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Dec. 2, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) scrambles out of the pocket while being pressured by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (98) in the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Detroit Lions Have the NFL's Best Defensive Tackle Tandem?

Detroit Lions defensive tackle has made headlines again this offseason. Fortunately it isn’t for legal problems this time around. Instead, it is for what he’s saying.

First he had the audacity (read with sarcasm) to “expect big things“, even going so far as to say the Detroit Lions are going to go to the Super Bowl.

Now he is on record as saying that he and Ndamukong Suh comprise the NFL’s best tandem of defensive tackles. Via DetroitLions.com:

“Of course,” Fairley said. “We’re going to give guys trouble, man. It’s like pick your poison this year with our defensive line. You cannot come in and double-team Ndamukong and you can’t come in and double-team me.

Both statements have been met with some ridicule from outsiders. Professional athletes don’t get where they are without a high level of confidence in their own abilities and high expectations for their own personal performance. The reaction I have received from Lions fans after Fairley expressed high expectations for both himself and the team, and even a Super Bowl, is that he is right to feel that way and to feel otherwise would represent a huge problem.

But what about his claim that he and Suh are the league’s best defensive tackle duo? It isn’t an outrageous claim based on their play a year ago. I took a look at the top ten defensive tackles based on the 2012 DT/NT ratings in the premium stats section of Pro Football Focus and paired each with his best performing teammate at the position. Here are the results in tabular form:

Team DT1 Rating DT2 Rating Total
Bengals Geno Atkins 80 Domata Peko -4.8 75.2
Lions Ndamukong Suh 23.1 Nick Fairley 19.2 42.3
Bills Kyle Williams 29.3 Marcell Dareus 10 39.3
Bucs Gerald McCoy 31.2 Gary Gibson 2.7 33.9
Titans Jurrell Casey 15.8 Mike Martin 12.2 28
Raiders Desmond Bryant 16.5 Richard Seymour 9.5 26
Vikings Kevin Williams 12 Fred Evans 9.9 21.9
Bears Henry Melton 15.8 Nate Collins 4.9 20.7

(note: the table is only eight teams long instead of ten because the Lions and Titans each placed two defensive tackles in PFF's top ten)

Geno Atkins has such a crazy good year for the Cincinnati Bengals that if you want to simply add the two ratings together it wouldn't matter who you paired with Atkins - they would be the "best" combination.

But if you maintain that "best pair" means both should contribute (unlike the Bengals' Peko who finished with a negative rating), it doesn't get any than Suh and Fairley.

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Tags: Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh Nick Fairley

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