Chicago Blackhawks

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.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

nick_schmaltz.jpg
USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”