In order to win consistently and become perennial Super Bowl contenders in the National Football League (cue Mark Schlereth voice), everything is built around one thing: defense.
Sure, points are great. Everyone loves highlight reel runs, passes, and catches. But at the end of the game, if you're not getting stops, you're not winning games.
The list of Super Bowl champions backs this up. Look at our recent winners:
—New Orleans: known for their offense, but held Peyton Manning & Co. to 17 points and used a late-game INT for TD to seal the deal.
—Pittsburgh: ever since the '70s they've been known for phenomenal defense.
—Indianapolis: like the Saints, more recognized for their offense, but it was the play of Dwight Freeney and the defense that put them over the top.
—New England: always made big defensive plays and got stops when necessary.
—Tampa Bay: one of the best defensive units in the league in '02.
—Baltimore: the Ravens offense could have sat on the sidelines during the entire '01 Super Bowl and they still probably would have won.
You get the picture. And every great defense is anchored with a three or four lineman up front that stuff the run gaps, put pressure on the quarterback, and force turnovers at the most opportune times. Not surprisingly, a team like the Chicago Bears is back in the playoff mix this year because they've gotten renewed play from their front four.
So which defensive lines are playing the best right now and which are woefully inadequate? Let's do a quick run through of all 32 units...