Start 'emSit 'em: Week 14


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.

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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