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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13: Cardinals star are still iffy

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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13: Cardinals star are still iffy

UPDATE: 12:31 p.m. Saturday
It’s another Saturday of uncertainty for the NFC-leading Arizona Cardinals, as their two biggest stars are again big question marks heading into Sunday’s game in Chicago.

Both quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who haven’t played in several weeks, are said to be game-time decisions. Fortunately for fantasy mavens, the Cards are playing an early-afternoon game this week, so you’ll be able to find late waiver replacements if you wake up early enough.

Things are even more dicey in Seattle for the sinking Seahawks. Both running backs Alex Collins and Rashard Penny are listed as questionable, and neither is as questionable as the newest Hawk, ancient running back Adrian Peterson. The former Viking was activated after signing with the Seahawks’ practice squad earlier this week and could see action Sunday against San Francisco. Do not even think about him.

Three modestly impactful players have been ruled out over the past couple of days: Washington RB J.D. McKissic, Philly RB Jordan Howard and Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. The absence of the latter, and the start it gives Mike Glennon, makes Miami’s defense an especially good play this week.

Not quite ruled out yet, but considered doubtful for now, are Denver RB Melvin Gordon, Chicago wideout Allen Robinson, Giants receivers Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard, and Raiders tight end Darren Waller.

The list of the officially questionable includes Jaguars RB James Robinson, Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, Rams RB Darrell Henderson, Houston RB David Johnson, Philly RB Boston Scott and QB Jalen Hurts, Rams WR Odell Beckham Jr. and Jets WR Corey Davis.

ORIGINAL POST: 11:53 a.m. Wednesday
It has taken until Week 13. But for fantasy mavens who used up roster space on premium backup players, this could be your lucky week!

Look no further than the local football squad headquartered in Eagan. Dalvin Cook’s shoulder injury has likely thrust Alexander Mattison back into the starting lineup. The timing could not be more perfect for Mattison mavens.

The VIkings are heading to Detroit to face the winless Lions in a rematch of their Week 5 game in Minneapolis. That was when Mattison replaced an injured Cook and tallied one touchdown and 153 yards on 32 touches. Not too shabby, nor will he be this week and beyond.

The Lions, meanwhile, will be without starter D’Andre Swift, moving former Packer Jamaal Williams into the starting lineup for a couple of weeks. Williams hasn’t scored in more than two months, but that is likely to change against the Vikings’ depleted defensive front.

Carolina has lost Christian McCaffrey for the rest of the season, which means Chuba Hubbard is back at No. 1, where he underwhelmed earlier this year.

A similar story was going down in Dallas this week. Ezekiel Elliott reportedly was going to be rested this week because of his ailing knee, lifting Tony Pollard into the starting lineup for the Cowboys. Owner Jerry Jones cast doubt on that report, but the situation is in flux.

Pollard has arguably been the Pokes’ best runner the past month. For the season, he has 787 yards on 129 touches, or roughly six yards per run/catch. And he looked great returning a kickoff a hundred yards for a score on Thanksgiving against Las Vegas.

For those fantasy types like The Loop who have both Elliott and Pollard on their roster, a resting of Zeke would actually be a blessing for Thursday night’s game in New Orleans.
As the season winds down, here are some other understudies that are making waves, or are just a starter’s injury away from prosperity:

Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) gets past Las Vegas Raiders place kicker Daniel Carlson (2) as Pollard returns a kickoff for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Sony Michel (Rams RB) — Darrell Henderson could be out this week, elevating this former Patriots star back into prominence. Michel has only two TDs so far this year, but he’s a proven commodity and could be a huge help to the struggling Matthew Stafford.

1638642771 326 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (26) runs against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Boston Scott (Eagles RB) — He has been getting more play as Miles Sanders has slipped further into the dog house. And with Sanders nursing an injury, Scott is in line for a bigger role. Over the past five games, he has 60 touches for 295 yards and three TDs.

1638642771 211 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
Philadelphia Eagles’ Boston Scott (35) runs the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Munson)

Darrel Williams (Chiefs RB) — Clyde Edwards-Helaire looked good in his return from injury, but Williams is a great insurance policy for you, and for Kansas City. In his last six games he has three touchdowns. For the year, 99 touches for 502 yards.

1638642772 179 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams (31) is seen on the sideline during an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari)

Ronald Jones III (Buccaneers RB) — Sure, Leonard Fournette looked huge in his four-touchdown game last week, but his understudy reached the end zone for the second game in a row. Jones is a legit No. 1 running back in waiting. Maybe.

1638642773 243 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Ronald Jones (27) reacts after rushing for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Dontrell Hilliard (Titans RB) — Someone has finally filled some of the Derrick Henry void in Tennessee. In his first game he caught eight passes. In the next, he rushed for 131 yards and a TD. But he’s on bye this week, so he can’t help you until Week 14.

1638642774 820 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
Tennessee Titans running back Dontrell Hilliard, right, raises the football after beating New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger (23) on his 68-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

SITTING STARS
The Giants’ Saquon Barkley is a shadow of his old self, and he will continue to be against Miami. … Tampa Bay will finally figure out Atlanta’s lone offensive threat, Cordarrelle Patterson. … Chicago RB David Montgomery will have to fight for every yard against Arizona. … Pittsburgh’s offense is struggling so bad that RB Najee Harris is the only player you should rely on against Baltimore. … And two young quarterbacks will find tougher sledding this week: New England’s Mac Jones vs. the Bills and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts against the improving Jets defense.

1638642776 216 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson, right, dives for a touchdown past Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack (44) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

MATCHUP GAME
San Francisco RB Elijah Mitchell ran through the Vikings last week and will run through the Seahawks this week. … Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs has been better lately and should be able to prosper against Washington. … Arizona’s James Connor should be good for at least one touchdown against Chicago. … Both Denver running backs, Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, will be worth starting against the Chiefs. … Which Buccaneer will do the best this week against the weak Atlanta defense? Why Rob Gronkowski, of course. … The Tee Higgins revival in Cincinnati will continue against the Chargers. … As will the Tua Tagovailoa show against the Giants.

1638642776 340 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (25) runs against Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle James Lynch (92) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

INJURY WATCH
The big news involves the Cardinals, who look to be getting back quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins. … Players already ruled out this week include Tennessee WR A.J. Brown and San Fran’s all-purpose Deebo Samuel. … The ranks of the currently questionable feature Saints RB Alvin Kamara, Washington RB J.D. McKissic, Dallas WR Amari Cooper, Dallas WR CeeDee Lamb, Tampa Bay wideout Antonio Brown, Giants WRs Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard, Rams WR Odell Beckham Jr., Jets wideout Corey Davis, Bears WR Allen Robinson, Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth and three quarterbacks: Philly’s Jalen Hurts, Denver’s Terry Bridgewater and Chicago’s Justin Fields.

1638642776 837 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

THE DEEPEST SLEEPER
Back earlier in the century when he was in South Philadelphia, Raiders WR DeSean Jackson was something. But that was many years ago, and he looked finished after being cut loose by the Rams last month. He then did little after being picked up off the scrap heap by Las Vegas. But his three catches for 102 yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving showed there might still be some tread on those tires. Still very fast tires. If you’re desperate for a receiver with occasional upside, you could do worse.

1638642777 23 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver DeSean Jackson (1) runs a pass route against Anthony Brown (30) during a Thanksgiving day NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)

THE THURSDAY PICK
Cowboys at Saints (+4½):
Pick: Cowboys by 3

1638642777 977 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 13 Cardinals star are
New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) leaps over Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Jordan Whitehead (33) on a run during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

BREAKING NEWS
We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to TwinCities.com/theloop.

You can hear Kevin Cusick on Wednesdays on Bob Sansevere’s “BS Show” podcast on iTunes. You can follow Kevin on Twitter — @theloopnow. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Trevor Williams sets the tone as Mets pick up Game 1 win in doubleheader vs. Cards

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Trevor Williams sets the tone as Mets pick up Game 1 win in doubleheader vs. Cards

The Mets offense did its part, knocking in a few runs early, and it was up to the spot starter in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader to keep the Cardinals off the board.

Trevor Williams, tasked with the job of filling in for Tylor Megill (right biceps tendinitis), established the tone in his second start of the year for the Mets. Williams struck out six, including two against Yadier Molina and another with Nolan Arendado in the box, in what seemed like an effortless outing against a St. Louis team that believes it can be a playoff contender.

“Learning this new role has been a fun challenge for me,” said Williams, who was a regular starter for the Pirates and Cubs before he joined the Mets at last year’s trade deadline.

Williams fired four shutout innings and allowed four hits across 65 pitches to help the Mets beat the Cardinals, 3-1, in the series opener on Tuesday. The right-hander, typically the innings-eater out of the bullpen, picked up where he left off in his most recent relief outing, when he posted 3.2 scoreless innings against the Nationals last Wednesday. On five days’ rest, Williams’ smooth and steady performance against the Cards was just what the Mets were looking for.

The righty credited backup catcher Patrick Mazeika, who is enjoying his promotion from Syracuse while James McCann (left hamate surgery) is on the shelf, for calling a good game.

“To come in as the third catcher and get thrown into it right away, it’s just a testament to the type of player he is and we were really on the same page all game,” said Williams of his backstop.

The Mets (24-13) on Tuesday began a stretch of 10 games in nine days, which meant manager Buck Showalter was forced to be a little creative with his bullpen use in the opener of the doubleheader. After Williams impressed with his four shutout innings, Showalter called on reliever Jake Reed as the first man out of the bullpen.

Reed, making his season debut, had an adventurous fifth inning as he walked two of his first three batters. Mazeika called for a quick mound visit, as Reed’s teammates encouraged him to brush off the nerves and attack the hitters. Perhaps that mound visit was the quick breather he needed. Reed bounced back to strike out Paul Goldschmidt and retire Arenado to end the inning. Reed took the mound again for the sixth, shutting down the side to complete his two scoreless innings. He was optioned to Syracuse between games.

After Reed, Showalter went to his circle of trusted relievers – bringing out Seth Lugo, Drew Smith, then Edwin Diaz to silence the Cardinals. While Smith gave up a home run to Goldschmidt, Diaz in particular was electric. The Mets closer picked up his ninth save of the year. Diaz has struck out 30 of the 60 batters he’s faced this season.

“You ride it when it’s hot,” Showalter said of Diaz’s confidence and results to begin the season. “These are really good hitters. He keeps grinding, he keeps working. It doesn’t go unnoticed. Edwin has been instrumental in what we’ve been able to do early on.”

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Vikings’ Danielle Hunter happy to be healthy and to have developed ‘bond’ with Za’Darius Smith

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Vikings’ Danielle Hunter happy to be healthy and to have developed ‘bond’ with Za’Darius Smith

Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are new teammates, but they’re already like old buddies.

The two Vikings edge rushers first struck up a friendship at the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla., in January 2020, when Hunter was with Minnesota and Smith with Green Bay. Smith signed with the Vikings as a free agent in March, and he has been hanging out with Hunter plenty since offseason drills began in April.

On Tuesday’s second day of organized team activities, the two jokingly threw passes back and forth for several minutes at the start before they settled down to more serious business.

“The first time I met him (at the Pro Bowl), he was a cool, young, good overall character and all that stuff,’ Hunter said. “He came here, I was excited about it. He texted me saying he was coming here, and we started developing a bond.”

Smith said it’s “wonderful” to now be Smith’s teammate. And the two hope to recreate the old motto of the Purple People Eaters to “meet at the quarterback.”

“I say one of the best in the NFL,’’ Smith said of the pass-rushing duo the Vikings now have. “But you know, it’s too early. We’re just gonna keep working and getting better at our craft, and you’ll see the results here in the season.”

Hunter had 14½ sacks in both 2018 and 2019 before playing in just seven games over the past two seasons due to injuries. Smith had 13½ sacks for the Packers in 2019 and 12½ in 2020 before playing in just one regular-season game and one playoff game last season due to a back injury.

Smith talked about his health after he signed, saying he’s fully recovered. But Hunter didn’t discuss his latest injury until Tuesday, when he spoke to the media for the first time since Sept. 29.

Hunter missed all of 2020 due to a neck injury. He didn’t play in the final 10 games last season because of surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle suffered Oct. 31 against Dallas.

“I feel pretty good,’’ said Hunter, entering his eighth season. “Last year’s injury wasn’t as significant as the year before, but it was a three-month recovery. Had we made it to the playoffs, iI’s possibly would have been able to come back. … It’s just good to be back with the guys. …It kind of hurts just watching people play.’’

Hunter said it was “around February or March” when he returned to his regular workout routine.

“The biggest thing was having like the right people around me, just motivating me and keeping me in the right mindset,’’ he said of his recovery.

Coming off the injury, there was seemingly some uncertainty on what the Vikings might do when they had until March 19 to decide whether to pick up an $18 million roster bonus on Hunter’s contract. They did pick it up, and converted it into a signing bonus over four years, lowering Hunter’s cap number from $25.838 million to $12.338 million for 2021.

“I wasn’t really worried about (the bonus),’’ said Hunter, who said new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah reached out to him right after he was hired in January and new head coach Kevin O’Connell reached out right after his February hiring. “My biggest thing was getting through my rehab and coming back playing football.’’

Hunter said he let his agent, Zeke Sandhu, take care of discussions about the bonus. And Hunter, whose contract runs through 2023, plans to do the same regarding extension talks.

For now, Hunter’s role will change in new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell’s 3-4 scheme. After being a defensive end in the 4-3, he said he’ll play both defensive end and outside linebacker but will stand up much more than before.

“I used to stand up when I first got here (in 2015),’’ said Hunter, who noted that the Vikings played some 3-4 alignments in Week 2 last year at Arizona. “So I know how to do that. Basically, just integrating my rush angles and my eyes and all that stuff.”

Hunter figures to be more of an outside linebacker since, when he attends position meetings, he goes to one for outside linebackers. He joins his buddy Smith in those meetings, where he said their close relationship results in a good vibe.

“Everybody has a smile on their face every time they come in,’’ Hunter said.

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Celtics without Marcus Smart, Al Horford for East finals Game 1 vs. Heat, joining Miami’s Lowry as out

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Celtics without Marcus Smart, Al Horford for East finals Game 1 vs. Heat, joining Heat’s Lowry as out

A potentially seismic shift hit the Eastern Conference finals less than three hours prior to Tuesday night’s start of Game 1 at FTX Arena, when the Boston Celtics announced that forward Al Horford had entered NBA health-and-safety protocols and would be out for the series opener against the Miami Heat.

The designation not only had Horford out for Tuesday’s start of the best-of-seven series, but also, based on the NBA’s required quarantine in such cases, possibly out for Thursday night’s Game 2 at FTX Arena and Saturday’s Game 3 at TD Garden.

“We found out about Al about two hours ago,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said, less than two hours before tipoff.

Udoka indicated that upcoming testing results could impact the timing of a Horford return.

“He’s feeling fine,” Udoka said, “and we’ll go from there, wait to see results of tests and future tests.”

Udoka said he was unaware of any contact-tracing issues with others on the team.

It is the third time this season Horford, 35, has entered NBA protocols.

In addition, the Celtics announced that a second starter, point guard Marcus Smart, would miss the series opener due to the right mid-foot sprain sustained during Sunday’s Game 7 victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks that advanced them to the East finals against the Heat.

Smart was listed as questionable earlier in the day. Horford had not appeared on the Celtics’ injury report until he was listed as out.

“The soreness was too much,” Udoka said of Smart’s injury, “still some swelling, and limited basketball movements that he couldn’t do.”

Derrick White was the replacement starter for Smart, with recently injured Robert Williams moving back into the lineup in Boston’s power rotation.

“I feel like this is the world we’ve been living in for a long time, certainly this year,” Spoelstra said of the lingering uncertainties amid the pandemic, “Every team has experience dealing with this.”

Or working on the fly with evolving rosters on both sides, Spoelstra said, “This has become the normal prep: expect the unexpected.”

For the Heat, guard Kyle Lowry remained sidelined with a strained left hamstring, although he was on the court for pregame shooting. It is the seventh time in the past nine games Lowry has been sidelined by the hamstring.

Four Heat players had been listed as questionable earlier Tuesday, but then were cleared to play: Caleb Martin (ankle sprain), Max Strus (hamstring strain), P.J. Tucker (calf strain) and Gabe Vincent (hamstring strain).

Earlier, Spoelstra said at the morning shootaround that his team was in for an extended challenge, stressing the littlest things could make the biggest difference.

“They’re big, those moments in between, the plays in between, ball in the air, ball on the floor,” he said. “I’m sure they’re saying the same thing. You have two teams that take pride in that, so it should be very competitive in between the lines.

“And both teams do it in a way that’s not over the top. It’s just about doing whatever it takes to get the win.”

Heat guard Tyler Herro said he appreciated it was time to dig in defensively.

“I think both teams, everybody knows how well we are on that side of the ball,” he said. “I think whoever can get the relief buckets in transition, a couple of buckets here or there, that aren’t from set plays and things like that, I think whoever can get those in-between possessions, I think will have an advantage throughout the series.”

All without forgoing any defensive elements.

“I mean, that’s what we are, since I got here three years ago,” he said. “We’ve always been old-school that way. We’re willing to score 120, but we also can play a game in the 90s.”

Heat center Bam Adebayo said the team was savoring, but not caught up in, the moment.

“We’re just enjoying our moment,” he said. “For the most part, we’re keeping our head down, keeping the main thing the main thing.”

The series not only is a rematch of the teams’ 2020 East finals that the Heat won 4-2, but also a reunion for Adebayo with USA Basketball gold-medal Olympic teammate Jayson Tatum.

“Since I’m playing against him, I know his tendencies,” Adebayo said. “The Olympic team is totally different. But just knowing his tendencies, that’s basically it.”

For all the backstories, Herro said what can’t be lost is the significance of the moment.

“This is what you want as a competitor,” he said. “As a basketball player growing up this is everything you could ever ask for, to be in a game like that.”

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