What's a good defense without a good nickname? NFL history is littered with fomidable defenses outfitted with equally intimidating names. Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain, Minnesota's Purple People Eaters, Denver's Orange Crush and the Fearsome Foursome of the L.A. Rams, just to name a few.
And while the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals defense is opening some eyes with its play -- they are allowing the fewest yards per game of any team in the league -- their choice of nicknames leaves something to be desired. The unit has taken to calling itself "The Uso Defense," from the Samoan word meaning "brother" or "friend."
Huh? That's not scary at all. How about "The Big Cats" or "The Jungle Cats?" Maybe a nod to the city's baseball history by going with "The Big Orange Machine?" While they need work in moniker department, if they keep playing the way they have been, they can call themselves whatever they want.
As for us, we call this "Reading the Defense" and it deals with guys who nicknames generally aren't as brotherly.
First down: There must be something in the water in Ohio, because at the other end of the state, the Browns have put together one of the league's stingier secondaries. But it looks like second-year cornerback Joe Haden won't be available this week against the Raiders. Without Haden, veteran Sheldon Brown will likely draw the assignment of covering Darrius Heyward-Bey while rookie Buster Skrine gets the start on the other side.
Second down: As if things weren't bad enough for the struggling Bears defense, now comes word that Julius Pepperssuffered a sprained knee in Monday night's loss to Detroit. After missing practice on Thursday, he's questionable to play on Sunday night against the Vikings. Either way it's not a matchup any owners in IDP leagues should be interested in.
Minnesota hasn't thrown the ball well this season and will rely on Adrian Peterson against a Chicago defense that is allowing 135.6 yards per game on the ground. Peppers' greatest value is as a pass rusher and sack master. Unless the Bears jump out to a big lead and force Donovan McNabb to throw the ball, it could be a quiet day for Peppers -- if he plays at all.
Third down: One thing is certain -- Mario Williams won't play this week. Or any other week this season. With Houston's standout linebacker out with a torn pec, rookie Bryan Braman should get the start at outside linebacker. Don't expect Braman to get after the quarterback, but expect him to see plenty of action on his side in the form of runs by Ray Rice. Still if you're looking for an IDP replacement, consider Antonio Smith or Brian Cushing.
Fourth down: The Arizona Cardinals got some good news when they learned that safety Kerry Rhodes wasn't lost for the season with a broken foot. But it does leave an already beleaguered secondary even more short-handed. Four of Arizona's six leading tacklers reside in the defensive backfield and without Rhodes for the foreseeable future, it falls on Hamza Abdullah to pick up the slack.