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Johnson, Fitzgerald as good as it gets


Andre Johnson (80) led the NFL in catches and receiving yards last year; Larry Fitzgerald (11) led the NFC in both categories.

A week after taking on one of the league's top cornerbacks, Andre Johnson will face one of the NFL's best wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals.

Johnson won't line up against Fitzgerald as he did against Oakland Raiders corner Nnamdi Asomugha, but it'll be a rare treat to see two of the NFL's elite receivers in the same game.

Johnson and Fitzgerald combined for 211 receptions, 3,006 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. Johnson led the NFL in catches and yards; Fitzgerald led the NFC in both categories. Both sit atop most pundits' debates about who deserves to be called the best receiver in the NFL.

"I've got a unique position this week," Fitzgerald said in a conference call on Wednesday. "I might be the third-best (receiver) on the field."

Fitzgerald refers to Johnson and Anquan Boldin, his running mate who had 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns in 12 games last season. But it would be remiss to discount what Fitzgerald did in the 2008 playoffs. In four games, he set new NFL records for receptions (30), receiving yards (546) and receiving touchdowns (7) in a single postseason.

"You could just pretty much throw the ball up in the air to him and he always finds a way to come down with it," Johnson said. "I've said it before: I think he's probably the best in the league at doing that. He goes up and attacks the ball very well."

When asked about Johnson, Fitzgerald revealed an equal bit of professional admiration.

"I wish I had his speed; I would love to have that kind of speed," Fitzgerald said. "Andre, (even) when he's jogging it looks like he's running. He's so explosive.

"My game is a little different. I'm not as fast as him, I'm not as explosive, but I think we're similar in terms of the way that we attack the ball down the field. I think that we both are big-play guys that like to spread the field and stretch the field."

{QUOTE}Fitzgerald has spent plenty of time analyzing Johnson's game. He said that he has watched film of every single route that Johnson has run this season. Like many of the league's top receivers, Fitzgerald hones his craft by studying his most talented peers. Fitzgerald's short list of must-watch players includes Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Randy Moss.

"(Johnson) puts so much pressure on your team because he's so explosive off the line of scrimmage," Fitzgerald said. "He attacks the defense. He forces you to show your hand in what you're going to do immediately.

"And then he has such great timing with (Matt) Schaub that even when he's not even open, Schaub puts the balls in there tight for him and he just makes tremendous catches. He runs at full speed all the time, and he forces coverages to dictate their hand. That's why he makes so many plays down the field."

Johnson has heard endless questions about himself and Fitzgerald since the end of the 2008 season. On Wednesday, he bluntly was asked who he thought was better.

As humbly as he could, Johnson answered with honest confidence.

"I think he's a great player," Johnson said. "He's very talented. I've watched him play since he's been in college; I've played against him since college. I think he's very good at what he does.

"Who's better? I feel like I'm better. I don't know what else you expect me to say."

He doesn't have to say anything else. Fans and the media will make their own judgments in the Johnson/Fitzgerald debate after watching the two All-Pros play on Sunday.

Still, Johnson said that lining up on the opposite sideline as Fitzgerald doesn't give him any added motivation.

"He can't cover me, and I can't cover him," he said. "Like I always tell people, I'm a fan of the game and I like to see other receivers go out and do well - just not when they play against us.

"I'm going to go out and give it my best shot, I know he's going to give it his, and whoever has the most yards and the most catches, I'm pretty sure somebody will make a big deal out of it. All I care about is winning."

In other words, one game can't answer the question of who's better than whom. But that won't make it any less fun to watch.

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at ******* or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at *******.

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