Start 'em, Sit 'em: Week 15 picks

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Start 'em, Sit 'em: Week 15 picks

Mark is cheating. We haven't caught him yet, but he remains in first place after finishing dead-last in the CSN Fantasy Football League. It was ugly. With just a few weeks remaining, Scott and Tony have outside chances to reach him. But more important, you've got a fantasy football playoff round to win. 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, while startsit decisions could cost you the season, not just a single game.
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 5 points4: 5-93: 10-142: 15-191: 20-240: 25
Without further adieu, here are our picks for Week 14. Good luck!
Mark Strotman (Week 14: 15 points; Season total: 179 points)
Alright, this is escalating quickly. I mean this is really getting out of hand fast. I'm not sure why I keep hitting on these picks (as my 12th place finish in the preview would indicate), but I'm starting to think it says more about Scott and Tony than it does me. Kidding...I think. Anyway, I have to stay with my theory of taking risks in the playoffs. Winning in fantasy takes luck, and you can make educated guesses as to who will go off to help you out. If you're in the semifinals this week, best of luck and feel free to ride my coattails to the championship.
Start 'em
Stephen Jackson, RB -- STL (vs. MIN)
In years past a running back's matchup against the Vikings would have been cause for concern, but that's not the case this season. Eight straight running backs have racked up 100 total yards or more against Jared Allen and co., and Stephen Jackson is quietly putting up double-digit numbers on a routine basis. He's a nice RB2 start this week, so don't get scared off by the Vikings' defense.
Josh Gordon, WR -- CLE (vs. WAS)
A whopping seven wide receivers this season have caught more than 200 receiving yards against the Redskins' secondary this year, and Gordon may be a top-5 deep-ball threat in the NFL. He's starting to get more targets late in the season, and Brandon Weeden loves to throw. Gordon is a solid back-end WR2 and great flex option for you this week.
Russell Wilson, QB -- SEA (@ BUF)
Look away, Bears' fans. Though many won't want to see this name pop up, I think he's an excellent choice if you are looking for high-risk, high-reward quarterback. The Bills' pass defense is nothing special, and Wilson is coming off a relaxing game, where the 58-0 blowout win didn't allow him to really open up through the air. Wilson can win you a week, and he may just do it against Buffalo.
Sit 'em
Miles Austin, WR -- DAL (PIT)
Dez Bryant should be good to go this week, and the fact is Austin has scored just once since Week 7. He's always a potential play to put up big numbers, but at this point you may be better of looking for a better WR2 if you can. Pittsburgh's pass defense has been solid lately, and Jason WittenDez Bryant are getting most of the looks. Find someone else.
Reggie Bush, RB -- MIA (vs. JAC)
The Jaguars are a putrid defense against the run, which may be reason enough to make Bush a start...but remember, it's fine to risk someone in the flex. Bush may put up solid numbers, but he isn't going to go off. Start him if you must, but he's just not the same running back he was earlier in the year. He's worn down.
Torrey Smith, WR -- BAL (vs. DEN)
I'll admit I was on the Torrey Smith bandwagon BIG TIME this season, but he has surpassed 100 yards just twice this season, and his big games have come against pretty uninspiring pass defenses (NE, OAK, SD). Well, here comes Denver. The Broncos won't let Smith go off, so while he may get a few catches short, he's not a candidate to explode in Week 2 of the playoffs.
Scott Krinch (Week 14: 10 points; Season total: 168 points)
And just like that, my hopes of catching Mark in the standings took a major hit. Now I'm in serious danger of falling into last place with only two weeks to play. This is not the way I envisioned things. Should I get crazy and take some risks with a chance of inching on Mark's point total, or do I play it safe so Tony doesn't surpass me? How about a little of both?
Last week I started Jay Cutler, whoops. I rode the Law Firm's hot streak which was a horrible move, I should have known better. But, where I really went wrong was in my sits. Cam Newton decided to turn into 2011 Cam on the Falcons, Alfred Morris did his thing once again and apparently Julio Jones' ankle is just fine. Time to forget about all that jazz. With that being said, give my picks a looksie (you probably shouldn't take my advice) and find your hidden gem that will lead to the Fantasy Football Championship game.
Start 'em
Andrew Luck, QB -- IND (@ HOU)
Sunday marks Luck's first career-start against the Texans, the team that Indy has been chasing in the AFC South standings all season. I know Luck didn't have a good game against Tennessee last week, but after seeing what the Patriots did to Houston's secondary it's hard not to have high hopes for Luck this week. The Texans are also dealing with a depleted secondary. On the road, the rookie signal-caller is averaging 306 passing yards per game. I expect a huge week and I don't see any reason not to start Luck.
Matt Forte, RB -- CHI (vs. GB)
It's been a disappointing year for the former first-round fantasy pick. With only three touchdowns on the ground and two 100-plus rushing games, the decision to sit Forte each week has been getting easier. So why aren't I go with those statistics for Week 15? Well, if the Bears have a shot at being the Packers, it's going to come down to Mike Tice trusting the run. Green Bay has feasted on Jay Cutler's interceptions. Expect the Bears to establish the running game with No. 22 against a Packers defense who's given up 101.8 yards per game to running backs with four touchdowns in their past four games.
Lance Moore, WR -- NO (vs. TB)
Moore has to have a dynamite fantasy performance at some point, right? I've kept him on one of my teams all season long for that very reason and if he's going to breakout, this is the week to do so. Last time the Saints battled Tampa Bay, Moore had nine catches for 121. I expect this matchup to be a shootout due in large part to both teams having brutal secondaries. I'm expecting a 20-point fantasy game for Moore, one could hope right?
Sit 'em
Ben Roethlisberger, QB -- PIT (@ DAL)
Roethlisberger made fantasy owners happy in his return on Sunday with three touchdown scores, but it's time to tamper that enthusiasm this week. The Cowboys secondary has allowed only two touchdown passes in their last two games, which doesn't bode well for Big Ben. Don't take the risk this week. There are safer options out there if you're in desperate need of a quarterback for Week 15.
C.J. Spiller, RB -- BUF (vs. SEA)
Fantasy owners have been handcuffed by Chain Gailey's decision to split time between Spiller and Fred Jackson all season. Well, this week Gailey is giving Spiller the keys to the offense after Jackson was placed on the IR. So does this mean a monster game for Spiller? Not in my eyes. Seattle's defense is no joke after scoring 53 fantasy points last week, they're on a mission to grab a wild card spot in the NFC. Hold off on starting Spiller this week.
Randall Cobb, WR -- GB (@ CHI)
It's starting to look more and more like Cobb is the Packers No. 1 wide receiver going forward. Rodgers has shown trust in Cobb as he's been seeing his targets go up each week. Despite the Packers recent dominance in the ChicagoGreen Bay rivalry, the Bears have showed an ability to slow down Rodgers. I expect the same of that this week, especially after being embarrassed the past two weeks. I wouldn't be putting my trust into Cobb this week if I owned him in my fantasy leagues.
Tony Andracki (Week 14: 13 points; Season total: 160 points)
Well, last week was more of the same for me, as Greg Jennings put up a goose egg. But at least I didn't sit some guy who wound up having a career day. Matt Ryan was pretty good, but not great, and same with Tony Romo on the starts. Hakeem Nicks scored a touchdown, but he's still dealing with a knee injury and I just don't trust him at all. 
I do have faith in Chris Johnson still, though. I think he can -- and will -- do some real damage this week against the Jets.
My season score in this startsit isn't good, but so you might be surprised that I still have three of my four teams alive and well in the playoffs (though a first-round Bye definitely helps that). And in one of my leagues, I fully plan to start Danario Alexander. Call me crazy, but at least I don't wear leather skirts, Kanye.
Start 'em
Chris Johnson, RB -- TEN (vs. NYJ)
Johnson has been a bit up-and-down this season, but I guess that comes with the territory. CJ1K has had some very good games since his horrid start, but has still topped 20 fantasy points just once this season, against the Bills in Week 7. Expect him to approach that total this week, against the Jets defense that has allowed at least 100 rushing yards in all but three games this season.
Colin Kaepernick, QB -- SF (@ NE)
The wonderkid has netted at least 14 fantasy points in every game since taking over as the starter, despite just three passing touchdowns. His ability to scramble and pick up 50 yards on one rushing play is a huge boost to his numbers, and expect more of the same this week against New England. The Patriots have actually improved their pass defense after spending much of the season at the bottom of the league, but still may not have an answer for a QB with the athleticism of Kaepernick. Plus, if the Niners are down, they'll be putting the ball in Colin's hands more, letting him sling it often.
Danario Alexander, WR -- SD (vs. CAR)
Sometimes in fantasy football, you gotta just take a risk and say "what the hell?" Kinda like Kanye at the 121212 concert with his leather skirt. But in the case of Alexander, he won't bomb completely. Ever since working his way up the depth chart, the Mizzou grad has garnered at least 3 catches and 60 yards in every game, and has racked up double digit fantasy points in four of the last five games, including two 20-point outings. Take the risk. It'll be worth it.
Sit 'em
Andrew Luck, QB -- IND (@ HOU)
I know, I know -- the Texans have given up 25 fantasy points to opposing QBs in three of the last four weeks, including a game against the Chad Henne-led Jags. But I'm betting they get back to playing some solid defense this week and make the Colts' sensation look more like the rookie he is. Yes, Luck has been one of the guys to get you to the playoffs, I'm sure, but this is not the best matchup for him.
Knowshon Moreno, RB -- DEN (@ BAL)
When Willis McGahee went down to injury, most people assumed it would be Ronnie Hillman to get the bulk of the carries and absorb McGahee's fantasy value in that Broncos offense. But it's been Moreno, who has emerged from the shadows to relevancy again, with 38 fantasy points the last three weeks. The Baltimore defense is not what it has been in years past -- especially with all the injuries -- but I'm not so sure Moreno will have success again. I could see Peyton Manning going off, but not Moreno.

Mike Wallace, WR -- PIT (@ DAL)
Wallace has scored 8 tuddies this year, but he has topped 15 fantasy points just twice this season, and one of those came in Week 3. Yeah, he was a beast last week (23 points, two scores) with Roethlisberger back in the lineup, but don't expect another outing like that. Wallace is just too inconsistent to trust in the playoffs, especially if you have other quality options.

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Rookie Deiondre' Hall flashed in the preseason a year ago, leading the Bears coaching staff and fans to believe they found something amidst their trio of 2016 fourth round draft picks. 

He’s hoping to do the same this August after overcoming one physical hurdle, while waiting to see if he can get past a legal hurdle he created for himself.

Let’s start on the field, where, just days after his first NFL interception in the fourth game last season, he sustained an ankle injury in practice, sidelining him for two months. Once his walking boot and scooter were finally put away, he was active for the final four games. But what progress he’d been making on the field was difficult to recapture.

“Just coming off the injury, there was a little rust here and there, but the training staff here’s great and I had to push through it,” Hall said at last week’s minicamp in Lake Forest after he was one of numerous Bears hit by the injury bug, but not one of the 19 who wound up on Injured Reserve. “(I was) getting comfortable with the defense and in myself playing with those guys out there, getting the opportunity in the red zone and making plays. But the injury kinda sucked because I haven’t really had an opportunity to play since Week 5, so I’m not necessarily starting fresh.”

As the offseason unfolded, Hall was informed the coaching staff was going to try him at safety, if not permanently, then as an option for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Northern Iowa product. 

But Hall’s not totally foreign to the position. He was a free safety his first year in college, then transitioned to outside linebacker/nickel as a sophomore, moved to cornerback as a junior before breaking his hand his senior year, playing through it back where he started at safety. So the decision wasn’t a big deal, especially if it enhances his chances to get on the field. But his preference?

“Defense. Opportunity,” Hall responded. “You get in where you fit in and the more you can do, the better it is for the team. If opportunity presents itself at corner, then I’m at corner. But right now at safety, I’m making strides (there) and keep pushing for that.”

“We’re gonna float him back and forth,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last month, after the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in the off-season, while Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc are expected to battle for slot duty and former first-rounder Kyle Fuller and veterans Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb hope to impress. “He (Hall) had some experience there in college. When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

But before Hall gets back to work in Bourbonnais, he’ll find out if he has some other dues to pay. Hall was back at his alma mater’s Cedar Falls campus March 26th when he and a former UNI teammate were arrested outside a bar called Sharky’s. Police had responded to a call, and by the time all was said and done, Hall needed to be tased before being arrested on charges of public intoxication, interference (with an arrest), and disorderly conduct. 

The case was continued late last month and Hall’s jury trial is scheduled for July 11th. Pending the outcome, he could face disciplinary action from the team and the NFL. He’s told his side of the story to Bears management and while expressing remorse for putting himself in the situation, Hall says it wasn’t in character and feels confident in what the outcome will be.

“People make mistakes and the truth always comes out,” the 23-year-old said, adding the situation isn’t weighing on his mind or affected his preparation in off-season workouts. “You gotta let people make their own mistakes. I won’t shed light but the truth always comes out, and (I’ve learned) just don’t take anything for granted.”

“My main focus is football and keep pushing to make strides to become good, and great.”

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

When the Blackhawks found Artemi Panarin, they found a talent who was NHL ready from the start, who found instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and earned a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. It was also a tremendous panacea for a team that couldn’t pull off a deal to keep Brandon Saad, who was the power forward that fit in beautifully in the Blackhawks’ top six.

On Friday, the Blackhawks brought Saad back and dealt Panarin to do it.   

Saad returns to the Blackhawks, who also acquire goaltender Anton Forsberg, in exchange for Panarin and Tyler Motte. The Blackhawks also get the Blue Jackets’ fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft and the Columbus gets Chicago’s sixth-round pick from this weekend’s draft. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the deal. The Blackhawks inherit Saad’s deal, which has four years remaining at a $6 million cap hit. Panarin was about to enter his current deal, which is two years with a $6 million cap hit. This is key for the immediate future; when Panarin’s latest deal is up, if he keeps up at his current pace, he’ll likely sign for a lot more.

[MORE: Blackhawks deal Hjalmarsson to Arizona]

The Blackhawks have missed Saad terribly since his departure. The team has struggled to find consistent line mates with Jonathan Toews, especially at that left-wing position. They did fairly well with Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik flanking Toews this season but it wasn’t as strong as the Saad-Toews combination. So it looks like the Blackhawks’ top line will be solidified again.

Now, what about the second line? As good as Toews and Saad’s chemistry was, Panarin’s and Kane’s was dynamite. The two had their respective skill, which they flashed often, and their ability to read each other was evident from the start. The Blackhawks’ second line was as consistent and steady the past two seasons as the top line was during Saad’s time here.

So, there are changes. The Blackhawks will absolutely miss what Panarin brings. But as far as bringing back a former Blackhawks player who could help in the present, getting the 24-year-old Saad back will be very beneficial.