of margins, plenty of eyes will track the wideouts on the field.

Players like Justin Jefferson, Keenan Allen and Jaylen Waddle suffered disappointing exits in the wild card round and won’t grace the field anymore this season, but there are still countless receivers who will command attention with a conference championship ticket on the line.

Let’s rank the top wide receiver duos for the eight remaining teams in the NFL playoffs: 

8. Darius Slayton, Richie JamesNew York Giants

Danny Dimes has the most bizarre wideout situation of any remaining QB. That’s because the Giants’ receiver room has been embroiled in chaos all season. 

Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson were each lost early in the year due to respective injuries, and Kenny Golladay is still not living up to the four-year, $72 million contract he inked in 2021. 

The combination of those elements has thrusted Darius Slayton and Richie James Jr. into a bigger spotlight than they had imagined, while Isaiah Hodgins now finds himself playing a vital role after a strong playoff debut against Minnesota. 

Jones isn’t known as a slinging-profile quarterback, but if the scenario emerges in which New York must pass its way to victory, the lack of star talent at his disposal may be the margins the G-Men fall by.

7. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-ScantlingKansas City Chiefs

No Tyreek Hill, no problem – at least for now. It’s strange to have the AFC’s No. 1 seed so low in a ranking of talent at a skill position, but Kansas City is going against the trend – and not just because they have two hyphenated-named wideouts. 

After Hill’s departure to Miami, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling came in to fill the void. They’ve done just that, but not at the scale Hill weighed. Tight end Travis Kelce and running back Jerrick McKinnon play crucial roles in the Chiefs’ passing offense led by Patrick Mahomes, so it’s not totally on Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling that their production doesn’t compare to some of the previous names mentioned. 

Ultimately, Mahomes is the difference maker for Kansas City that could see it reach the Super Bowl again, so it’ll be interesting to see how this placement ages.

6. CeeDee Lamb, Michael GallupDallas Cowboys

The Cowboys and Chiefs could be seen as a toss-up, but Dallas, which has CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup as the two premier names, got the edge.

Lamb is the best receiver among the Cowboys and Chiefs, thus why Dallas came in where it did. The Oklahoma product posted his career-best campaign – 107 catches, 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns – and is the team’s ultimate wideout threat, with tight end Dalton Schultz being their second-best player in receiving yards.

Michael Gallup is the second wideout, and perhaps would’ve taken that position from Schultz had he appeared in a few more games, but he’s failed to improve upon a promising sophomore season and suffered a torn ACL last January that has further hindered him. Dak Prescott will need all the weapons he can get against San Francisco, and it will start with Gallup and Co. helping out Lamb.

5. Christian Kirk, Zay JonesJacksonville Jaguars

You wouldn’t think of this duo as among one of the NFL’s best in the playoffs, but Christian Kirk and Zay Jones have mastered the under-the-radar role all season. 

Kirk had a career-best regular season with 84 catches, 1,108 yards and eight touchdowns, giving Trevor Lawrence a legitimate No. 1 option. Jones also had his best year with 82 catches, 823 yards and five touchdowns.

Both did their part in Jacksonville’s historic playoff comeback win, and they’ll need to perform even better on their trip to Kansas City to justify this spot on the list.

4. Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis – Buffalo Bills

Similar to Hurts, Josh Allen benefited a ton when star receivers supplemented him on offense, and it’s a key reason why his game continues to reach new heights.

Stefon Diggs is simply one of the best in the business and has been for multiple years, logging 108 catches, 1,429 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. He’ll give any team a chance to win as long as he’s present.

Then there’s the two versions of Gabe Davis: the amicable regular season version and the playoff beast. Bills fans have to rejoice anytime Davis is on the field in a playoff scenario – he usually hits the fifth gear and troubles defenses throughout the four quarters. He did it last year, and his outing against Miami in the wild card game bodes well going forward.

3. Deebo Samuel, Brandon AiyukSan Francisco 49ers

The 49ers just have a wealth of offensive weapons under head coach Kyle Shanahan, and it’s made the transition for “Mr. Irrelevant” Brock Purdy that much easier. 

Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Elijah Mitchell, Jauan Jennings and Kyle Juszczyk are some of the key targets, and that’s before getting into Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

Samuel, despite missing four games due to injury, is the pure definition of an all-around player. He’s a great pass catcher, runner with the ball, blocker, strong – you can keep going. Aiyuk just registered his first 1,000-yard season and is one of the most underrated route runners and catchers in the league. They provide the perfect balance for Purdy in their quest for the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl.

2. Ja’Marr Chase, Tee HigginsCincinnati Bengals

The Bengals really have three extraordinary wideouts to pair with star quarterback Joe Burrow: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.

Chase and Higgins are the main duo here, though, as both racked up over 1,000 receiving yards for the second consecutive season. Chase’s talents just continue to blow away expectations. He ended the campaign as Cincinnati’s top receiver in yards, catches and targets despite playing just 12 games due to injury.

Those two were a special tandem that helped the Bengals roar to the Super Bowl last February, and they’ll need to replicate those types of performances if they want a shot at revenge this time around. 

1. A.J. Brown, DeVonta SmithPhiladelphia Eagles

Jalen Hurts’ ascension with the Eagles can be correlated, though not completely, with the presence of two elite wideouts: A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

Brown, coming over via trade from the Tennessee Titans, posted a career year that included 1,496 receiving yards, four shy of the 1,500 mark. He hauled in 11 touchdowns, too. Smith improved in his sophomore campaign as well, going for 1,196 yards on a team-high 95 receptions, proving they’re a burdensome pairing to slow down for opposing defenses.

If Philadelphia is to recreate something special, Brown and Smith may just provide the extra cheese to its steak.