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NFL Africa Zone: Ezekiel Ansah Edition

Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

Welcome to the post-Christmas edition of the NFL Africa Zone. This week belongs to the Africans playing defense in the NFL as they showed up and showed out over the Christmas weekend.

Fear not though, we do have an Alvin Kamara mention, but for now let's show some love to the players that prevent opposing teams from putting points up on the scoreboard.

Player of the week

Ezekiel Ansah (Detroit Lions #94) Defensive End

Accra, Ghana's very own had his second three sack game of the season in the Detroit Lions loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ansah went into beast mode against the Bengals offensive line as he wrecked them for seven tackles, three sacks, four tackles for a loss and three quarterback hits.

Despite the loss effectively ending any chance the Lions had of getting to the playoffs, Ansah reminded the Lions and other NFL teams that he will be one of the premier defensive linemen on the free agent market and deserves to be paid accordingly.

Ziggy became the fifth Detroit Lion in history to reach 40 career sacks and also the first Lions player to ever reach 40 sacks in their first five seasons in the league. With one game to go in the season, Ansah has already surpassed 8 sacks (his second highest total in a season) and will get the chance to hit double digit sacks against the Green Bay Packers next Sunday.

Notable Performances

Sam Acho (Chicago Bears #93) Outside Linebacker

Building on his performance from last week, Nigerian-American outside linebacker Sam Acho had another excellent game in week 16.

The former University of Texas Longhorn showed no mercy against the hapless Cleveland Browns as he notched four tackles, picked up half a sack and had a reserved spot in the Browns backfield with the five QB hits he finished up with.

The Bears have suffered their fair share of injuries to pass rushers on the defensive line but Acho, the pro's pro, stepped up as he typically does and has given the Bears a continued pass rushing presence to trouble opposing QBs.


Larry Ogunjobi (Cleveland Browns #65) Defensive Tackle

New Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey mentioned in a recent interview that the prior front office failed to acquire or draft "real players". (Dorsey has since backtracked on that statement) Without listing all the talented players (particularly on the Browns defense), just the name Larry Ogunjobi is enough to counter Dorsey's initial statement.

Ogunjobi, the Browns third round pick this year has gone from strength to strength over the past few weeks. Ogunjobi is discovering that he fits right in at the NFL level and has quietly ascended up the ranks of all (not just rookies) defensive tackles in the league.

In Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bears, Ogunjobi finished up with four tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and one sack. The one sack being particularly noteworthy as it was Ogunjobi's first sack in the NFL and came after several weeks of getting to opposing QB's but leaving without a sack in the box score.

When the season ends next week Sunday, the Browns will know they have another building block on defense to count on with Ogunjobi now having found his footing in the league.

Jahleel Addae (Los Angeles Chargers #37) Safety

Returning to form this week was Chargers safety Jahleel Addae. The Ghanaian-American showed up in the passing game and running game as he made stops everywhere on the field all game long.

Tallying seven tackles with half a sack and a quarterback hit in the Chargers win over the New York Jets, Addae had four defensive stops to prevent first downs in the game.

Addae, after leading all safeties with 23 stops through 10 weeks per Pro Football Focus, is back amongst the top safeties in pass and run stops for the season.

Addae played his part in helping the Chargers stay in contention for a wild card spot and the Chargers will need the same Addae on Sunday against their division rival Oakland Raiders.

Special mentions

David Onyemata (New Orleans Saints) - The defensive tackle from Lagos, Nigeria barely missed out on the notable performance list. Onyemata continues improving with each game and is one of the core players on the Saints defensive line. In the win over the Atlanta Falcons, Onyemata had three tackles, half a sack and three QB hits.

Yannick Ngakoue (Jacksonville Jaguars) - The Jaguars second year defensive end got his 12th sack of the season on Sunday and along with fellow defensive end Calais Campbell (who did it in week 13), broke the Jaguars single season sack record set by Tony Brackens in 1999.

Robert Nkemdiche (Arizona Cardinals) - Still waiting on his first NFL sack, second year 3-4 defensive end Nkemdiche scooped up the ball for a fumble recovery and rumbled in for his first NFL touchdown in the Cardinals beat down of the New York Giants

Benson Mayowa (Dallas Cowboys) - In the Seahawks win over the Cowboys, defensive end Mayowa got his first sack of the season and two tackles for a loss against his former team.

C.J. Uzomah (Cincinnati Bengals) - Tight end Uzomah caught only one pass in the Bengals win over the Lions but that one pass was for his first touchdown of the season.

Players to watch in Week 17

Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints#41) Running Back

First time Pro Bowl selection Alvin Kamara had a statistically average game (by his standards) against the Falcons as he ran for 32 yards on 12 carries and caught seven passes for 58 yards, but Kamara's impact was far beyond the numbers.

The rookie played a major role on all of the Saints first half scoring drives - from a 25-yard pass to setup a field goal to picking up multiple first downs. Kamara's presence brings energy to the Saints offense.

In the final game of the season, the Saints take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A win for the Saints gives them the NFC South division crown for the first time since 2011. Kamara against a Bucs defense that has nothing else but pride to play for might be a performance to look forward to as the Saints close out the regular season.

David DeCastro (Pittsburgh Steelers #66) Left Guard

Watching DeCastro perform in week 17 is dependent on whether Steelers coach Mike Tomlin decides to rest or play his starters against the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers have wrapped up the AFC North division title and have a first round bye sealed up.

All that's left is the possibility of running back Le'Veon Bell getting enough yards to jump ahead of the L.A. Rams Todd Gurley and Kansas City Chiefs Kareem Hunt to win the NFL rushing title.

If Tomlin does play his starters, watch for the Seattle, Washington born (by way of South Africa) DeCastro and his masterful run blocking to lead the way for Bell and the Steelers.