Start 'emSit 'em: Week 14

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Start 'emSit 'em: Week 14

After 13 weeks, Mark still remains our leader. We think he may be cheating so we're going to hire a private investigator take a look into that. With that being said, fantasy football playoffs are upon us. With the injury bug affecting players around the league, now is the perfect time to raid your league's waiver wire. There very well may be a hidden gem that could lead you to a fantasy football championship in your league.

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 points
4: 20-24
3: 15-19
2: 10-14
1: 5-9
0: negative-4

Sit 'em:

5 points if a player scores negative points to 5 points
4: 5-9
3: 10-14
2: 15-19
1: 20-24
0: 25

Without further adieu, here are our picks for Week 14. Good luck!

Mark Strotman (Week 13: 14 points; Season total: 164 points)

Do I get a bye for standing atop the rankings to start the playoff schedule? All kidding aside, this week's starts and sits are crucial as teams enter win-or-go-home matchups. But you've got to take chances (and subsequently get lucky) to win most playoff matchups, especially in the first round where teams are more or less even in quality. I've got high-reward plays this week in my starts, while my sits don't have much upside but are solid low-end plays. If you tail me and I'm right, congratulations on moving to the second round. If I fail, I pray you don't know where I live.

Start 'em:

Steven Jackson, RB -- STL (@ BUF)

Kudos to Jeff Fisher to finally using his star running back like he should. After seven of eight single-digit performances to begin the season (and trade block rumors), Jackson has turned it on as of late. Averaging 12.3 points over his last four, the Rams are going to run early and often against a weak Bills' rush defense. Jackson is an easy RB2 play, with RB1 upside. It's great to see a workhorse like him carry you into the playoffs.

James Jones, WR -- GB (vs. DET)

Remember him? The guy who went for two touchdowns in three straight games in the middle of the season, but has since caught four balls in the last three games? He'll be back as a prime target for Aaron Rodgers as Jordy Nelson likely sits with a hamstring injury. It's a risky play, but you could do a whole lot worse in the flex than Jones against a Lions' secondary prone to big plays.

Joe Flacco, QB -- BAL (@WAS)

Of all the fantasy headaches suffered annually, the play of Joe Flacco may top the charts in 2012. He has gone for 18 or more points five different times, including a 29-point effort in Week 10, but also had seven or fewer points four different times. I've got faith in him against a Washington defense on a short week that allowed Tony Romo to gunsling all over the field on Monday. Bet on Flacco to be a QB1 as he and the Ravens rebound from a bad home loss to Pittsburgh last week.

Sit 'em:

Ryan Mathews, RB -- SD (@ PIT)

If you haven't already cut Mathews out of your regular starting lineup, allow me to do it for you. He hasn't reached double-digit points since Week 5 against the lowly Saints' defense, and while he's getting carries he isn't doing anything with them. The Steelers aren't what they once were against the run, but Mathews doesn't have a high enough upside anymore (that would have sounded crazy in September) to warrant starting him in the playoffs.

Chris Givens, WR -- STL (@ BUF)

Danny Amendola may return in Week 14 and, as I said above, I see the Rams trying to win this one on the ground. GIvens has been a boom-or-bust play most of the year (think Denarius Moore) and while he's coming off an 11-catch performance against the 49ers, that game was at home and in a dome, where the weather will be as close to opposite in Buffalo. Find another flex as a safer play.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB -- PIT (vs. SD)

It'll be a triumphant return for Big Ben after Charlie Batch led the Steelers to a win in Baltimore, but I'm thinking the rust is going to be pretty thick. Mike Wallace will be itching to get back on the field with Roethlisberger at the helm, but Pittsburgh is likely to play it safe in this one. Roethlisberger looks like a low-end QB1 play, but you can probably do better.

Tony Andracki (Week 13: 9 points; Season total: 147 points)

Well, that's about right. Seemingly every week, one of the guys I pick as a "sit" wind up having their best game of the season. So, I'm sure it'll happen again this week. So instead of guys I think you should put on your bench, I'm picking guys you should lower your expectations on.

It's playoff time, and every move you make counts, every injury is magnified. There is no tomorrow if you lose. Alright, enough of the superlatives. Don't overthink things. Go with your gut. Go with the guys that helped get you here. Go with the hot hand. Trust yourself and your judgement. Even if you backed your way into the playoffs, you still got there somehow, so rely on those instincts.

Start 'em:
Greg Jennings, WR -- GB (vs. DET)

If you still have Jennings on your roster and you draftedhim, there's a good chance you're not in the playoffs. Jennings has been anon-factor this season, but most of that was due to injury. If you do happen tobe playing this week, start Jennings. He returned to the field last week andimmediately demanded a team-high 8 targets. Couple that with the fact thisPackers-Lions game should be a shootout and Jennings could be a big factor inyour opening round matchup.

Tony Romo, QB -- DAL (@ CIN)

So much for Romo struggling in December, huh? Hisfantastically hot streak continued Sunday night with a second straight game ofat least 300 yards and 3 TDs, though this time, he didn't throw a pick. Ridethe hot hand again this week.

Chris Johnson, RB -- TEN (@ IND)

Indy boasts one of the worst run defense in the NFL, as evenShonn Greene and the Jets tore these guys up. The Colts have allowed 12 rushingTDs this season and if the Titans want to stay in this game, they'll need aheavy dose of Johnson. CJ is the bellcow in Tennessee and he will be a factorthis week. Plus, there's always the chance he busts a long run.

Sit 'em:

Matt Ryan, QB -- ATL (@ CAR)

Ryan has been one of the most pleasant surprises this season and was actually fantasy's top quarterback through the first couple weeks. But he's slowed down some since then, and has not scored more than 15 points in four of his last five games. In that span, he has just 5 TDs and 7 INTs despite four games of 300 yards. The Panthers are actually one of the best teams in the league at limiting opposing QBs, allowing multiple TDs in just three games this season. Ryan will probably be OK, but don't expect a monster game.

Bryce Brown, RB -- PHI (@ TB)

Brown's two-game stretch has been absolutely ridiculous. If you somehow started him each of the past two weeks, you probably won your matchup, especially in PPR leagues. But this won't last forever. He will come back to Earth. Maybe not this week, but the Bucs definitely provide a tough opponent. Tampa Bay has allowed just two 100 yard rushers, and only one since Week 4 (which was Adrian Peterson). If you start Brown this week, do so with caution.

Hakeem Nicks, WR -- NYG (vs NO)

Nicks finally looked to be in the clear and re-established as a fantasy stud after three solid games. But then his knee flared up and he missed Thursday's practice and is now questionable for the game. The Giants play in the second block of games Sunday, so there will be very few options left to replace Nicks if he doesn't suit up. Even if he does play, the Saints actually provide a very tough matchup. New Orleans started out awful defensively, but they've been great against the pass lately, allowing just 12 fantasy points to opposing WRs the past two weeks, including a matchup against Roddy White and Julio Jones last week. There's just too much risk to safely start Nicks.

Scott Krinch (Week 13: 15 points; Season total: 158 points)

Well just like that I'm right back in the hunt and only trail Mark by six points. I needed a huge week and "What can Brown do for you" provided that for me. My sit of Colin Kaepernick paid huge dividends, but I'm still upset about starting Eric Decker after he did nada against the Buccaneers. For this week I'm going to take a few chances, but try to play it safe with some of my sits. I need to catch Mark in any possible way. With that said, give my picks a gander and find your hidden gem that will lead you to a playoff victory.

Start 'em:

Jay Cutler, QB -- CHI (@ MIN)

Quietly Jay Cutler has had two solid games in a row with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Bears' ground attack seems to be non-existent and the Vikings are stout against the run in their dome. Getting a big target in Alshon Jeffery back and Brandon Marshall being beastly week in and week out bodes well for Cutler's fantasy value.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB -- CIN (vs. DAL)

The "Law Firm" has been on an absolute tear the past three games, rushing for over 100 yards in each contest and totaling two touchdowns. Insert a Cowboys defense, who has given up 325 yards on 56 carries the last two games. I think the matchup favors Green-Ellis after seeing those numbers. I may be buying into the hype a little too much right now, but I can't justify sitting him.

Pierre Garcon, WR -- WAS (vs. BAL)

After an injury-riddled season, Garcon is finally starting to show fantasy owners why they were so high on him going into the season. RGIII has targeted the former Colt 17 times the last two games and Garcon 12 catches for 192 yards and two scores. I don't see any reason why that doesn't continue. The Ravens defense has been iffy against the pass and Garcon will take advantage of their secondary in Week 14. Get him in your lineup...immediately.

Sit 'em:

Cam Newton, QB -- CAR (vs. ATL)

Is their a hotter quarterback in the league right now than Cam Newton. It'd be hard pressed to find one. This week I think he falls back to earth or just has an average game. After seeing what the Falcons did to Drew Brees in a dome, I'm starting to buy into Atlanta's defense. I see it being a low scoring contest, with a late field possibly winning it.

Alfred Morris, RB -- WAS (vs. BAL)

If it wasn't for RGIII in Washington, the "A-Train" would be getting a lot more publicity. Two straight 100 yards for Morris, but I believe that will come to an end against the Ravens. Baltimore's rushing' defense is allowing 91.5 yards per game, not great, but not awful. Morris may rack up the yards, but when were talking about fantasy playoffs you need a touchdown. I don't see that happening this week. Keep the train in the station for this week.

Julio Jones, WR -- ATL (@ CAR)

Jones has been one of the ultimate boom or bust fantasy players this season. He's still dealing with an ankle injury and his numbers have been off three out of the last four games. I have a bad feeling about him this week and if you want an Atlanta Falcon receiver in your lineup in Week 14, go with Roddy "Rowdy" White.

White Sox Road Ahead: Heating up on the South Side

White Sox Road Ahead: Heating up on the South Side

CSN's JJ Stankevitz and Siera Santos discuss the struggles of James Shields while also going over a difficult upcoming series for the White Sox in this week's Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Honda dealers.

On the back of Chris Sale and his 13th win, the White Sox are back to .500 after taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays.

The South Siders have now won five of their last seven games, and won back-to-back series for the first time in nearly two months. They're now 2.5 games behind the Blue Jays for the second Wild Card spot and are playing much better baseball as they head toward the All-Star break.

Hear what JJ Stankevitz and Siera Santos had to say about their big week, as well as their upcoming three-game series against the Twins, in this week's Honda Road Ahead video above.

White Sox win consecutive series for first time since late April

White Sox win consecutive series for first time since late April

The White Sox have been adamant the baseball they’ve played the past six weeks isn’t far removed from their torrid start to the season.

Now they have something to show for it.

Courtesy of a 5-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox have back-to-back series victories for the first time since they swept the Texas Rangers and Toronto two months ago. With five wins in their last seven tries, the White Sox improved to 38-38 as they head into a much-needed day off.

“It’s huge,” said outfielder J.B. Shuck, whose second homer in as many days provided an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. “You feel kind of a weight lifted off the shoulders in the clubhouse. We’ve been grinding. Even some of our losses, we’ve been in games. We’ve come back, we’ve given ourselves a chance and one thing here or there kind of led us to losing and now it’s starting to work for us a little bit.”

A week ago the White Sox were coming off yet another demoralizing road sweep against an AL Central opponent. They had played well in two of three contests against the Cleveland Indians but came up empty. That sweep followed one at the Detroit Tigers earlier in the month and another previous one during a hellish May weekend in Kansas City.

But starting with an extra-innings win at the Boston Red Sox on Monday night, the White Sox have started to put things together more consistently than they had of late.

They capitalized on good pitching in the first two victories over the Red Sox and then the offense did the heavy lifting in an 8-6 win on Wednesday. Though they didn’t close out a sweep of Boston, the White Sox carried it over to their home series against Toronto.

“We need some of those,” said closer David Robertson, who retired the side on 10 pitches in the ninth to convert his 20th save. “When you get your butt kicked and you get swept in places, you gotta come home and win some games. We’re playing a lot better baseball. We’re pitching better. Hopefully it continues and we stay strong.”

Sunday’s victory was full of quality play in all aspects for the White Sox.

-- Chris Sale was dominant for seven of eight innings and earned his 13th victory in 15 decisions.

-- Robertson’s inning aside, Sale gave the bullpen another critical day of rest.

“It’s kind of relaxing,” reliever Zach Duke said.

-- Beginning with Adam Eaton’s major-league leading 10th outfield assist in the first inning, the defense turned in several big plays behind Sale, including double plays in the fourth and seventh.

-- The offense provided several timely hits, whether Melky Cabrera’s two-out RBI single in the third or Shuck’s solo homer to increase the lead back to three runs in the eighth.

Now the White Sox have a day to rest before they continue their homestand on Tuesday with the first of three against the Minnesota Twins.

“I like the way we're playing,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think offensively, we're swinging it a little bit, doing some things, and playing defense along with it. That's a good sign for us to be able to continue to do that. Pitchers are getting back to being healthy and getting after it. I like the way this is headed. I like the fire that these guys have shown and bouncing back in some tough situations.”

Fire defender Brandon Vincent picked up some extra bling

Fire defender Brandon Vincent picked up some extra bling

Brandon Vincent had a good ‘what I did on my summer vacation’ story when the Chicago Fire went on break in early June.

When the Fire took a week off of training in the first week of the Copa America Centenario break many of the players left town. Vincent went back to Stanford, where he helped the Cardinal men’s soccer team win the NCAA Championship for the first time ever.

Vincent was able to see familiar faces while visiting his old stomping grounds and received his championship ring.

Most of the team had received their rings earlier in the year, but Vincent left campus to participate in the MLS combine less than a month after the Cardinal won the national title in December.

“It’s good to see my friends and my old coaching staff and the guys that helped me get to where I am now,” Vincent said. “It’s kind of a quick turnaround not being there for the second part of the quarter to get the ring to celebrate the championship and everything, but it’s nice to be back and just be with the guys for a little bit and then reset and come back here.”

The turnaround for draft picks in MLS, especially after deep tournament runs, doesn’t leave much time to linger on campus. Just over a month after winning the national title, Vincent was drafted No. 4 overall and headed to the Fire.

The busy season schedule kept things moving for Vincent. His visit to Stanford provided a slightly different perspective for the rookie left back.

“It’s different when you’re in the moment and you’re in school and it’s like I want to be done and move onto the next step,” Vincent said. “Then once you’re at the next step you’re looking back. I appreciate it more when you’re back there and all the people that were a part of it.”

With the Fire, Vincent has made nine appearances, eight starts, in MLS play and played the full 120 minutes in the first U.S. Open Cup match against Indy Eleven right after the break.

After starting the first three matches of the season, Vincent didn’t play at all in April. He returned to the field on May 11, nearly two months after his previous appearance on March 19. Since then Vincent has missed just one match, which came in Colorado three days after playing 120 minutes in the Open Cup match.

Vincent admitted to an adjustment period early in the season and hopes he can keep improving.

“I’ve struggled here and there and I’m just trying to learn and keep my head on straight and keep going forward,” Vincent said. “Everyone is so much quicker and sharp on this level. It’s just a matter of getting the same wavelength with everybody else on the field and reading plays to kind of make plays offensively and defensively. Then just going forward, trying to be more accurate and precise with what I’m doing.”