They are feared for vastly different reasons.
One is so sleek, so swift, so sure-handed that he can snatch any football out of the air and make a play. Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the National Football League. He is impossible to cover, a beast to bring down, a man who at 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds almost always has a size advantage over whichever poor defensive back is trying to cover him.
The other is so strong, so relentless, so sure-footed that he can bull-rush into the backfield and terrorize quarterbacks. Ndamukong Suh is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. Like Johnson, he is a handful to cover one-on-one, difficult to chip, a man who at 6-4 and 307 pounds has the size and speed to disrupt whichever quarterback he faces.
[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
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Ndamukong Suh's ability to get to the quarterback can turn around a game.
Suh and Johnson finished first and second in ESPN.com's query of 320 players across the league asking which player is the most feared in the NFL. Suh received 61 votes (19 percent). Johnson received 58 votes. The next five vote-getters: Houston defensive end J.J. Watt (24), San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis (23), Denver quarterback Peyton Manning (21), Cincinnati linebacker James Harrison (18) and Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson (16).
Detroit has the two most feared players in the league and still couldn't take control of the NFC North this season when Green Bay and Chicago were without their starting quarterbacks, and that's a sin. The Lions should have been better. They should have won the division. They should have cruised into the playoffs.
They should have seized the opportunity, but they did not. As a result, they wasted yet another chance to succeed with the two most feared players in the league on their roster.
Suh and Johnson are as different as two men could be. Suh is affable, open, likes to talk and enjoys the attention his fame brings him. Johnson is quiet, reserved and private.
While they are feared for different reasons -- Johnson for his ability to make difficult catches no matter the coverage, Suh for his ability to go after the quarterback -- there is a unifying theme. Both players can change the trajectory of a game. Both can dominate.
Johnson did that against Dallas in Week 8. Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin opted to use cornerback Brandon Carr in single coverage for much of the game, and Johnson lit up the Cowboys. He caught 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown and fell 8 yards shy of breaking the NFL's single-game record for receiving yardage, held by the Los Angeles Rams' Flipper Anderson.