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.

LEGO Wrigley Field offers Cubs fans chance at own construction project

LEGO Wrigley Field offers Cubs fans chance at own construction project

There have been mixed reactions to all of the construction in and around Wrigley Field in recent years.

For those Cubs fans who are in favor of all the work that has and will be done, there is now an opportunity to take on your own little construction project.

The mini LEGO Wrigley field is composed of 333 LEGO bricks and 69 unique LEGO elements.

It boasts dimensions of five inches by five inches, making the mini Wrigley a perfect item to display on your desk, mantel or really anywhere.

Like what you hear? Fans can purchase their own here.

Cubs slug their way to a sweep of Reds in Cincinnati

Cubs slug their way to a sweep of Reds in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — Anthony Rizzo saw the ball ricochet across the outfield and kicked his legs into high gear, deciding he was going to try to touch `em all. His sides were aching by the time he slid safely into home plate.

Rizzo legged out his first inside-the-park homer on Wednesday - a fitting final touch to a series full of unusual moments - and the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-2 for a three-game sweep that put them back on solid footing after a rough stretch.

"They were on top of it, man, after a long one last night," Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks said.

The Cubs went 1-6 last week, hurt by an injury-depleted lineup and a balky bullpen. With thousands of Cubs fans in the stands at Great American Ball Park for each game, they pulled off an invigorating sweep.

The NL Central leaders won the opener 11-8 as Kris Bryant became the first major leaguer with three homers and two doubles in a game. They won 7-2 in 15 innings Tuesday night in a game that featured Javier Baez's grand slam and three relievers playing left field alternately.

Manager Joe Maddon went with a lot of his young backups after the long night. They piled up a dozen hits and made impressive plays all over the field.

"A bunch of babies played in that game today," Maddon said. "They were inexperienced, they were young, and they came out and played hard and played well."

There was more wackiness, too.

Rizzo drove in three runs in the first inning off left-hander Cody Reed (0-2) with the Cubs' first inside-the-park homer since 2011, when Tony Campana circled the bases against Cincinnati. Left fielder Adam Duvall cut in front of center fielder Billy Hamilton but couldn't get to the ball, which deflected off Hamilton's cheek.

Rizzo couldn't remember the last time he circled the bases that way.

"Maybe Little League?" he said. "Nothing like that. I'll take it."

Hamilton left the game to get tested for a concussion. He missed a week earlier this month after suffering a concussion when he slid into third base and got hit in the head.

"We both called for it at the same time," Duvall said. "I thought we were going to collide. I didn't take my eye off the ball, but I might've flinched a little bit. It hit him pretty good. It ended up rolling pretty far."

Hendricks (6-6) gave up Duvall's 22nd homer and went 6 2/3 innings, throwing 117 pitches to rest a bullpen worn out from pitching and playing the outfield. He also drove in a run with a squeeze bunt.

Hendricks didn't get to play the outfield, though - not this time, anyway.

"The way things are going, you never know," he said.

Addison Russell and Albert Almora Jr. had solo shots for the Cubs, who hit 10 homers during the series. Baez had three more hits on Wednesday. Rizzo's homer gave him a 10-game hitting streak during which he's gone 17 for 36.

The Cubs have the major leagues' best record at 51-26. They're 9-1 against the Reds this season and have won 12 of their last 13 against their NL Central rival.

The Cubs' 27 runs in the series matched their second-highest total of the season for a three-game stretch.

They also turned in more good defensive plays. Right fielder Ben Zobrist threw out Joey Votto at the plate as he tried to score from second on Jay Bruce's single in the third.

SLAMMED

Research into Baez's 15th-inning slam found that it was the latest by inning in Cubs history. Also, it was only the third in baseball history to happen in the 15th inning or later. New York's Tino Martinez hit one in the 15th in 1996, and Boston's Clyde Vollmer hit one in the 16th inning in 1951, according to STATS information provided by the team. The Cubs hadn't scored five runs so late in a game since 1927.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Cubs: Maddon gave LHP Travis Wood the day off after he played left field and pitched in relief Tuesday night.

Reds: 2B Brandon Phillips was in the lineup despite getting hit in the ribs and taking a foul off his left ankle Tuesday night. He had a single in four at-bats.

UP NEXT

Cubs: RHP John Lackey (7-4, 3.29 ERA) opens a four-game series at New York against the Mets. He's coming off his worst outing of the season, when he allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings of a loss at Miami last Saturday.

Reds: LHP Brandon Finnegan (3-6, 3.83) opens a four-game series at Washington. He has lost his last two starts, giving up seven earned runs in 11 2/3 innings. The Reds don't play at home again until July 15.

Fire cut ties with Gilberto, mutually terminate contract

Fire cut ties with Gilberto, mutually terminate contract

Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said the club would likely be quiet in the summer, but they announced a big move on Wednesday.

The Fire and Gilberto mutually agreed to terminate the Brazilian forward’s contract, cutting him loose in the middle of the season.

The move is significant for a number of ways. First, it marks the end of another failed Designated Player for the Fire. Gilberto scored five goals in 10 matches after joining the team on July 27 last season, but had no goals and two assists in nine matches this season.

The second important thing to note is that Gilberto’s departure means the Fire now have an open DP slot. David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike are the remaining two DPs on the roster. Also, Gilberto is off the books both in terms of salary and in terms of his salary cap hit for the remainder of the season.

“Despite his best efforts, Gilberto was not able to reach his top form in Major League Soccer,” Rodr√≠guez said in a statement. “He is a good person, with a big heart and a passion for the game, and we hope he finds success at his next stop.”

Gilberto’s departure also means the Fire have an open international spot on the roster. Previously all eight international spots were filled up.

Gilberto last played for the Fire on May 21, when he delivered the assist on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win against Houston. Coach Veljko Paunovic said after the following match on May 28, a 1-1 draw with Portland, that Gilberto asked for some time away for personal reasons a couple days before the match.

Gilberto’s contract was set to expire at the end of the season. His contract was the highest on the team at $1,145,000, according to the MLS Players Union.