Cowboys @ Lions: Calvin Johnson & Dez Bryant Set For Showdown In Motown

Dez Bryant goes to Detroit looking to cement his status as "Optimus Prime" - Ronald Martinez

You knew it was coming, with all the hype about Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant; naturally BTB has to weigh in on the debate.

"I believe I can do whatever he can do. I think it's just a pride thing. When it comes to football, just being on the field, it's a mindset and having a mentality. I honestly believe when I'm there, I'll be feeling like there's nothing I can't do. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I'm going to do it. I always feel like there's more. I think that's just a mindset you're supposed to have." - Dez Bryant on Calvin Johnson

Dez Bryant certainly does not lack confidence in his abilities. On paper, this season the pair certainly seem to be an equal match. Right now Johnson is averaging 82 yards per game; Bryant comes in right behind him with 81.3. Both men have six touchdowns on the season and each has five catches of 20 yards or more. While Calvin Johnson does hold the NFL single season receiving record, this year Bryant is actually ahead of him in both total yards receiving and total catches: Dez has hauled in 42 balls for 569 yards while Megatron has 33 receptions for 492 yards. (Johnson has missed some time to knee and hamstring issues). Neither man actually holds a clear advantage over the other in this year's statistics. That is just another thing that helps to make this match up more intriguing.

Detroit Lions head Coach Jim Schwartz weighed in on the "controversy" during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Praising both receivers for their outstanding efforts this season, he also made sure to differentiate between the roles each plays in his team's overall offensive scheme.

"He’s one of the best receivers in the NFL, as is Calvin, and I think that’s about the only comparison that you need to make between those two guys. Every player is different. Every player has things that they do well and things they do well within the scheme and things like that. And we’re going to have our hands full getting Dez Bryant stopped and I’m sure Dallas is working really hard to find a way to get Calvin stopped." - Jim Schwartz

That is a point that Dez Bryant finds himself in total agreement with. As he told KESN-FM in Dallas, "Truth be told, I don't compare myself to nobody. I think Calvin's the best at what he [does]. I think I'm the best at what I do."

Of course, not everyone sees things that way. Johnson's teammate, Nate Burleson, is one of those who disagrees with Bryant's self assessment. He does not feel that Dez is quite to the level of a Calvin Johnson or Randy Moss (both men he has been teammates with) yet.

"Listen, I like Dez, I think he's one of the best receivers in the game right now. Very talented, fast, big, strong -- he possesses all the tools to possibly be as good as Calvin.

"But he's not Calvin Johnson. No way, no how. Sorry, Dez. Keep it real." - Nate Burleson

True to form Cowboys owner Jerry Jones chimed in with his take as well. Never shy about expressing himself, and perhaps also looking to publicly challenge Bryant, Jones was clear in his belief that Johnson is "the king of all things wide receiver related."

"I think that Johnson at Detroit has got to be the best receiver or best end target, if you want to put it like that, the best guy to go to right now in the league. Dez can aspire to be that and has a chance to be that." - Jerry Jones

Over the past few days, more than a little ink has been spilled in playing up the looming showdown. While Dez is clearly maturing into something special, it seems that he might still have a few things to learn, especially when it comes to providing "motivational material" for the other team. It is a good thing to believe that you are the best at what you do; it is an even better thing to keep that opinion to yourself, at least until after the game. Once you walk the walk, then you can talk the talk. Dez will learn that over time, but since he opened the can of worms (a can that we the fans would have opened anyhow), let's have at it. Head-to-head, who is better, Calvin Johnson or Dez Bryant?

While, to my mind anyhow, it is clear that Johnson is the current pinnacle of the league's top wide receivers, there is no reason to believe that, in the not so distant future, Dez Bryant has the potential to supplant Megatron at the summit. The numbers for Bryant's first three years support this statement. During their first three years in the league, Johnson was targeted more frequently than Bryant (382 to 313), yet each produced similar results in yardage. This is due to the fact that while Johnson averaged a hair over 8 yards per catch, Dez averaged almost 9.2. He was simply more efficient as a receiver. Dez also out performed Johnson in touchdown rates ( the percentage of receptions that resulted in a TD). Over the first three years of his career, Calvin Johnson scored on 10.9% of his receptions; Bryant on the other hand converted 13.5% of his catches into points. To sum up the comparison of the two outstanding performers we turn to Jonathan Bales over at the mothership.

Is Bryant a better receiver than Johnson right now? Probably not, but he’s been superior to Megatron through three years. You could argue that Bryant has benefited from a better supporting cast, which is true, but when you consider Bryant’s age and the dramatic disparity in the efficiency stats above, it’s not outlandish to argue that the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver could turn into the NFL’s No. 1 receiver as soon as this year. - Jonathan Bales; DallasCowboys.com

There you have it folks, my take on the Bryant-Johnson "controversy" that is set to take center stage in the build up for this week's game. I'm sure you all have some pretty strong opinions, so let's get this debate started, but keep in mind the "rules of the road" around here: keep it civil, attack the message and not the messenger, and avoid the four letter words. This can be an interesting debate, so let's have at it.

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