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The Amateur Ward: “The Dividing Line”

If we are not all still recovering from our Thanksgiving feast this weekend, we should not be on the couch watching games. Too bad, we are gonna watch anyway because were all sports-aholics and can never get enough, especially when the playoffs roll around. Hopefully, by this point you know where you stand in your league and are either looking to secure a playoff spot within the next week or two, or looking to be the one who ruins others’ hopes. If you are currently in the playoff hunt, remember, studs do not win you championships: quality depth and smart plays do. With that said, of course there are always some studs you start, or think are locks every week. This week, I am going to give you a few top of the line names you need to avoid. Yes, these are going to be surprises, but there are also names you need to grab if they are on your wire as they are rounding into shape at the right time.

1 Star

Ndamukong Suh (DT-MIA)- Suh looks to finally be finding his mojo with the Dolphins. But do not be fooled this week as the Jets offensive line is solid, allowing only ten sacks on Fitzpatrick, and Chris Ivory is a tough matchup for defenses. Suh is a valuable DT in formats valuing tackles for loss, but those will be hard for him to come by in a tough matchup versus the Jets this week. Suh will give fantasy owners a decent number of tackles, but do not expect difference-making stats. (Photo courtesy of

Navorro Bowman (LB-SF)- Forget elite quarterbacks and runningbacks. The Cardinals beat you with solid defense and sound offense. With Bowman not a huge sack threat, and Palmer proving to be a signal caller that limits his turnovers (27:9 TD:INT ratio), it is a safe bet that Bowman will be a small factor in this battle of NFC West rivals

Jason Verrett (CB-SD)- Until recently (November 1), Verrett has struggled versus strong passing teams, and that trend will come back this week as Bortles is looking increasingly comfortable with his receivers and has matured as a signal caller from last season. While he may have a subpar TD:INT ratio on the season, drawing a defense that has only allowed three 300-yard passing games all season, the Chargers are vulnerable. Verrett is not a strong passes defensed contributor, making him increasingly hard to trust week to week, despite his hot stretch.


3 Star

Michael Johnson (DE-CIN)- Johnson has had an up and down season, and is a risky play week-to-week. This week versus the Rams, expect mixed results as he is likely to rack up the tackles versus a run-heavy Rams offense, led by Todd Gurley. A concussed Case Keenum and an ineffective Nick Foles may lead to a couple more opportunities for Johnson, but it is equally likely he will have a quiet week. His stats on the season suggest he will likely register a tackle for loss, but any fantasy owner starting him this week could be throwing darts. (Photo courtesy of

Tamba Hali (LB-KC)- Hali has some upside versus the Bills as they still have questions at quarterback, but do have running back, LeSean McCoy, that can dominate any game. Hali has had some breakout games lately, registering four and a half sacks over the Chiefs past four games.  He is also liable to disappear at anytime. With negligible effects in the passing game, you are banking on Hali registering a sack and a pass defensed to help you this week. Hali has some upside, just be cautious about how you value him.

Marcus Williams (CB-NYJ)- Williams is a solid play this week versus a weak offensive line and an anemic rushing attack, but he will not produce at a high level. While Tannehill has shown to be error prone this season, Williams may not have a great day as Landry will draw Darrelle Revis, leaving the streaky Rishard Matthews or Kenny Stills for Williams to cover. Considering that the Jets boast a top three run defense, and Tannehill is more of a game-manager QB, Williams is on track for a decent, yet unspectacular day.

Chris Conte (S-TB)- This is a conservative ranking for Conte given the opponent. However, he will still produce a pass defensed or two. Face it, the Saints are horrible this season, and with a lack of a true receiver outside, they will struggle to move the ball, regardless. Conte had a monstrous game in Week 2 versus the Saints with a pick and a tackle for loss, but that was before the emergence of Snead as Brees’ true WR2. Look for Conte to potentially pick off a pass, but beware, Brees is an elite QB for a reason; He adapts to how opponents play him. (Photo courtesy of


5 Star

Stephon Tuitt (DE-PIT)- Tuitt has produced his strongest three games versus strong running teams, and Seattle will be no exception. Their passing game is a work in progress, with built in scrambles and read options for Wilson, meaning the Steelers will play closer to the line. With Lynch out at least four weeks, the surprise rookie, Rawls, is a handful for defenses to slow down; The Steelers will have their hands full this week. While this is set up as a bad matchup for Tuitt and the Steelers, Tuitt is a nasty defensive end who makes plays and can get into the backfield on a consistent basis, so look for a high upside play from Tuitt in Week 12.

Brian Orakpo (LB-TEN)- With five sacks and three passes defensed over his last four games, Orakpo is a must start down the stretch. The Raiders offense is run through Carr’s ability to connect with rookie wideout Cooper.  While that duo is deadly, the Titans are very stout versus the pass (third), and Orakpo must be accounted for. Orakpo was a sack specialist on the Redskins, and now he is fulfilling the same role for the Titans as they battle for the AFC South.

 Rodney McLeod (S-StL)- Suddenly, the Bengals can be beaten, and the Bengals would be wise to stay away from McLeod who has three forced fumbles and a recovered fumble on the season. McLeod is free to make plays in the secondary as the better pass defender of the two safeties, and he will continue to be a force this week versus a potent Bengals offense. The Rams run a very aggressive defense that is effective at limiting opposing signal callers, and McLeod is a big reason why they are so nasty. (Photo courtesy of



Rams D/ST- This is a huge gamble, but I have the Rams upsetting the Bengals this Thanksgiving Weekend, and their defense is why. The Rams are top 10 in passing and receiving defense, but middle of the pack versus the run. Jeremy Hill is not as explosive nor dangerous as he was in his rookie season, and the Bengals run game has stalled of late, making Dalton more important in the offense. The Rams will not be able to slow down AJ Green, but with a somewhat underrated defense and sneaky good punt returner, Tavon Austin, the Rams seem poised to pull the upset the weekend.

Jaguars D/ST- The Chargers are playing so poorly right now, it is hard to trust anyone on their offense.The loss of Keenan Allen looms large for the Chargers. Do not write off the Jaguars as they can play defense, led by stud linebacker Telvin Smith and a good run defense. While the Jaguars secondary is their weak spot and they can be destroyed down the field, the lack of a consistent deep threat from the Chargers offense provides some opportunities for the likes of Davon House and Aaron Colvin to make plays. With a sputtering run game, look for the Jaguars to be very aggressive in their play calling on Sunday, daring Rivers to beat them with his arm, all with a weakened receiving core that fails to consistently stretch the field.

Now, about those Thanksgiving leftovers. I hear they make some delicious turkey sandwiches for watching games. Thanks for tuning in and good luck to all this week. If you need any help with defensive questions, always feel free to reach out to me at


I am a recent college graduate from a small liberal arts school in Atlanta, GA. I'm a sports junkie and a diehard Atlanta sports fan.

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