Analysis

Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers boast NFL's best triplets

Troy, Emmitt & Michael.

What Kleenex is to facial tissues, what Band-Aids are to adhesive bandages, the Triplets are to pro football's skill-position combos.

Jimmy (& Barry) & Jerry's triple-crowned Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s are memorable for a lot of reasons, but -- two decades later -- the aforementioned triumvirate in the blue-starred silver hats (and gold jackets) remains the gold standard among NFL quarterback/running back/receiver trios.

That's not to say they're without challengers to their triplet crown. Now more than ever -- thanks to spread offenses, QBs with sprinters' speed and all those pro-offense rule changes -- you can watch talented trios tormenting NFL defenses all over your flatscreen, smartphone or iPad on Sundays.

So who's got the best set of triplets in 2014? Who's got the worst? I'm glad I asked ...

If we would've compiled these rankings a week ago, this trio would not have held the top spot. ... But after Sunday, the Packers' stars are hereby R-E-D-E-E-M-E-D (and Aaron Rodgers is still the B-E-S-T).

Good news: All of these players rank in the top six at their respective positions. Bad news: None of these players have been productive enough after halftime this year.

Ball is the clear weak link here. Maybe we should replace him with Julius Thomas or Manny Sanders? Nah, Peyton's already had enough rules changed to benefit him.

With a tip of the cap to that dominant O-line, this trio suddenly seems like it can't be stopped ... except by injury.

I think  know the ever-vigilant 12s will feel slighted on behalf of their conquering heroes, but fair's fair: These three have played together in just six games.

The Lions' 3-1 start is owed more to the defense than (what should be) a week-in, week-out juggernaut, but a trio that includes Megatron can only drop so low.

Forte broke through on Sunday ... while the Bears' passing attack fell apart in the second half against Green Bay's improved D. I still trust Marc Trestman will get the balance right over the long haul.

8) New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, (INSERT RB HERE) & Jimmy Graham

OK, I kinda cheated here. In Khiry Robinson, Mark Ingram and the perennially underrated Pierre Thomas, New Orleans has one of the best collections of RBs around. The QB and tight end (or is he a wide receiver?) aren't bad, either.

The Falcons' soft O-line lets 'em down against more rugged defenses, but this trio holds its own in any free-form shootout.

Fear not, Shady supporters: The NFL's wiggliest runner will get rolling once all those injured Eagles linemen get up off the turf and start blocking for him. Right tackle Lane Johnson's return this week will benefit all three of Philly's best skill-position players.

No question marks about Green, and Bernard's preference to steer clear of running between the tackles is offset by the ample Jeremy Hill. With one pick over three games, Dalton's trending in a much better direction. (The guy threw 20 of 'em last season.)

So long as the Niners remember to utilize the unique gifts of Kap -- like they did on that third-and-13 (!!!) QB sweep vs. Philly -- and continue to hammer defenses with Gore (and his understudy, Carlos Hyde), Jim Harbaugh (or his short-term replacement?) will thrive offensively.

My preseason pick of the Chargers to win the AFC West tells you I like the key pieces of this team. As good a job as Rivers has done spreading the ball around to all his pass catchers, Allen remains his favorite target. Donald Brown serves as the RB equivalent of a game manager for now, but the return of a healthy Mathews might make the Bolts not just division champs, but AFC favorites in January.

Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton might be the only human left who thinks Trent Richardson is a better option than Bradshaw. But the running back is window dressing here, anyway. Four games in, Luck is on pace to challenge Peyton Manning's insane numbers from last year -- aided, of course, by a future Hall of Famer in Wayne.

With all due respect to Steve Smith Senior, underclassmen Cam & Kelvin have the look of a couple that's gonna love growing old together.

Count me among those who still believe in Brady ... but the ongoing attrition of talent at the skill positions has left Tom with little help. A good start to turning things around would be getting Gronk back to full speed.

Bowe hasn't held up his end of the bargain for years now, but -- even operating behind a crummy O-line this year -- the reinvented Smith is having another nice campaign, while Charles keeps proving himself to be a top-three RB in the league. (Maybe we oughta swap out Bowe for Travis Kelce?)

18) Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, ever-changing RB & Steve Smith

The Flacco-to-Smith connection has been icing all comers in 2014. With Ray Rice gone, Pierce was the go-to at RB, but Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro are changing that.

Whether Palmer or capable backup Drew Stanton is under center, Bruce Arians seems to get results. Arians' offseason forecasting on Ellington might've been a tad aggressive, but the kid from Clemson is for real -- as is the passing of the torch from Larry Fitzgerald to Floyd, a third-year pro from Notre Dame.

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I know, I know, Giants fans: Eli beat Tom twice in the Super Bowl. You should know Brady is still much better, given a larger sample size. Meantime, Cruz has proven to be one of the steadier producers at his position over the past three years.

DeSean Jackson is splashy, but Garcon is still the top target in D.C. Now in Year 3 of his career, Morris continues to put up numbers, no matter who else is in the huddle. (But for the record, the team would be better served long-term with Robert Griffin III under center.)

Over the years, Orton's been an uneven performer who just plain doesn't complete enough of his passes. That said, these Bills have more dynamic playmakers than he's played with in the past (not to mention one of the better Ds in the league). If Watkins and Spiller can provide a few splash plays per week, Buffalo has a legitimate shot at the AFC East. Not next year. Now.

As indispensable as J.J. Watt is, Foster might be more critical to the Texans' success. Since the start of last season, Houston has lost the nine games Foster has missed -- while they've won five of the games he started. Fitzpatrick isn't anything special, but Johnson and rising sophomore DeAndre Hopkins are.

Tannehill saved his spot on the first team with his performance in London, but the combo of Moreno -- who's been out since suffering a Week 2 elbow injury -- and Wallace feels like nothing more than middle of the pack.

It's official: Rookies Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and -- as of Monday night -- Jimmy Garoppolo have all taken more snaps than Johnny Manziel. So far, that hasn't been a bad thing for the Browns, whose already-rugged running game will be enhanced by the electric Gordon's return in November.

Lovie Smith needs to come to his senses and anoint Glennon his starter for the rest of the season. Jackson, who's capable of dominating, doesn't produce consistently enough to rank among the best WRs (but has put up better numbers since getting to Tampa). Outside of the two-game stretch that had fantasy owners swooning in 2012, Martin has done very little.

Cynics thought the Jets needed something more than Decker as their No. 1 receiver. Now it feels like Decker's the one who deserves more.

It was one thing for Wally Pipp to lose his job to future Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig. It's quite another thing when a would-be franchise QB gets outplayed by Clipboard Jesus. Wright is one of the league's most anonymous high-end players, and Sankey appears headed to join him in that odd category.

Losing one of history's five or so best-ever RBs isn't a good thing for on-field success, but the injection of optimism Bridgewater and Patterson have provided is.

The undrafted Allen Hurns has been a pleasant surprise, but he will soon be supplanted by fellow rookie Lee, who's got Percy Harvin-type potential. And you know all the Blake-Bortles-is-Ben-Roethlisberger-2.0 talk? Among those who buy it: Ben Roethlisberger.

I'd like to crack wise about the Raiders, but y'know, this trio doesn't look that bad! (Matter of fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Carr and Jones have been the second-most-efficient QB-WR hookup.) Long-term, Carr's gonna be good if he gets some more help -- and I don't just mean inside the huddle.

The latest injury to Sam Bradford and the career flop (so far, at least) by Tavon Austin leaves nowhere to go but up for the Rams.

Follow Dave Dameshek on Twitter @Dameshek.

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