Blackhawks

Week 16: Start 'em, Sit 'em picks

967455.png

Week 16: Start 'em, Sit 'em picks

If you have made it to the fantasy football championship, congratulations and you're welcome for the free advice. If you're out and have come to see us mess up again, our bad and we'll try and do better next year. It's finally Week 16, which means the final week of the fantasy football year. Injuries continue to bite teams, and others are fighting for playoff position and will be using their stars accordingly. Take that into account when you set your rosters, and take these options into account, too.
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 16. Good luck!
Mark Strotman (Week 15: 19 points; Season total: 195 points)
With just one week to play, it feels good knowing I can take home the crown with just a marginal week. But we're here to help, and that means making the right picks that will help win you your fantasy league championship. If you're reading this and aren't in the fantasy championship, we appreciate the clicks. As always, I'm looking for high-upside guys in the playoffs. You need your rock-solid starters, but if you have a toss-up you had better play the guy who can explode for 20 instead of the one who will for sure get you 9-10. Just go with it.
Start 'em
DeAngelo Williams, RB -- CAR (vs. OAK)
How about this? Williams has scored 16 and 18 points the last two weeks, respectively, yet hasn't found the end zone. Ever since Jonathan Stewart's ankle injury sidelined him, Williams has been the guy the Panthers were hoping he would be all year. I like him to find the end zone at home this week, as the Panthers' offense has rolled the last few weeks.
T.Y. Hilton, WR -- IND (@ KC)
Welcome to your boom-or-bust play of the week. Hilton is quickly becoming Andrew Luck's favorite receiver and, while his receptions don't do him justice, he's got deep-ball threat written all over him and should get behind the Chiefs' secondary multiple times this week. If Hilton is somehow on the waiver wire or on your bench, change that.
Jermichael Finley, TE -- GB (vs. TEN)
Rare to see a tight end in here, but Finley is really starting to turn it around and probably not in your starting lineup. With two regular season games left to prove his worth (either for the Packers or another team), you can bet Finley is going to "magically" pick up his production. He showed a bit of it last week, and with Jordy Nelson questionable again he'll have some targets come his way. I like him as a TE1 with, yes, high upside.
Sit 'em
Andy Dalton, QB -- CIN (@ PIT)
Dalton has thrown for four touchdown passes in three career games against the Steelers, and I don't see those numbers getting much better this week. It isn't a great matchup, but Dalton is also playing below-average for a QB1. Furthermore, BenJarvus Green-Ellis looks fantastic as of late. If there's a Matthew StaffordRussell WilsonColin Kaepernick on your bench, Dalton may have to ride the pine in a tough road contest.
LeSean McCoy, RB -- PHI (vs. WAS)
I really have no idea why the Eagles, playing for nothing, are risking the only player on their roster with real All-Star potential for the future. That being said, it looks like he'll play but will be splitting time with Bryce Brown, who hopefully you handcuffed. Owners will be excited to plug McCoy into lineups, but don't expect a big game from him.
Jeremy Maclin -- WR -- PHI (vs. WAS)
Outside of a fluky 104-yard, touchdown-receiving performance against the Bucaneers, Maclin can't seem to produce with Nick Foles. It's hard to blame anyone for the Eagles' woes at this point, but I'm staying away from Maclin, even against an average Redskins' secondary. Find a better upside player like, oh, I don't know, T.Y. Hilton.
Scott Krinch (Week 15: 15 points; Season total: 183 points)
Well things haven't gone according to plans for me. I dropped even further behind Mark and after a first-round bye in one of my fantasy leagues, I was ousted in the semifinals. Oh and the Packers celebrated once again at Soldier Field. With Christmas less than a week away, hopefully Santy Clause will help me turn my luck around.
With all of that being said, -- I know you could care less about my misfortunes -- I think I have a good sense of who to startsit this week. I've done my research and hopefully my picks will lead you to fantasy glory...that's if you decide to listen to me.
Start 'em
Russell Wilson, QB -- SEA (vs. SF)
Week after week, Wilson is proving he belongs in the same category as his rookie counterparts Andrew Luck and RGIII. Lately, the former minor league baseball player has been doing it in the air and on the ground, scoring a career-high three rushing touchdowns against the Bills. Normally I'd be against starting a QB against the 49ers defense, but after Tom Brady torched them, they're starting to look vulnerable. The Seahawks NEED this game and expect Wilson to play a large role in a Seattle upset.
Matt Forte, RB -- CHI (@ ARI)
I was wrong about Forte last week. Sorry if you listened to me. But this week, I have faith in Forte's matchup against a Cardinals defense who are allowing 136.5 rushing yards per game. That's not the only factor in No. 22's favor. Michael Bush was just placed on the IR and it looks like all those goal-line touches -- that's if the Bears offense finds the red zone -- will belong to Forte. The Bears are in a must-win situation and will need a monster day from their lead back. Start him with confidence and you will be reaping the rewards.
Danny Amendola, WR -- STL (@ TB)
Amendola showed no signs of a foot injury after catching six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. This week he will get the opportunity to feast on a Brutal (emphasis on a capital B) Tampa Bay secondary. Opposing wide receivers have totaled 3,059 yards and reeled in 16 touchdowns against the Buccaneers. I see Amendola as a must-start this week. I'm thinking at least 10 catches, 100 yards and a score for the rich man's Dane Sanzenbacher.
Sit 'em
Matthew Stafford, QB -- DET (vs. ATL)
What has happened to Stafford this season? You're probably regretting taking him in the first-round in your fantasy drafts by now. He's still putting up the yards, but the touchdowns just haven't been there. After seeing the Falcons dominate Eli Manning and the Giants, I don't have any faith in Stafford putting up a stellar game. Search your waiver-wire, there are much better options still out there. HINT HINT...Russell Wilson.
Knowshon Moreno, RB -- DEN (vs. CLE)
Moreno has come out of the doghouse (no pun intended for the former Georgia Bulldog) and has been running with a purpose the last two games with Willis McGahee out. With that said, I still don't trust Moreno in a fantasy championship matchup. The Browns have been playing better lately and I see this being a low-scoring game. I could be completely wrong on this one, but I just have a hunch that Moreno won't have another double-digit performance.
Mike Wallace, WR -- PIT (vs. CIN)
My first sit of the year was Wallace and I find it only fitting that I end our startsit with the disappointing Steelers wideout. You probably think I hate Wallace and you may be right. The last few seasons he had been my favorite wide receiver in the league, I drafted him on all my fantasy teams and I was furious the Bears didn't draft him back in '09 out of Mississippi. I really soured on him after his holdout in the offseason and it looks it's hampered his play in 2012. Only two 100 receiving games, not something you want out of a No. 1 wide receiver. This week he'll go up against a Bengals defense that's been dominate as of late. If you want to start a Steeler, go with Andre Brown or Heath Miller.
Tony Andracki (Week 15: 15points; Season total: 175)
It's championship week. Do or die. If you're still reading this, hopefully it means you're going for it all, and not just some consoltion prize. Though, I'm a big fan of leagues having some sort of reward (or punishment) for such spots as third place, winner of the consolation bracket, or loser of the dreaded Sacko Bowl.
At this point in the season, you probably don't need much prodding on who to play. It's obvious Michael Turner's value relies solely on touchdowns and Randall Cobb has become a bonafide option as a receiver. You don't need us to tell you that. But we all know that second-guessing that goes on before your biggest matchup of the season. So we're just here as another voice, telling you which guys might be the best plays...and which are not.
Eli Manning, QB -- NYG (@ BAL)
Eli has been the ultimate hit-or-miss fantasy quarterback thsi year -- he's scored five or less in four games, and 20 or more in four games. The Ravens have not been playing well lately and the Giants need to win out to get into the playoffs. It's make-or-break time for the New York Football Giants, too, so they're in the same boat as you. They need Eli as much as you do. Trust him this week.
Stevan Ridley, RB -- NE (@ JAC)
We've all seen what this Patriots' offense can do, even against the league's best defense. So how will they handle one of the league's worst Ds? New England figures to be up by a lot in this game, and fast, so Tom Brady won't have to throw so much. Or, at least that's what I'm hoping since I'm playing Brady for the 'ship. Ridley had scored in six straight games before that Sunday night game, and expect him to get back into that rhythm this week.
Cecil Shorts, WR -- JAC (vs. NE)
Shorts has emerged as a must-start wide receiver, which he proved by catching six balls for 101 yards in Week 15, which came after he missed a game with a concussion. The Patriots certainly give up points in the passing game, and the Jags will definitely have to throw. Start Shorts with confidence, and keep an eye on him next year, especially if Jacksonville figures out its quarterback situation.
Sit 'em
Ben Roethlisberger, QB -- PIT (vs. CIN)
Roethlisberger has been on fire since he returned to the field, with at least 285 yards and 2 TDs in both games. Couple that with the fact it's a must-win game for the Steelers and you'd think Big Ben would be a must-start. But he hasn't played the Bengals well the past couple of years and Cincy needs to win, too, so they'll be focusing on slowing down Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh passing game.
Chris Johnson, RB -- TEN (@ GB)
It's a lost season for the Titans, and they have nothing to gain by giving Johnson 25 touches in each of the final two games. Plus, his fantasy value is almost exclusively tied up in whether he can break a long run or not. The Packers will probably score early and often, which could see the Tennessee gameplan stray away from the run, as well. Start somebody else if you have a better option.
Torrey Smith, WR -- BAL (vs. NYG)
Two catches in the last two weeks? That's ridiculous. Smith has just three games this year with more than four catches and the Ravens offense has been horrible, especially lately. Don't worry about starting Smith. There are better options.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

11-22_nhl-matchup_hawks-at-lightning_blank.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

brianurlacher.png
USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.