Not too long after last Sunday's game against the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills cornerbacks Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer had a discussion about their next opponents.
McGee and Greer have seen a number of good receivers this season, but they expect their toughest test yet against the Cincinnati Bengals' explosive pair of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
"They are one of the best tandems in the league right now," McGee said. "So it's going to be a big challenge for me and Jabari."
No receiving duo in the NFL has been as productive as Johnson and Houshmandzadeh this season. Johnson averages a league-best 104.4 receiving yards per game and 40 of his 44 catches have resulted in first downs. Houshmandzadeh is the league's leading receiver with 58 catches (for 629 yards). He has at least one touchdown in every game and his nine TDs are three more than the Bills' entire offense has scored.
Of course, Johnson and Houshmandzadeh are helped by the man who throws them the ball. Carson Palmer is one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks with a 64.3 completion percentage to go along with 1,922 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"He can make all the throws," Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said of Palmer. "He makes quick decisions, he's accurate on the intermediate throws and his deep balls are awesome. We don't see any weaknesses in his game."
If Palmer has a shortcoming it is his over-reliance on his top receivers. He has thrown 102 of 164 completions and 12 of his 14 touchdowns have gone to Johnson or Houshmandzadeh.
Even though everyone knows where Palmer is throwing the ball, few people have been able to stop the Bengals' passing game.
Johnson is a vertical threat with deceptive speed. He's also physical and at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds has the size and toughness to catch balls in traffic and the strength to take balls away from defensive backs.
Overshadowed by Johnson since their days at Oregon State, Houshmandzadeh is enjoying the kind of breakout season that could garner Pro Bowl consideration.
Though not as fast as Johnson, the 6-1, 199-pound Houshmandzadeh is a more polished route runner and has better hands. He also excels on crossing routes, where he is able to take advantage of his ability to run after the catch.
"Players around the league respect him as a threat," Greer said. "I'm sure he's not getting the media coverage Chad Johnson is getting, but he's a guy that we're focused on and we know can make a big play."
During his conference call with the Buffalo media, Johnson said he and Houshmandzadeh are ready to take on McGee and Greer.
"I'm telling you ahead of time. We're going to win those matchups," Johnson boldly predicted. "I'm looking for Mr. Greer and Mr. McGee to be at their best because we need it. T.J. and I need that competition to keep us going."
Johnson was effusive in his praise of McGee.
"I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but that [expletive] is good," Johnson said. "Hey, I don't mean to curse but to get my point across of what I'm seeing on film, man, he can play.
"Everybody can run in the NFL, but the key that makes the difference between a great DB and just another guy is the ability to transition and get in and out of your breaks with the receiver. That's what I'm seeing on film. He's on top of everybody that's running routes."
While Johnson is sincere in his respect for McGee and Greer, he admitted that his compliments had ulterior motives. Johnson is hoping to convince the Bills' coaches to put the cornerbacks in single coverage against him Sunday.
"That's very noble of him," Fewell said with a laugh. "I don't know if I want to be on Chad man to man. There are not too many people that play Chad man to man. But we'll take our shots. We'll play some man. I have confidence in Terrence and Jabari, and they're up to the challenge of playing those guys man to man. We're not afraid of them. He may get his wish."