Start 'em, Sit 'em: Week 9

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Start 'em, Sit 'em: Week 9

The guys were on top of their game in Week 8, so let's see if they can do it again in Week 9.
This week features four teams on a Bye -- New England, San Francisco, St. Louis and the New York Jets -- meaning guys like Tom Brady, Frank Gore, Chris Givens and Tim Tebow (just kidding) are out of commission for one matchup. So you may have to dig deeper into your bench or the waiver wire to pull out a win this week. Never fear, we're here to help you with those tough decisions on who to start and who to sit.
Just a reminder for those keeping score at home (though we'll do it for you), for players who each analyst starts, these are the points they will receive:
Start 'em: 5 points if a player scores 25 points4: 20-243: 15-192: 10-141: 5-90: negative-4
Sit 'em: 5 points if a player scores negative points to 4 points4: 5-93: 10-142: 15-191: 20-240: 25
Without further adieu, here are our picks for Week 8. Good luck!
Tony Andracki (Week 8, 18 points; Season total: 85)
Last week was all about restoring order. I returned to the head of the class with some great startsit choices and I got Eric Decker (and subsequently, Jessie James) back in the weekly article after a Bye. Deck rewarded my faith handsomely, putting up two tuddies against a shaky New Orleans defense.
Speaking of New Orleans, make sure you start anybody who plays against them. Running backs, quarterbacks, wideouts, tight ends. Heck, even the grounds crew. I bet even Calvin Johnson could rack up 100 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. And that's saying a lot given how far he's fallen this year. That's what I get, I guess, for taking him fourth overall. Nice job, Tone.
Start 'em:
Jamaal Charles, RB -- Chiefs (@ SD)
Charles is the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde fantasy running back. One week, he'll have 35 touches, 250 total yards and a score. The next, he has five touches, four yards and a goose egg in the point column. But at least even his coach realized the error in his ways (I think? Maybe?), so look for Charles to get plenty of touches this week. He may even score. So consider this a Jekyll week. (Or Hyde. Which one was good again?)
Denarius Moore, WR -- Raiders (vs. TB)
The Bucs have rekindled the magic in their passing game, as Josh Freeman has suddenly emerged as a top-notch fantasy QB. The only thing is, their pass defense has gone in the other direction at the same time. Tampa has allowed more than 500 yards and three scores to opposing wide receivers the past two weeks, meaning there are plenty of fantasy points to be had for Moore, who has become the Raiders' clear No. 1 receiver. Start with confidence.
Philip Rivers, QB -- Chargers (vs. KC)
Could Rivers be any more disappointing? Could the Chargers? The good news is, Ol' Man Rivers (he's not old, but he's certainly playing like it) has a pretty decent matchup this week. The Chiefs have allowed multiple passing scores in all but one game this year, and in three of those contests, they've allowed three tuddies through the air. If Rivers is going to get back on track this year, I'm saying it'll happen this week. But I've been wrong before. On at least one occasion.
Sit 'em
Eric DeckerDeMaryius Thomas, WR -- DEN (@ CIN)
I know. I'm surprised, too. I've touted Decker week after week as a surprise start, and now I'm turning my back on him just when he's at his peak? This is fantasy sports, folks. No time for nostalgia. The Bengals are very efficient against wide receivers, having allowed just four scores to opposing wideouts in seven games. They get even tougher at home, in which they've only allowed one tuddie in three contests. One of these Denver receivers may wind up with a decent fantasy day, but it's too tough to say who it'd be. Or they may both end up disappointing. Either way, the risk is too high. Stay away.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB -- Steelers (@ NYG)
Yes, this seems dumb to sit a guy against a Giants defense that just allowed 437 passing yards to the Cowboys. But here's the thing -- it took 62 attempts to rack up that many yards. And Romo still only finished with 19 fantasy points. I mean, that was mostly due to the four picks, but therein lies the issue with starting Big Ben this week (I know he doesn't like to be called "Big Ben" anymore, but I simply don't care.). The Giants get to the QB, they force turnovers and the Steelers have like 18 running backs in the trainer's room each day, so there's no hope of a running game slowing down New York's front four. It could be a long day for Roethlisberger.
C.J. Spiller, RB -- Bills(@ HOU)
I've been pretty long-winded on all of my reasoning thus far. So let's keep this short and sweet (like all the Halloween candy I'm eating right now. I'm currently gorging on Tootsie Rolls if anybody was curious): Spiller is in a timeshare in Buffalo, the Texans haven't allowed a rushing touchdown all year (and have allowed 90 rushing yards in just one game so far) and when the Bills get down early (which happens like, what, four times a month?), they throw. A lot. Which means Spiller and Fred Jackson will get left out in the cold once again when the Texans go up big quickly. Huh. Guess that wasn't so short and sweet (like all the Halloween candy I'm eating right now. I switched to a Tootsie Pop in that span. Still the same family, sure, but a different type of delivery in consuming the Tootsie Roll, ya know?). Anyways, don't start Spiller if you can avoid it. Moving on to Kit Kats now...
Mark Strotman (Week 8, 16 points; Season total: 84)
I can't believe I lost my first place lead to the third member of the Eric Decker-Jessie James love triangle. But that's OK. I liked my picks last week and I feel confident that they'll do well again. My starters are looking to bounce-back, either from injuries or off weeks, while my sit 'ems are fading down the fantasy stretch, and it's time you took them out of your lineup...perhaps for good.
Start 'em:
Donald Brown, RB -- Colts (vs. MIA)
The Colts' leading rusher is back fully healthy, and he rushed 14 times for 80 yards last week against the Titans. Vick Ballard was a hot pick-up the last two weeks, but Brown has fresh legs and could do some damage against the Dolphins' defense. This is more of a gut feeling that Brown will run well with fresh legs than a situational play.
Josh Gordon, WR -- Browns (vs. BAL)
At the beginning of the year starting a rookie against the Baltimore secondary would have been fantasy suicide, but this is a nice play for Gordon. The Ravens have been awful and injuries have decimated their secondary depth. Gordon missed the end zone last week for the first time in a month, but I think he'll get back there this week.
Joe Flacco, QB -- Ravens (at CLE)
Remember Week 4? Flacco torched the Browns on Thursday Night Football for 356 yards and a touchdown in a big win. Also, the Ravens are coming off a bye week after being embarrassed in Houston two weeks ago. I think Flacco and company are going to make a statement at the hands of the Browns, and it will start with the signal caller's arm. I think he's a strong QB1 this week.
Sit 'em:
Dwayne Bowe, WR -- Chiefs (at SD)
The Chiefs are bad. Like, really bad. Tied for the worst record in the NFL, the offense has a league-high 25 turnovers and a QB rating of 64.4. More important, the Chargers and Norv Turner need this game tonight. I think Matt Cassel throws up a stinker and that Bowe is silenced. It's a tough sit given his potential, but I'm staying away from all Kansas City quarterbacks and wide receivers for the time being.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB -- Bengals (vs. DEN)
It's usually a good omen to start a running back coming off his bye week, but Green-Ellis is in a rut and I don't see him getting out of it against the Broncos. He hasn't found the end zone in four straight games, and another black-and-blue AFC game may yield the same results. Consider this: Green-Ellis hasn't scored double-digit points since Week 2.
Alex Green, RB -- Packers (vs. ARZ)
The experiment seems to be over. Not only has Green done nothing in the backfield in his three weeks as the featured back, but James Starks (the preseason starter) appears healthy enough to start taking some of his carries. While Green is the better receiver out of the backfield, Starks would likely get the goal line carries. This is a situation to avoid, especially if you own Green.
Scott Krinch (Week 8, 13 points; Season total: 81)
If you took my advice this week, I'd like to issue you a sincere apology. I was WAY off on each one of my starts. For some reason I decided to go with Brandon Weeden, who scored a measly five fantasy points. Ouch with a captial "O." I promise you that will be the last time I ever start a 29-year-old rookie quarterback. LeShoure had a decent game racking up yards, but couldn't find the end zone. Finally, I think we all know what happened to Dez Bryant on Sunday. If only he had smaller hands...
I decided to sit Cam Newton against the Bears. Cam passed for over 300 yards, but the two picks and no touchdowns helped me out there. Ryan Mathews didn't have the "monster" game ESPN predicted, but he did rush for 95 yards which hurt me. My last sit, Mike Wallace, recorded seven catches, but didn't find the end zone.
Something very odd is that NOT one of my starts or sits found pay dirt on Sunday. Let's see if I can change that trend this week and quiet the new leader in the standings.
Start 'em:
Tony Romo, QB -- Cowboys (@ ATL)
I'm going out on a limb here with Romo and hoping he builds off his solid second half against the Giants last week. In two career games against Atlanta, Carrie Underwood's ex has thrown for 589 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception. If Dallas has any chance of knocking the Falcons out of the undefeated category, they will need a huge game from Romo. I don't see the Cowboys winning, but I do see an offensive shootout with Romo racking up some fantasy points.
Doug Martin, RB -- Buccaneers (@ OAK)
It looks like the learning curve may be over for Doug Martin. He torched one of the best rushing defenses in the league, Minnesota, for 135 yards and a touchdown. I don't see Martin having any problem cracking 100 yards with a touchdown against a so-so Raiders run defense. If Martin keeps up his current pace, RG3 may have some competition for Rookie of the Year.
Hakeem Nicks, WR -- Giants (vs. PIT)
I know. Nicks has done nothing this year to warrant me starting him this week. I just have a hunch. In his last three games, he's recorded 13 total fantasy points. Not something you want to see if you drafted him in the second or third round of your fantasy drafts. The one thing Nicks has going for him is it looks like he's fully healthy. Pittsburgh's defense has been great as of late, but I think it's going to be Nicks and not Victor Cruz that lights up the Steelers secondary.
Sit 'em:
Josh Freeman, QB -- Buccaneers (@ OAK)
He's got to have a bad game at some point, right? Freeman has scored over 20 fantasy points and recorded at least three touchdowns in his last three games. Why is it going to end this week? I have no idea, but I just don't have a good feeling about this matchup. The Raiders secondary has gotten better during their last three games. The Buccaneers may win this game, but it's going to come off the legs of Martin.
Willis McGahee, RB -- Broncos (@ CIN)
The reason why I'm sitting McGahee is because he hasn't had back-to-back good fantasy games all season. Rookie Ronnie Hillman is starting to get a few more touches to keep the veteran McGahee fresh. The Broncos have been on fire, but the Bengals desperately need this game to stay in the AFC North hunt. Coming off the bye week, I believe Cincinnati's defense will be up to the task.
Marques Colston, WR -- Saints (vs. PHI)
Why am I sitting Colston? Well, same reason I sat Freeman and McGahee. I'm going with my gut. Last week I went with matchups and statistics and it failed me miserably. I think this strategy may work better for me. Colston only had five catches last week and the Eagles defense is going to come out with something to prove after hearing criticism all week.

Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

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Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

The Cubs take on the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery vs. Jeff Samardzija

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ will headline the group of seven Cubs prospects ticketed for the Arizona Fall League.

As the Cubs project their next wave of talent, Jimenez is thought to be close to untouchable after a breakout performance at the All-Star Futures Game and a Midwest League MVP season at Class-A South Bend.

Jimenez – who originally signed out of the Dominican Republic and got a $2.8 million bonus in the summer of 2013 – is hitting .331 with 14 homers and 81 RBI through 111 games with the South Bend Cubs. At the age of 19, the dynamic outfielder reminds the Cubs a little bit of Kris Bryant during his freshman year at the University of San Diego with that 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and powerful right-handed swing.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – is a switch-hitter (.717 OPS at Double-A Tennessee) who has tried to increase his versatility by moving between second base and the outfield and become a Joe Maddon-type player.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Mesa Solar Sox roster unveiled Wednesday also includes Victor Caratini, an advanced defensive catcher who drew interest around the trade deadline and could be packaged in a bigger deal for pitching if Willson Contreras continues to develop behind the plate and Kyle Schwarber comes back healthy next season.

Cubs officials trying to build a pitching pipeline for Wrigley Field will also get a look at right-handers James Farris, Ryan McNeil, Stephen Perakslis and Duane Underwood Jr. in the showcase league.

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates out of Wrigley

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates out of Wrigley

Another quick hook left Jason Hammel seething over the weekend at Dodger Stadium, bringing back uncomfortable questions about how much manager Joe Maddon trusts him, and whether or not the Cubs would find a spot for him on a playoff roster.  

Four days later, Pearl Jam’s “Alive” blasted from the Wrigley Field sound system as Hammel warmed up before facing the Pittsburgh Pirates – with no guarantees about October or next season.     

Hammel responded with another quality start in Wednesday’s 6-5 win, completing a three-game sweep that left the Pirates staggering in the wild-card race and helped the Cubs cut their magic number to win the division down to 16.   

Outside of a few extreme lows that distorted the perception of his overall season – 10-run outings against the New York Mets and at Coors Field and the 39 pitches he called a side day at Dodger Stadium – Hammel has been an integral part of the elite rotation that pushed the Cubs to an 85-47 record and such a huge lead in the National League Central (now 15 games up on the St. Louis Cardinals). 

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Hammel (14-7, 3.14 ERA) shut down the Pirates for six innings, allowing only one run on three hits and showing the confidence that made him an All-Star-level performer in the first half. With the bases loaded, Hammel screamed and flexed his muscles after striking out Andrew McCutchen swinging to end the fifth inning.       

On a night when the crowd chanted “MVP,” Kris Bryant launched his 36th homer (in the first inning off Ryan Vogelsong) and made Gold Glove-caliber plays at third base to back Hammel, diving to his left to catch a Sean Rodriguez line drive and prevent a run at the end of the second inning, and leaning over the wall and into the stands to catch a Josh Bell pop-up at the beginning of the fourth inning.        

This could become the next awkward conversation: If John Lackey (shoulder) returns to full strength – and the rest of the rotation doesn’t experience any setbacks down the stretch – what are the chances of Hammel making a playoff start?

“Stay healthy and we’ll see what happens,” Maddon said. “I don’t bet on the come. Let’s get to the playoffs first, make sure everybody’s well, and at that point then you look at the group you have. And then maybe at that point you look at the group you may be playing. And then you try to formulate the best plan of attack from your personnel versus their personnel. 

“I’ve not even thought about a playoff moment once.”