USA TODAY Sports
Football's best front four belongs to the Bengals.
The Cincinnati Bengals possess a strong defense because they field the best four-man line in the NFL. They have stud pass-rushers on the outside in duo Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap.
However, it is the interior where the true strength of this group lies. Geno Atkins is an overwhelming inside pass-rusher. Atkins, Johnson and Dunlap combined for 30 sacks in 2012.
Domata Peko is the unsung hero of this quartet. The scrappy nose tackle is a tough, resourceful run defender and force opposite the center.
As if the Bengals did not already boast enough riches up front, Wallace Gilberry is a quality, productive reserve.
Runners-up: Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears
The Miami Dolphins have a terrific tackle tandem to supplement premier pass-rusher Cameron Wake. Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are tough to move in the middle.
Soliai is the classic hulking nose tackle. He closes rushing lanes and drives blockers into the backfield. Starks is a little more dynamic. He flashes good pass-rush skills through B-gaps and is still powerful enough to occupy multiple blockers.
Starks and Soliai help create one-on-one matchups for Wake on the outside. The former CFL standout does not even need the help, though. Wake crushes the edges of pass protection with strength, speed and leverage.
If rookie Dion Jordan can complement Wake's efforts from the other side, the Dolphins will rival the Bengals front four.
Like the Dolphins, the Chicago Bears are undermined only by the absence of a second dynamic starting end. Julius Peppers is still a destructive force on one side.
What makes the Bears front line so tough to handle is the emergence of tackle Henry Melton. Not even Atkins can match Melton's takeoff speed on the inside. His range and athleticism create consistent penetration. Next to Melton, nose tackle Stephen Paea gives the Bears a natural anchor and tough run-stuffer.