Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The tribe has spoken. Well, actually only Amani Toomer has spoken. But people are definitely listening.
During a radio appearance on Thursday, the former New York Giants wide receiver boldly declared that Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys is the best quarterback in the NFC East. Yes, even better than his former teammate two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning.
So how convincing is Toomer's argument?
If we're talking Super Bowls, it's no contest. But here in the fantasy department, we never are.
If we look at this debate from a purely statistical vantage point, it's unclear who has the more impressive resume.
QB rating and completion percentage are two excellent ways to measure fantasy success and both are categories that Romo has excelled in. In 99 games, Romo has recorded a 96.9 career QB rating while completing passes at a rate of 64.5 percent. Manning's career passer rating is only 82.1 while his lifetime completion percentage sits at 58.4.
Romo has also been intercepted far less frequently than Manning during their careers. The Cowboys play-caller has thrown the ball to the opposing team 26 times over the past three seasons. Manning has been picked off an astounding 55 times in that same span, including a dismal 25-interception campaign two seasons ago.
While Romo may have the upper hand in accuracy and quarterback rating, Manning holds a definitive advantage over Romo in yards (227.9 per game for his career to just 210.4 ypg for Romo) and carries a slight edge in touchdown passes (1.53 touchdown throws per game compared to 1.51 for Romo).
Consistency is another huge factor in determining a player's fantasy worth and it's also something that Manning has struggled with throughout his career. His QB rating has fluctuated between 73.9 and 93.1 over his last five seasons. Romo has been much steadier: his passer rating has never been higher than 102.5 and it's never fallen below 91.4.
But before you jump on Amani Toomer's Tony Romo bandwagon first consider each player's health. Eli Manning hasn't missed a game for the Giants since 2004.
Romo on the other hand has been absent for a total of 13 games over the past four seasons. I'm not sure if Romo's style of play is more reckless than Manning's and makes him more susceptible to injuries, or if it's just bad luck. Whatever it is, history tells us that Manning will be on the field for every snap next season. That's never a guarantee when you're dealing with Romo.
Health issues aside, both players were very successful in fantasy last season, though Manning and Romo both reached their impressive accomplishments in different ways.
Romo's top target was tight end Jason Witten (79 catches, 942 yards, five touchdowns), who is more of a possession receiver who eats up small chunks of yards at a time. Manning's top receiving weapon last season was Victor Cruz (82 catches, 1,536 yards, nine TDs). He is one of the league's premier deep threats.
So while Manning was going for the home-run throw, possibly at the detriment of his completion percentage, Romo was piling on the completions but collecting fewer yards than Manning. That's why Manning finished the year with almost 800 more passing yards than Romo, but Romo won the completion percentage battle 66.3 to 61.
The fact that Manning was throwing more deep balls than Romo also had an effect on each player's interception totals. Manning was picked off 16 times last season to Romo's 10 interceptions. The difference in touchdown passes between the two players was negligible: Romo finished with 31 while Manning tallied 29.
So let's fast-forward to late August. You're on your laptop and you have papers piled all around you. It's your turn to pick and Manning and Romo are the two best quarterbacks left on the board: who are you taking?
Although Toomer raises an interesting debate, I'd still take Manning before Romo. Manning's penchant for throwing the ball to the wrong team has scared me away in the past, but last season he showed great improvement in that area by decreasing his interception total from 25 in 2010 to just 16 last season.
The Dallas receiving corps (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten) is talented, but I wouldn't put it ahead of New York's superstar duo of Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (76 catches, 1192 yards, seven touchdowns). Manning lost one of his top receivers, Mario Manningham (39 catches, 523 yards, four TDs) this offseason, but he wasn't as valuable as the wideout Romo lost in 2012. Laurent Robinson (54 catches, 858 yards, 11 TDs), now a Jacksonville Jaguar, accounted for over 35 percent of the Cowboys' touchdown receptions last season.
Plus, as a result of losing running back Brandon Jacobs to the 49ers (571 yards, seven touchdowns), the Giants will likely be forced to throw the ball more often next season, which can only help Manning and his fantasy owners.
And if there's still any doubt left in you Eli-haters just take a peek at Manning's statline from his last five games of the 2011 season. Manning completed 130 of his 196 passes over that stretch with 1,565 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception. That's a quarterback rating of 108.9. If Manning's late season dominance carries over into the 2012 regular season, there will be no stopping him.
The tribe has spoken. You're wrong, Amani. Eli is still the NFC East's top dog.
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