Let freedom ring. Mark has a lot riding on the Lions-Eagles game in Philadelphia this weekend. (AP photo)
All aboard the Karma Train! It's coming for you, Tony. (AP Photo)
By: Tony Andracki, Scott Krinch and Mark Strotman
Welcome to another edition of CSNChicago.com's Start'em and Sit'em, where three totally unqualified guys give their take on the best and worst plays in the upcoming fantasy football week.
We're not experts, but then again, how can anybody truly be an "expert" at fantasy football? This is a game of luck and nobody can predict the future.
We don't have special powers, but we are pretty obsessed with fantasy sports. Just ask our girlfriends...if we had any.
Every week, each of us will comprise a trio of players with the best matchups or situations on tap for the week ahead and a corresponding trio of guys who are most likely to run into a metaphorical brick wall.
And because we're men and we love perpetuating stereotypes, we, of course, turned this into a competition. Why not?
After three weeks (and all of last year), we realized a major flaw in our scoring: If we assign 0-5 values to each player's performance, there's nothing worse than a zero. And Mark's Week 3 sit of Antonio Brown (who went off for 31 ESPN standard points) should have been bad enough to sink his entire week (as Tony's picks of Cam Newton and DeSean Jackson in Week 6 did), instead of just that one pick.
So we've instituted a new system. We will add up the ESPN standard fantasy points for all of our "Starts" and subtract the points from all our "Sits" and the difference will be the weekly score. If one of us winds up with a negative score, so be it.
[RELATED: Week 13 picks]
(Scoring example: If Scott's three starts total 45 fantasy points and his three sits total 20, he would finish the week with 25 points.)
So without further ado, here are our picks for Week 14:
Mark Strotman (Week 13 points: - 2; Total: -60)
Here we are in the first week of the playoffs. If you're reading this, 1) hi Mom, or 2) congratulations on making the second season. No matter how you got in, it's a testament to consistency that has you here. There are two schools of thought in the playoffs: Ride out momentum with guys who got you here, or take chances and ensure yourself a win. I like to live dangerously, and that's why I'm going with some boom-or-bust plays (both starting and sitting) that will either win or lose you your matchup. I think you'll win if you follow these picks...I think.
Joique Bell, RB -- DET (@ PHI)
Even if Reggie Bush does play, the Lions are seeing the value of Bell more each week. He had 19 carries against the Packers, but where I really like him is in the passing game. With Bush at less than 100 percent, Bell is going to be on the field. He's a bit of a boom-or-bust pick, seeing as he's had fantasy weeks of 4 and 1 points the last two months, but offense should be everywhere on the field Sunday in Philadelphia. My guess is Bell is a major reason why.
Riley Cooper, WR -- PHI (vs. DET)
This almost seems like a must-start with the way Nick Foles has been playing, but consider that Cooper hasn't found the end zone in two weeks and has totaled just 85 yards in that span. I think he's in for a breakout game in what should be a shootout between two elite offenses. The Lions are allowing the sixth most points to wide receivers, and it's time for Cooper to step up in a game the Eagles need. Start him with confidence as a WR2/flex option.
Matt Ryan, QB -- ATL (A GB)
I'm not exactly sure how your team made the playoffs if you have started Ryan all season, but if you have made it this far you're about to get rewarded. The Packers pass defense has been downright awful this season, and with no Aaron Rodgers the offense is going to struggle yet again. That means shorter fields and more possessions for a Falcons offense that is really starting to pick up the pace. With Roddy White, Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez and a rejuvenated Steven Jackson, Ryan is in for a big afternoon.
Gio Bernard, RB -- CIN (vs. IND)
Oh, Gio. There's so much to like about you, what with your versatility, your entrenched spot on a high-octane offense and a favorable matchup. But consider that Bernard has failed to score in the last two weeks and has only found the end zone in five of 12 games this season. The carries just aren't there and though he has been a part of the passing game all year, the Colts aren't a defense to simply overlook. Combine that with his timeshare with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and I'm staying away from Gio this week. You probably need to start him based on upside alone, but don't automatically plug him in like you've done all year.
Anquan Boldin, WR -- SF (vs. SEA)
After a horrid middle of the season in which he topped five fantasy points just once between Weeks 5 and 10, Boldin has exploded down the fantasy regular-season stretch. In the last three weeks, he has posted 11, 21, and nine points, respectively, and is benefitting from Colin Kaepernick's improved play. But we all saw what the Legion of Boom (Seattle's secondary) did to Drew Brees, and it has me worried about what they'll do to Boldin. If Richard Sherman guards Boldin and not Davis, it's lights out for the Niners' top wide receiver. You probably have a better option on your bench; use it.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB -- PIT (vs. MIA)
Per ESPN.com, the Dolphins have allowed just four passing touchdowns in the last eight weeks. That's pretty remarkable, and it should continue despite Roethlisberger having one of the best under-the-radar fantasy seasons in the NFL. Though he hasn't thrown an interception in three weeks and has eight touchdowns in that span, I'm staying away from Big Ben against a tough defense in what may be some brutal conditions. If you've ridden him to the playoffs, it may be tough to bench him. Just know he faces a less than stellar matchup against a Dolphins secondary that has been great of late.
[RELATED: Top pickups for Week 14]
Tony Andracki: (Week 13 points: 9; Total: 69)
Do you believe in karma?
I've been giving Mark a lot of crap for his rough luck in Fantasy this year (his teams and his Start/Sit picks) and now, by luck of the draw, he and I are playing each other in the CSN Digital League. I believe karma is on a steam engine coming my way and I'm lying on the tracks, unable to move like one of those damsels in distress. I could totally see Mark beating me this week and having the last laugh in the 2013 Fantasy Football season.
Or maybe I'm just telling myself that to keep my expectations low, so I'm not disappointed if Matt Forte, Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery and Jason Witten leave me hanging and combine for only, like, 20 points on Monday night.
For those of you starting the first week of playoffs, I wish you the best of luck. For those of you whose playoffs don't start until next week, don't overlook the importance of postseason seeding. And for everybody who didn't make the playoffs (like Scott, on ALL his teams), study up. They say you learn the most from your mistakes.
Philip Rivers, QB -- SD (vs. NYG)
I'm faced with this same dilemma in one of my leagues. Cruised to the No. 1 seed the year after winning the championship (of course, having the first overall pick and Adrian Peterson for two years running certainly helps), I now have the first round of playoffs with Andrew Luck, my starting QB all season, with an awful matchup and Rivers, whom I haven't trusted in fantasy during his entire career, with a good matchup. Gotta trust the numbers, here. Rivers is the smart play.
Le'Veon Bell, RB -- PIT (vs. MIA)
The Dolphins haven't done much to slow down the running game this year, allowing 10 rushing TDs to opposing RBs and more than 120 yards in six games. Bell is getting the lion's share of the touches in the Pittsburgh backfield and he's reportedly fine after being concussed on Thanksgiving night. I'm willing to bet he's smarter concussed than his coach, Mike Tomlin, is when healthy. Get out of the damn runner's way, Mike.
[MORE: Week 14 Target Watch -- NFC]
Victor Cruz, WR -- NYG (@ SD)
Ahh yes, the Chargers pass defense. They're giving up an average of 25.2 fantasy points per week to opposing WRs and Victor Cruz is the surefire top target in Eli Manning's air attack. Cruz has only four touchdowns this year -- and just one since Week 1 -- so here's to betting he puts it together against the Chargers, who've allowed 13 TDs to WRs this year.
Andrew Luck, QB -- IND (@ CIN)
The good news: If Luck doesn't get you many fantasy points through the air, you can always check his hidden contributions on the ground. The bad news: Luck isn't getting it done through the air this season. He has just two passing tuddies the last four weeks and has only topped 20 fantasy points in three games and 300 yards in two game this season. In fact, he's actually been held below 235 yards in eight games in 2013. Can't gamble on him in the playoffs. He deserves a spot on your bench.
Ben Tate, RB -- HOU (@ JAC)
Tate's always banged up, it seems, and his nasty rib injury (he reportedly can't even laugh without pain) can't be helping matters. Sure, he scored thrice last week, but it was only his second game in double digit fantasy points and he's going against a Jacksonville team that has been super stingy of late on the ground, allowing opposing running backs just 236 rushing yards and two scores the last four weeks. If you're desperate, there are worse options than Tate out there, but you can't trust him fully. Not if you have visions of a championship dancing in your head.
Wes Welker, WR -- DEN (vs. TEN)
Remember when Welker, never a touchdown machine, started the season with scores in his first six games, eight in all? He's found the endzone once since then and the little slot receiver hasn't topped 100 yards yet this year. With just 15 fantasy points the last four weeks, he seems to be the forgotten man in Peyton Manning's offense. Heck, Eric Decker got 15 fantasy points in half a minute last week.
Scott Krinch: (Week 13 points: 0; Total: 3)
I need to learn a little something about the word confidence. I was 100 percent confident that you could start Percy Harvin with no regrets in his matchup with the Saints. Well, now it looks like he may not even play this season - not like it matters with Seattle boasting the Legion of Boom. I was also confident back in September that all three of my fantasy teams would advance pretty far in the playoffs. Now, I'm sitting here twiddling my thumbs waiting for next year's fantasy draft to take place. Oh and I'm sorry for everybody that I have to buy Christmas presents for this year, my pockets are thin with all my league dues.
Well, at least I may not finish last in our little competition over here. I need to find someway to pass Tony, but he's been spot on with his selections. I like where my head is at this week, I've got nothing to lose and I feel confident -- ugh that word again -- with my six selections. Take my advice and advance to the next round of the playoffs with these guys:
Joe Flacco, QB -- BAL (vs. MIN)
What a matchup for Joe Flacco this week. He gets to go up against a miserable, and I mean absolutely miserable Vikings secondary. Minnesota just allowed back-to-back 20-plus point fantasy games to the likes of Scott Tolzien/Matt Flynn and Josh McCown - not exactly murder's row. They've allowed a passing touchdown in every single game this season. Flacco's been productive as of late and seems to be spreading the wealth in Baltimore, I expect that to continue with ease on Sunday.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB -- JAC (vs. HOU)
MJD may not be what he used to be anymore, but that's hard to do considering he was one of the best fantasy running backs in the NFL. If you have him on your team you likely didn't waste a first-round pick and you've got to love the production he's been giving you as of late. Four touchdowns, catching passes out of the backfield, a cake playoff schedule. It doesn't get better. This week he faces the Texans where in seven career starts he's accumulated eight touchdowns and 803 total yards. Get him in your lineup, the arrow is pointing way up.
Jared Cook, TE -- STL (@ ARI)
If you haven't heard by now: Arizona sucks against tight ends. I mean, they really do. They've given up 14 touchdowns to opposing fantasy tight ends. Jared Cook isn't a world beater by any means, but they just allowed three touchdowns combined to Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. Yeah ... that's what I'm saying. Cook has came around lately with Kellen Clemens and even broke his long touchdown drought in Week 12. Please, please, please get him in your lineup, you won't regret it.
[ALSO: Week 14 target watch -- AFC]
Ben Roethlisberger, QB -- PIT (vs. MIA)
Big Ben has been model of consistency as of late. The veteran quarterback has thrown a touchdown in every game this season and his interceptions have been sparce since Week 10. So what isn't there to like about his fantasy prospects on Sunday? Well, he's going up against a Miami Dolphins defense that's given up the third fewest points to opposing fantasy quarterbacks in 2013. They've only allowed one signal-caller to score above 20 points this season and that was Drew Brees in Week 4. Yeah, Roethlisberger may connect on a couple of longballs to Antonio Brown, but don't expect those to translate in touchdowns this weekend.
C.J. Spiller, RB -- BUF (@ TB)
Sitting Spiller after his best game of the season, I must be nuts. Not really. Spiller hasn't put together back-to-back double-digit fantasy games all season. For somebody that's played in all but one game this season, he only has two touchdowns. I'd say that he's probably the biggest fantasy bust of the season since he was drafted in the Top 5 in most leagues. His prospects aren't looking too hot this weekend either. A sore ankle, a stout Tampa Bay Buccaneers rush defense and a timeshare with Fred Jackson. Don't put your playoffs hopes on the line with Spiller.
Dwayne Bowe, WR -- KC (@ WSH)
Where has been Bowe been hiding all season? The Chiefs are winning, and they've done it with minimal production from their star wide receiver. Bowe has only reached double-digit fantasy points four times in 2013, not exactly No. 1 wideout numbers. I would almost put him in droppable territory. Hell, I wouldn't put my playoff' hopes on his shoudlers. This weekend he plays against a mediocre Redskins secondary, but honestly it doesn't matter. He's not going to do anything, trust me. Don't go anywhere near him on Sunday.