They entered the league together in 2010 — one drafted second, the other third.
Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy have lived up to those lofty expectations, becoming two of the NFL's top defensive tackles, and they'll both be on the field Sunday when Suh's Detroit Lions host McCoy's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"He's an awesome player and I wish him all of the best. I hope when his contract does come up, he breaks the bank," McCoy said. "He's just a dominating force since he's been in the league. Everything that's coming to him, he deserves it."
Contract status may be the most obvious difference between McCoy and Suh right now. McCoy signed a seven-year extension earlier this season that was worth up to $98 million. Suh is in the final year of his deal and can become a free agent after this season.
Suh, who was drafted one spot higher than McCoy at No. 2 overall, has 32 career sacks to McCoy's 27.
"He's super-explosive off the ball and gets in the backfield very fast. He has great closing speed and makes plays," Suh said. "We're a cordial relationship — friends, associates and however you may see it. We've hung out at the Pro Bowl before."
Suh's team will have more at stake Sunday. The Lions (8-4) are in the mix for a postseason spot in the NFC. This matchup with the Bucs (2-10) is part of a three-game homestand for Detroit that began with a victory over Chicago last week.
The Lions wouldn't be in this position if not for late comebacks in wins over New Orleans, Atlanta and Miami. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has already lost six games by six points or fewer.
"There's really about that much difference between 8-4 and 4-8," Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. "That's why Sunday to Sunday, you can't determine who's going to win. You've got to come out and play the game and play the game you're supposed to. That's why you throw records out of the window."
Here are a few things to watch Sunday when the Lions try to take another step toward the playoffs:
MOVING FORWARD?: Detroit's offense, stuck in first gear for much of this season, finally looked dangerous in a 34-17 victory over Chicago. Matthew Stafford threw for 390 yards, Joique Bell ran for 91 and Calvin Johnson caught two touchdown passes.
If Reggie Bush (ankle) is able to return after missing the past three games, the Lions will have another option at their disposal.
PASS PROTECTION: Stafford has been sacked 35 times this season, and Detroit's offensive line has struggled. Tackle Riley Reiff missed the game against Chicago with a knee injury, but he practiced this week. Guard Larry Warford (knee) also practiced. He has missed the past three games.
IMPROVING: Detroit is 18 of 30 on field goals this season, a league-worst success rate of 60 percent. But Matt Prater — the team's third kicker of the season — made both his attempts against the Bears. He is 14 of 18 on field goals, including three successful kicks of at least 50 yards.
UNDISCIPLINED BUCS: The Bucs cost themselves a chance at attempting a potential game-winning field goal last week against Cincinnati because of a penalty for having 12 men on the field. The mistake negated a 21-yard pass to the Cincinnati 20 in the closing seconds. Tampa Bay has been flagged 43 times for 361 yards the past four games and enters Sunday tied with Seattle as the most penalized teams in the league.
"We're all sick of it. But to a man, it's got to hurt us enough that we decide not to do it anymore," quarterback Josh McCown said.
GOT TO RUN: The absence of a consistent rushing attack has contributed to Tampa Bay's woes. The Bucs are 29th in rushing, averaging 83.3 yards per game. Doug Martin's production has been curtailed because of injuries, but he showed signs of reverting to his old form last week, gaining a season-best 58 yards on 18 rushing attempts. It'll be a challenge to continue that course. Detroit has the NFL's stingiest run defense.
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