There are two things that I love to talk about: football and cars. Each brings about its own adrenaline rush, one with its raw power, speed and high price tag, the other with four wheels.
Defenses in the NFL are much like automobiles. There are the bottom-of-the-line, economic defenses which have no power, no top-end speed and get laughed at. Other defenses scare the crap out of you every time you see them and you cannot wait to feel the impact of their massive hitting and playmaking abilities booming through your surround-sound speaker system.
Let us take a look at how each NFL team's defense compares to an automobile whether good, bad or ugly.
The San Diego Chargers had one of the top defenses in the league last season. They allowed only 4,345 total yards against them and offenses averaged only 4.6 yards per play when facing them. Yet they somehow managed to allow a total of 32 TDs and kept themselves out of the playoffs.
A Dodge Viper is, in many ways, the same as the Chargers. It packs a ton of power, makes great noise but ends up being a disappointment when compared to other cars. A few upgrades to the Viper, via the Hennessey company, turns the car into a 1,000-hp beast that is both feared and respected on the road.
Maybe the Chargers, like the Dodge Viper, need a Hennessey upgrade; it appears to have made the Viper a real contender...
James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu are just three of the names associated with the Pittsburgh Steelers' powerful defense. The Steelers defense is sturdy and dependable, helping the team reach the playoffs for seven of the last 10 years. They pull most of the team's load and make up for the mediocre offense.
A Ford F350 is also sturdy and dependable. It does not have any finesse and does not look pretty but it gets the job done every time. What it lacks in speed it makes up for in raw power and torque.
The Steelers defense will continue to be the workhorse of the NFL and will, for many years, be Ford tough.
The New York Jets are quick, they have flashes of brilliance and they made it deep into the playoffs. Going into this season they will look to maintain their air of dominance in the AFC. They added DL Muhammad Wilkerson and DT Kenrick Ellis in hopes of becoming even more of a wrecking force on the field. With their added power in the front seven the Jets will make more of an impact on the field this year.
Likewise, Chevy's Camaro has bolstered itself with a new 6.2-liter, V8 that will pump out around 550 hp. The new Camaro is going to be scary-fast and is an improvement on something that was already taking over the market.
Chevy's new ZL1 comes with a bigger price tag than the base model as does the newly improved Jets defense. Hopefully both will impress and will be worth the money spent.
The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl two years ago; last year they were eliminated early in the playoffs. They are a team that relies heavily on the finesse of their offense and does what it can with its defense. They do not have many players who are "big-name" players but they still manage to get the job done. Their playoff appearance means that they have some power to them but their early exit suggests that they are still not quite at the top of their game.
Enter the Dodge Charger R/T. This car is a remake of the classic Charger which was a true American muscle car. The R/T version is not as powerful as its big brother, SRT-8 version but is slightly more powerful than the base version. It has some great low-end torque but in the long run it gets beat by the more powerful muscle cars.
New Orleans loves the Saints; America loves its muscle cars. The Saints need to up their game and add some horsepower to their defense if they want to hang with the big boys deep into the playoffs this season.
Green Bay has some serious weapons when it comes to defense. They also have deeply rooted tradition and history in the NFL. Their players bring power, speed and finesse to the field each time they play. They are capable of disrupting offenses almost at will and are well respected around the league.
The Shelby Cobra also has a great history. It too brings power, speed and finesse to any person who climbs behind the wheel. It turns heads and is known by any person who is a true "gearhead."
Both the Cobra and the Packers are seriously scary, well-tuned machines. One is synonymous with the name Carroll Shelby, the other with Earl "Curly" Lambeau.
When most people hear the name Miami Dolphins, the last thing that comes to mind is defense. Yet somehow the Dolphins managed to have the sixth-best defense in the league last season. Despite having a powerful defense the Dolphins still managed to finish the season with a measly seven wins.
The Tesla Roadster is a car that is most unsuspecting. It runs solely on electricity yet has a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds. However, its top speed is only 125 mph and it can only run for around 250 miles.
A Tesla Roadster, like the Dolphins, looks great on paper but ends up falling short of being a real contender. They both have great low-end torque but are easily beaten by cheaper competitors.
The New York Giants looked good last season, finishing with a 10-6 record but were kept out of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Eagles. They have solid defensive players who, although well known to fans of the team, are not in most households across America. Defensively, the Giants played a solid season and, with some help from the draft, could become a serious threat in the NFC East.
The Ford Mustang has also had a solid track record in America. It is as American as New York City and always seems to be beat out by the Chevrolet Corvette when it comes to American muscle. When the Mustang teams up with Shelby, though, it becomes a fire-breathing, asphalt-chewing machine capable of keeping up with its biggest contenders.
Mustangs are solid, reliable cars which are often upgraded to ensure better performance. The Giants have a solid, reliable defense which has been upgraded through the draft. Look for them to make a run for the playoffs this season.
When talking about the Minnesota Vikings defense one name comes to mind: Jared Allen. Besides that, most NFL fans probably could not name more than three other defensive players on the team. That does not matter though when you have one of the top 10 defenses in the league but still finish with more losses than wins. A team like this has the look of a great defense but lacks the power needed to punish most offenses.
Likewise, the Lotus Evora is a "pretty" sports car that lacks any serious horsepower. It takes almost five seconds for the car to reach 60 mph and has a maximum speed of 162 mph. In the class of sports cars, the Evora is a pretender more than a contender.
Add a "S" to the Evora and you have a 345-hp car capable of reaching 172 mph in a little more than 29 seconds. Maybe the Vikings need somebody to sew a "S" onto their chest and help their team reach the next level too.
"Da Bears" were a powerful defense last season, finishing with an 11-5 record and clinched the NFC North. Players like Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs were vocal and hard-hitting players who intimidated many QBs in the league. They shut down offenses, allowing only 286 total points against them, and walked into the playoffs. They played great and put on a great defensive show but ended up falling apart when it mattered most...in the conference championship.
The 1967 Shelby GT500 Fastback was made famous by Nicolas Cage in the movie Gone in 60 Seconds. He affectionately nicknamed the car "Eleanor" and was enamored with its beauty and raw power. However, at the end of the movie when he needed her the most, she started to fail him. She had been beaten and bruised beyond recognition. He was able to make it out alive but just barely; she, on the other hand, had to be totally restored.
Talk about Chicago and you are sure to end up talking about "Da Bears." Talk about cars and you are sure to end up talking about "Eleanor." Both have some serious power and are mean, and both broke down at the end of their run. Maybe the Bears can be restored; maybe Nicolas Cage can stop wrecking awesome cars...we can dream.
What is big, mean and likes to play dirty? If you said the Hummer you would be right. However, you could also say the Baltimore Ravens. Players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are known for hitting big and not giving a %#$* about if it was a legal hit or not. They play nasty and they win games. They have a ton of power and move offensive lines backwards.
The Hummer H1 was the civilian answer to the military workhorse. It had great torque and power, could get dirty and have fun doing it. It too did not care what you thought about it because it would just run your butt over.
The Ravens may play nasty but they are just as respected as the H1. Both of them turn heads, but one of them does so through big, nasty hits.
The Oakland Raiders like to build their team around one thing: speed. They want fast players who do not necessarily hit hard but can bring pressure through their mere presence all over the field. They are not a finesse team but they still manage to pull off a decent defense.
Audi, when they decided to pursue a super sports car, designed the R8. This car is crazy-fast, topping out at almost 200 mph. However, the car is also extremely uncomfortable. It rattles your teeth and will leave you wanting to see a chiropractor when you are done driving it.
Both the Raiders and Audi wanted to pursue speed. Neither one of them bothered to concern themselves with finesse or comfort. One of them is considered at the top of its class, the other is from Oakland.
Going into this season the Philadelphia Eagles were prepared to spend some serious cash in order to get the players they wanted. They landed the acclaimed CB Nnamdi Asomugha and snagged DE Jason Babin too. The Eagles were disappointed early in the playoffs last season and spent the necessary money to keep from being disappointed twice in a row. They now have power, speed and finesse in their defensive lineup.
The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport is the most expensive road-legal car in the world. It is also the fastest, reaching mind-boggling speeds near 270 mph. It accelerates so fast (0-60 in 2.5 seconds) that it is impossible to lean forward while pouring on the horsepower.
Both the Eagles and the Veyron are about the big money. The Eagles dropped the big dollars to get the best and owners of the Veyron did likewise. Perhaps the greatest question is, "Can the Eagles be good enough to earn the 'SS?'"
What do you get when you mix mediocre power with the feeling that you have been duped? In this case you get the San Francisco 49ers and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.
The 49ers had a defense good enough to be in the top half of the league. Overall, however, the team finished with a terrible 6-10 record and finished third in the NFC West. San Francisco has never been known for its defense but when you are in the top half of the league you should be able to produce better results.
Likewise, the Lancer Evo was supposed to be a super-sexy sports car for the younger crowd. What we got instead was a mediocre car with disappointing acceleration and sloppy-feeling shocks. What should have been a great mid-priced sports car turned out to be more of a "want-to-be" sports car.
Both the 49ers and the Evo are disappointing shadows of what they could have been. Mitsubishi has guaranteed improvements with its 2012 model. Can the 49ers do the same?
I'm not sure which was the bigger surprise of 2010: that Cadillac released an improved, bona-fide sports sedan or that the Kansas City Chiefs actually had a defense. Granted, the Chiefs were stomped by the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs but the fact remains that they did have a solid defense last season.
For a team on the edge of obscurity, that was a huge improvement. How huge? They went from 4-12 in 2009 to 10-6 last season!
Similarly, when Cadillac revealed the new CTS-V, I had to do a double-take. Was that really a Cadillac? The fastest production sedan on the road was being made by a company that is more often associated with class and style. The end result left me amazed—a two-door sedan that went from zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds and had 556 hp.
Both the newer, turbo-charged Cadillac CTS-V and the Kansas City Chiefs were surprises of last season. Cadillac has now released a coupe version of the CTS-V which is sportier and sleeker. Will the Chiefs do the same this season?
Cincinnati is a city that is dying a slow death in the heartland of America. Its team, on the other hand, has never really had a life to begin with. Granted, they are not the Browns, but finishing last in your division does not help your cause either. They have a middle-of-the-league defense but lack the necessary pieces to be a serious threat to anybody.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is the poor man's sports car. It comes in just under $28,000 and you get everything you pay for: mid-range speed, average acceleration and seating that ensures you are not going to do a cross-country drive. It is the sports car that never was.
Both Cincinnati and the Spyder lack any real identity. They each lack any real pizzazz and, as long as can be remembered, have always failed to impress.
The Atlanta Falcon's defense ranked 16th in the league. It was just good enough to support the stellar offense that they had but was otherwise lacking. Even with a player like CB Dunta Robinson the Falcons defense was just "existent." They had a good-looking defense that lacked the ability to make the big stops necessary to be a truly effective threat for opposing offenses.
The Dodge Magnum SRT is one of those cars that is just good enough to be considered a good car. However, trying to make a hot rod out of a station wagon is a big no-no. Sure, it looks nice and shiny and has great horsepower—but do soccer moms really need that much power?
Adding injury to insult, the Magnum was killed off in 2007 because of poor performance at the local dealerships. This season, if the Falcons defense does not improve, it too may end up lifeless.
Tampa Bay once had a powerful defense. It was a dominant force that carried it all the way to a Super Bowl victory, but that was almost 10 years ago. Now the Bucs have a mediocre defense that plays well enough to have a winning record but not good enough to claim a playoff spot.
The El Camino was once a "cool" car. It was half-car, half-truck and even came in a SS model. It was a hip ride that crossed the boundary between purpose and style. Now it is just a "classic" car that is driven by people who fail to let go of the past.
Both the Bucs and the El Camino were once en vogue. It was once cool to own an El Camino and it was once cool to be a Bucs fan. Now both will garner you odd stares and snickers.
What do the Carolina Panthers and the Toyota FJ Cruiser have in common? They both sucked last year and probably will not be much better this year.
The Panthers were so bad that they had minus-212 net points...ouch! They also finished with the worst record in the league by winning only two of their games all season. This year does not look much better for the Panthers. They have added only one defensive rookie to their roster and have done the most improvement to their offense. For a team that allowed so many points and 1st downs against them they are not looking like a much-improved team.
Toyota failed miserably with the FJ Cruiser. Car and Driver magazine and Consumer Report both rated the vehicle as one of the worst to own. The vehicle is large and clunky and, once the short-lived warranty expires, breaks down more often than it runs.
Toyota has kept the FJ Cruiser for the new model year and will look to fix its image. The Panthers, on the other hand, have not done so well to make the necessary improvements.
The St. Louis Rams are in a weak NFC West division and came really close to winning the division with their seven wins. It was their three losses in the division that kept them out of the playoffs and waiting for another season to roll around. The Rams defense has been a disappointment for the last few years and has made minimal improvements.
Pontiac attempted to become a part of the "affordable" sports car market with its Solstice. What consumers really got was a watered-down, no-frills sports car that leaves you wanting more. It has sloppy handling and accelerates like a family sedan. Sure, the sleek body and convertible top make it sporty but it continues to be at the bottom of the sports car rung.
Both the Solstice and the Rams need a major makeover. One needs more power, speed and attitude; the other simply needs better players.
The Indianapolis Colts have been reigning supreme in the AFC South for quite some time now. However, those great records come by the high-powered offense more than the mid-level defense. They managed to have positive net points but it was not because of the defense that allowed 24.2 points per game and had more than 800 penalty yards. The Colts defense is the yang of the offense's yin.
Cadillac broke the mold with the introduction of their Escalade. They brought luxury into the SUV market and made the big, gas-guzzling vehicles a status symbol. However, they also ripped the SUV away from its primary purpose of being a workhorse and turned into a sissified piece of bling with four wheels. They ruined the SUV and made what was once a man's vehicle a shadow of what it had once been.
Cadillac ruined the SUV like the Colts defense ruins the image of their offense. If it was not for the high power of Peyton Manning, the Colts would be a failure—much like the Escalade would be without the Cadillac name on it.
The Detroit Lions are a team that had apparently disappeared into oblivion. They were not in the playoffs, did not have a winning record and were not a serious threat in the NFL. However, the Lions added DT Ndamukong Suh and all of a sudden the defense came to life—albeit all too late. With this year's draft they added DT Nick Fairley (Auburn) who promises to be a great complement to Suh. Between these two players, opposing QBs should be more watchful of the Lions defense.
In 1969, AMC proved that it could contend with the big three automakers when it came to American muscle. Before this time, AMC was a run-of-the-mill, no-frills automaker who was still trying to find its place in the American market. The SC/Rambler had a 315-hp V8 engine that roared when the gas peddle was pressed. AMC created a new monster with the SC/Rambler and, from that year forward, became a household name in the U.S.
Both AMC and the Lions looked to recreate their image. AMC was successful by adding a ton of horsepower and the Lions are trying to replicate that success with manpower.
Cleveland has a problem. They lost their All-Star basketball player and, although they claim that they do, they do not have a real football team either.
The Cleveland Browns are proverbial losers. Last season they managed to finish better than their sister-city Bengals but by only one game. They finished the season with only five wins and allowed teams to rack up an average of 350 yards per game against them. Their fans are loyal but the fact of the matter is, the Cleveland Browns are a non-issue in the NFL.
Austin Healy and Rolls Royce once had a love child. It was deemed the Austin Healy 4000 although it was not truly an Austin nor a Rolls. Lovingly called "the car that never was," only three of these cars were ever made.
Both the Austin Healy 4000 and Cleveland Browns are mainly figments of our imagination. We like to believe that they exist but, in the long run, they fail to appear year in and year out.
For years the Dallas Cowboys have been known as "America's Team." If that is true, then America should be ashamed of itself. They finished with only six wins last season and tied with the Washington Redskins for dead last in the NFC East. They have players like DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman and Keith Brooking but still found themselves in the losing column more often than not.
The Toyota Camry is America's best-selling car. It is a family sedan with the basic accessories and add-ons that you would expect to find in most of today's cars. It is not a particularly fancy car, does not pack a ton of horsepower but it still manages to outsell all other cars.
Both the Camry and the Cowboys are baffling. The Camry is well built but has no frills, the Cowboys are well built but have a losing record and yet they both continue to be considered "the best." Eventually Cowboys fans will realize that they are...just another football team.
It is under-powered, has trouble getting up to speed and breaks down often...the other is the Ford Focus.
The Buffalo Bills finished last season with a horrendous minus-142 net points. They had four wins and even those wins looked more like a loss for the other team than a win for the Bills. Their players looked sluggish, communication seemed lacking and they could not finish games. Fans often left games early knowing that their team was, once again, going to lose their game.
Owners of a Ford Focus will tell you that you are better off avoiding this vehicle. It has had multiple ignition problems which, once fixed, leaves you $500 short and back in the shop when it breaks again.
Both the Bills and the Focus do two things for you—No. 1: They both take your money, giving nothing in return and No. 2: They both leave you with an empty feeling inside.
With players like Brandon Spikes, Devin McCourty and Jerod Mayo, you would expect the New England Patriots to have a decent defense. However, the Patriots are much like the Indianapolis Colts in that they would not find themselves in the win column so often if not for their elite QB. The Pats allowed an average of 367 yards per game and often struggled to prevent offenses from scoring against them. Sure, they have loads of talent on offense but their defense is rather lackluster.
You would expect the Lincoln Mark LT to be a great vehicle. It was stylish, powerful and fully loaded. However, in the long run, people saw it as it was—an overpriced truck. Like Cadillac, Lincoln attempted to recreate a vehicle that was made for working hard and getting dirty. Unlike Cadillac, the Mark LT quickly died off as people got tired of paying the luxury tax for a pickup.
Both the Patriots defense and the Mark LT are good-looking on the outside. However, once you get down to the nitty-gritty you realize that things are not as they are supposed to be. They are both overpriced and underperforming. At the end of the day, it is the finesse that wins for both of these.
In 2008, the Tennessee Titans were the AFC South champions, but the last two years they have fallen off the map. Their defense seems to lack the function to finish off opposing teams. They antagonize other players, drawing them into fist fights (Cortland Finnegan vs. Andre Johnson) but still get their butts kicked. They have done what they can to improve this season by adding depth through the draft and free agency.
Scion has, for the last few years, been considered a "youthful" automobile. Their hip designs and the ability to easily customize them has kept them trendy. But let us be clear on one thing...they are ugly. The new iQ Concept continues that ugly trend. Its front end looks like a ticked-off insect and its body looks like a wind-up toy rat.
Both the Titans and the iQ have an ugly recent past. Both of them have youth and energy on their side but only one of them will, in the end, continue to make an impact. Who that is, is yet to be determined.
How bad is it when you can have a losing record and still manage to win your division? That is what the Seattle Seahawks managed to do last season by holding off the St. Louis Rams in the NFC West. They allowed opponents to score 407 points against them and allowed them an average of 369 yards per game. Somehow they managed to finish with minus-97 net points and still win four games in their division.
The Honda Civic continues to be one of the most stolen vehicles in America. The 1994 model is the most stolen and the newer models are no exception. Thieves love these vehicles and insurance companies hate them.
Much like the Civic, the Seahawks are crime-related because they stole their division. With their poor defense they should have finished worse but because they are in a very weak division, they managed to get away with the goods.
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished second in the AFC South despite having minus-66 net points. Their defense was sloppy and disorganized most of the time and you see the frustration on players' faces when they could not shut down opposing offenses. At times they struggled to keep up and appeared to slow down when they knew they were beat. However, they still managed to come away with a winning record and broke even in games against division rivals.
The Ford Fiesta is considered one of the best subcompact cars for your money. Granted, its looks funny and has little horsepower, but it gets the job done.
Both the Fiesta and the Jaguars have good value. They both struggle to keep up over the long haul but they still manage to find a way to get it done at the end of the day.
Finishing dead last in the weakest division of the NFL is a shame, the Arizona Cardinals managed to do so with a better record than four other teams. The Cardinals defense is almost non-existent at times; players get beat in coverage almost every down.
In the draft the Cardinals went after players like Sam Acho, Patrick Peterson and David Carter in hopes of revitalizing the weak defense. It's one thing to get laughed at for having a weak defense; it's another thing altogether to have a defense that is so capable yet falls short of becoming what it could be.
Mazda decided to build a fun, youthful car and they came up with the Mazda Miata. The only problem with this car is that any guy who attempts to drive one is mocked, his man card is instantly revoked and he is forced to walk everywhere (just kidding guys). The Miata is an entry-level sports car that is supposed to be cheap and fun...if you are a girl.
Both the Cardinals and Miata have one thing in common: They both get laughed at on a regular basis. One for being too girly and the other for looking like a toy car.
For the last few seasons, the Houston Texans have been declared the "dark-horse" team of the NFL. They have been projected to surprise the NFL with a winning record and playoff appearance and every year they have come up short.
Last season, the team took a step backwards by winning only six games. Some fans blamed the losses on multiple injuries to different players while others blamed the coaching. In the long run, the fact remains that the young, energetic, driven Texans have yet to prove themselves as a dominant defense in the NFL.
The Mini Cooper S is the sporty version of the standard Cooper. It comes with a whopping 181 hp and reaches 60 mph in a blazing 6.8 seconds. It's young, it's hip and it has yet to show any real success in America.
Both the Texans and Cooper S have youth and vigor on their side. Likewise, they both are still attempting to establish themselves as serious contenders in their respective markets. Which one will be successful first has yet to be discovered.
They had Albert Haynesworth, Brian Orakpo and DeAngelo Hall yet they still managed to have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Washington Redskins ended the season with six wins, minus-75 net points and won only two home games. With a defense as stacked as they had you would have expected more from last year's 'Skins. They signed four defensive players in the draft and added players like Donte' Stallworth to try to stop the bleeding defense.
The Plymouth Prowler was a beautiful car. It was part retro roadster, part futuristic machinery. However, the makers of the Prowler seriously underpowered this car. In an effort to mass-produce the car in a shorter time frame, Plymouth opted to only go with a 214-hp V6 engine. What the consumer got was a disappointing piece of machinery that had so much potential.
Both the Prowler and the Redskins looked like things of beauty. They had the right parts and pieces to make a well-tuned machine but were lacking in power and drive.
What type of car do you attribute to the team with the worst defense in the league? A junker.
The Denver Broncos defense bled yardage last season. Teams averaged 390 yards per game against the Broncos and they allowed 29.4 points per game as well. They had 921 yards of penalties against them and allowed teams to convert 62 percent of their 4th-down attempts. They only won a single game on the road and managed to scrape together one win against a division rival. Granted, they did not finish with the worst team record in the league, but that was in no part due to the defense.
There are some cars out there that just need to be ground up and turned into scrap metal. They are they beaters who spew toxic exhaust, sound like a dying asthmatic and have to be started with a screwdriver. Putting them out of their misery seems like the loving thing to do.
So it is with the Broncos. Their defense is so horrid that it would almost seem the kind thing to do by scrapping the whole thing and starting over. However, they drafted six defensive players and added DT Ty Warren and DT Brodrick Bunkley. They are serious about saving any scrap of respect they have and they had better hurry because the giant magnetic claw seems to be hovering overhead.