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It has been awhile since the NFL has seen a set of triplets like the Cowboys’ three hall of famers—Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. But there are some pretty good triplet trios in the NFL today. Here are my best triplet (quarterback-running back-wide receiver) combos:
1. Texans: Each of the Texans triplets has led the league at one point—Matt Schaub in passing yards; Arian Foster in rushing yards and Andre Johnson in receiving yards. Johnson and Foster are among the top three in the NFL at their positions, according to pro scouts I’ve talked with. And while Schaub is a few notches lower, he is an efficient quarterback who operates the system well and gets the ball in the hands of playmakers. That makes the Texans triplets very difficult to defend.
ICONCarolina has more than just Cam Newton on the offensive side of the ball.
2. Panthers: They actually are more like quads because they have the two-headed running back combination of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Either probably could be among the league leaders in rushing if not for the presence of the other. Receiver Steve Smith was rejuvenated last season and remains a matchup problem at the age of 33. And quarterback Cam Newton makes all of them better with his multidimensional play.
3. Bears: Unlike the others on this list, the Bears triplets are a new combination. Jay Cutler and Matt Forte have worked exceptionally well together, and now Brandon Marshall should complete the trio. Of course, Cutler and Marshall were part of another trio in Denver but they didn’t have the benefit of a running game like the one the Bears have. This triplet group has the potential to be as good as any in the league.
4. Eagles: This is the fastest, most elusive trio group and these triplets are particularly effective between the 20s. It starts with Michael Vick, who forces defenses to compromise by making sure he doesn’t take off running. LeSean McCoy may be the best running back in space in the NFL. And DeSean Jackson has exceptional quickness and cutting ability.
5. Steelers: With a little more consistency from Rashard Mendenhall, this triplet group could be as good as any. The Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace combination is absolutely lethal. Mendenhall had only two 100 yard games last season, but he is a gifted back who is capable of being among the top runners in the league.
6. Falcons: This is an underrated group of triplets. Matt Ryan has improved in each of his four NFL seasons, and he’s not done getting better. Roddy White and Michael Turner help him move the chains and get the ball into the end zone, and the triplets should get plenty of help from Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
7. Chiefs: If Jamaal Charles and Matt Cassel can return to 2010 form, when Charles averaged 6.4 yards per carry and Cassel had a passer rating of 93, the Chiefs can have quite the set of triplets. Dwayne Bowe is a big play receiver who can capitalize on defenses stacking the box.
8. Ravens: The Ravens might not have as dynamic a passing game as some of the teams on this list, but Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin usually make the plays they need to make. And Ray Rice is a top notch all-around running back.
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune
Follow Pompei on Twitter: @danpompei