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The Loop NFL Picks: Week 15

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The Loop NFL Picks: Week 15

Every Sunday, Kevin Cusick makes his predictions against the latest Las Vegas point spread, the way God intended …

Texans at Jaguars (-2½)
It was a historically ugly ending for Urban Meyer as the Jacksonville coach was fired early Thursday after reports that he kicked Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo before an exhibition game. Meyer was unable to immediately respond to his post-midnight firing because he first had to get a co-ed off of his lap.
Pick: Texans by 3

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer attends a press conference after an NFL football game between the Miami Dolphins and the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, England, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. The Jaguars won the match 23-20. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

Vikings at Bears (+3½)
The Vikings last Thursday night came inches away from being the first team in NFL history to blow a 29-0 lead before hanging on to beat the Steelers. Many fans of the Purple had to be treated for mild shock, a natural reaction to seeing their team leading anybody by 29 points.
Pick: Vikings by 7

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Minnesota Vikings defensive back Kris Boyd (29) celebrates on the field after a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021 in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 36-28. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Titans at Steelers (+1½)
Pittsburgh wideout Chase Claypool was accused of being selfish for celebrating a first-down catch and costing the Steelers valuable time late in their loss to Minnesota. Most Vikings fans didn’t notice Claypool’s moves as they spent most of the fourth quarter drinking heavily.
Pick: Titans by 3

1639762402 562 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool, left, runs from Minnesota Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland (21) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Packers at Ravens (+4½)
NBC’s Cris Collinsworth raised eyebrows last Sunday night by praising Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers for his honesty. We’re looking forward to this week’s broadcast when he praises Antonio Brown’s COVID testing and Urban Meyer’s kicking skills.
Pick: Packers by 7

1639762403 227 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth, left, works on the field in Nissan Stadium before an NFL football game between the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Washington at Eagles (-4½)
WFT owner Daniel Snyder has been accused of obstructing a probe into his alleged sexual misconduct and intimidating witnesses. When asked to comment, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would not tolerate misconduct, then asked his aides who this Daniel Snyder person is.
Pick: Eagles by 7

1639762403 575 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder walks on the field prior to an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Landover, Md. Tampa Bay won 31-23. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Seahawks at Rams (-6½)
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson reportedly is willing to waive his no-trade clause for three teams: the Giants, Broncos and Saints. In a related note, Ciara reportedly is willing to waive her marital clause for Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Tom Brady.
Pick: Rams by 7

1639762403 3 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) talks with his wife, pop singer Ciara, after NFL football practice Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Saints at Buccaneers (-10½)
New Orleans fans were surprised to learn that a new movie about Sean Payton features “King of Queens” Kevin James’ portrayal of the Saints’ coach. James decided to take the role when he was unable to find financial backing for “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 6.”
Pick: Buccaneers by 7

1639762403 176 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
FILE – In this April 11, 2015 file photo, Kevin James arrives on a Segway to the premiere of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” at AMC Loews Lincoln Square in New York. “Pixels,” “Jupiter Ascending,” “Paul Blart Mall Cop 2” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” are all tied up for the most nominations at this year’s Golden Raspberry Awards. The films each led the Razzies lineup Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, with six nods, including worst picture and worst actor for Jamie Dornan in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” James in “Paul Blart Mall Cop 2,” Channing Tatum in “Jupiter Ascending” and Adam Sandler in “Pixels” and “The Cobbler.” (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

Jets at Dolphins (-8½)
Miami’s COVID list is overflowing, with the team’s top three running backs expected to miss Sunday’s game. It’s not a huge deal, as most fans cannot identify any of the Dolphins’ running backs anyway.
Pick: Dolphins by 10

1639762404 488 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) hands off the ball to Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin (37) during an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)

Cowboys at Giants (+10½)
Dallas can clinch a playoff berth with a victory at the Meadowlands. While that’s great news for Mike McCarthy’s team, they won’t know for several more weeks who they will be losing to in the opening round.
Pick: Cowboys by 14

1639762404 652 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy reacts to a made field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

Panthers at Bills (-10½)
Former Buffalo icon O.J. Simpson is officially a free man again after completing his parole from his 2007 armed robbery case in Nevada. The Juice is now believed to have a slightly greater chance of landing an NFL coaching job next season than Urban Meyer.
Pick: Bills by 14

1639762405 377 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
FILE – Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson reacts after learning he was granted parole at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on July 20, 2017. The 74-year-old former football hero, acquitted California murder defendant and convicted Las Vegas armed robber was granted good behavior credits and discharged from parole effective Dec. 1, the day after a hearing before the Nevada state Board of Parole, Kim Yoko Smith, spokeswoman for the Nevada State Police, said Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, Pool, File)

OTHER GAMES
Cardinals at Lions (+13½):
Pick: Cardinals by 10

Bengals at Broncos (-1½):
Pick: Bengals by 3

Falcons at 49ers (-8½):
Pick: 49ers by 3

1639762405 343 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) walks off the field after a 26-23 win over the Cincinnati Bengals during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)

RECORD
Week 14
10-4 straight up
9-5 vs. spread

Season
130-77-1 straight up (.628)
113-93-2 vs. spread (.549)

1639762406 0 The Loop NFL Picks Week 15
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) dives into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in overtime during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)

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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Magic position themselves for better look at prospects at NBA draft combine

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Magic position themselves for better look at prospects at NBA draft combine

For the Orlando Magic, the next few days will be a significant step in a month-long process that’ll culminate with the June 23 NBA draft.

The NBA draft combine, which takes place Wednesday through Friday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, offers the Magic their most comprehensive look, up to this point, at the prospects they’re considering selecting in the June 23 draft.

The combine is more than simply physical measurements, medicals, on-court drills and scrimmages — although that information is helpful.

During the season, teams are allowed to scout prospects but aren’t allowed to contact them.

Like most teams that didn’t already start hosting pre-draft workouts, the combine will be the Magic’s first opportunity to interview and have one-on-one interactions with prospects.

It offers them a chance to get to know the prospect as more than just a basketball player.

This can go a long way in determining who gets invited for a workout at the team’s facility or who ends up higher on a team’s draft board.

Teams are allowed to interview a maximum of 20 players at the combine, while each player is allowed to interview with a maximum of 13 teams. Just because the Magic didn’t interview someone at the combine doesn’t mean they’re not interested or won’t pick them in the draft.

Every top prospect — from Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga) and Jabari Smith (Auburn) to Paolo Banchero (Duke) and Jaden Ivey (Purdue) — will be present.

This matters for the Magic, who’ll once again have a top pick in this year’s draft.

While most players who are expected to be taken high in the draft typically don’t participate in all of the drills and will rarely scrimmage, those off-court interactions are part of the intel the Magic will consider leading into the draft.

The Magic also have second-round picks (Nos. 32 and 35).

While Orlando has a tendency of trading its second-round picks under president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, the combine will help the Magic gather the necessary information to see whether one of — or both — of those picks are worth keeping if they find a prospect they like outside of the first round.

There’s also the chance they could try to trade those picks with another team to get into the back end of the first round, among other possibilities.

Tuesday night’s draft lottery helped provide clarity into each team’s situation.

Teams also use this period to gather information on other organizations, such as intel about players they’re interested in acquiring, their own players who they’d trade, how they’re feeling about their lottery position and if they want to move their pick.

These conversations matter for the Magic as they continue to build a foundation with their young core.

The combine, however, isn’t the be-all and end-all.

Predraft workouts and the ensuing interviews allow teams to get a better look at players under their own roofs.

Weltman recalled meeting Wendell Carter Jr. for the first time during the predraft process and left with a strong and favorable first impression. Almost three years after passing on him in the 2018 draft, the Magic traded for him three years later.

Intel continues to be gathered after the initial contact, making the combine a springboard for what’s to come during the next month leading into the draft and beyond.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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St. Paul woman sentenced to more than 10 years for fatally stabbing boyfriend last year

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Kayla Janea Pope

A St. Paul woman was sentenced Tuesday to more than 10 years in prison for fatally stabbing her boyfriend in the back with a kitchen knife during an argument last year.

Kayla J. Pope (Courtesy of Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)

Kayla J. Pope, 22, was sentenced in Ramsey County District Court to 128 months after pleading guilty to second-degree unintentional murder in the Sept. 10 slaying of Eric T. Brown, 23, of Minneapolis, on St. Paul’s East Side.

Pope was represented by Katie Allen and Luis Rangel Morals, who are attorneys for Neighborhood Justice Center, a criminal defense nonprofit based in St. Paul. The attorneys argued to Judge P. Paul Yang that Pope should receive no prison time and be put on supervised probation.

Allen and Morals cited prior to sentencing and again Tuesday the documented incidents of alleged physical abuse that Pope faced at the hands of Brown, who was the father of her 2-year-old son.

They also noted how Pope did not have a criminal record previously and how she has undergone therapy and mental health services through Ramsey County Child Protection.

Morals called the stabbing a “freak accident,” noting how the knife wound was less than two centimeters in length.

“Ms. Pope has scars on her body documenting the abuse,” he said.

Brown’s father, Sandy Brown, addressed the judge, saying that he told his son and Pope to “leave each other alone.” Brown “did not deserve to die,” his father said. “I hate that she took my son from me.”

BROWN FOUND WITH STAB WOUND

According to the criminal complaint, St. Paul police were called to the area of East Seventh Street and White Bear Avenue about 9 p.m. on a report of a man being shot during an assault.

When they arrived, they found Brown with a stab wound near his left shoulder. He was unconscious, not breathing and had no pulse, police said. Officers began lifesaving measures on the man. He was transported to Regions Hospital and died a short time later.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that the stab wound to Brown’s back had cut an artery, causing him to bleed to death.

Police interviewed Pope at the scene and later at the police station where she changed her story multiple times, the complaint states.

At first she said Brown was stabbed by a man wearing all black who had met him to sell him marijuana, the complaint said. Video from traffic cameras, combined with an earlier police call to the apartment for a domestic dispute, cast doubt on Pope’s story of a shadowy assailant.

Video showed Brown running from Pope and he appeared to be wounded in the altercation, the complaint states.

Pope later changed her story, saying Brown was abusive and had threatened to take their child and leave. She said she meant to stab his backpack, but that it shifted in the struggle and the knife went into his back instead, the complaint states.

She led police to where she had pushed the steak knife into the ground after fleeing the scene, the complaint said.

ALLEGED PATTERN OF ABUSE

The alleged pattern abuse was central to her attorneys’ argument for probation. They described her as a “battered woman.”

In April 2019, when Pope was 15 months pregnant, Brown punched her in the belly during an argument, according to a criminal complaint charging him with domestic abuse. That same day, after she was released from the hospital, Brown punched her in the chest, pulled her hair and choked her.

Brown was convicted of gross misdemeanor domestic assault for the incident. In July 2019, Judge Yang sentenced Brown to one year in jail, which was stayed, and two years of probation.

The next time Pope reported abuse to police was in January 2021, according to her attorneys. In the five months before the stabbing, she reported five more instances of either abuse or other violent behavior, her attorneys wrote to Judge Yang.

“I cannot help but be appalled at the many times she reached out for help and did not get the help she needed,” Allen told the judge on Tuesday.

Ramsey County prosecutor Cory Tennison acknowledged the past domestic abuse, but added “two wrongs don’t make a right.” He argued for a 150-month prison sentence.

“The criminal justice system did not take a knife and stab this man,” he said. “The defendant did.”

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Dylan Cease and the Chicago White Sox navigate traffic on the basepaths in a 3-0 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader

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Dylan Cease and the Chicago White Sox navigate traffic on the basepaths in a 3-0 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader

Dylan Cease had to deal with traffic in every inning of Tuesday’s start against the Kansas City Royals.

The Chicago White Sox right-hander made the big pitches each time.

Cease allowed seven hits and struck out nine in 5⅔ innings, leading the Sox to a 3-0 victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Kauffman Stadium.

“(The Royals) did a really good job of getting on,” Cease said. “There was a lot of traffic today, but fortunately I executed pitches with guys in scoring position pretty well and got some big strikeouts.”

Cease surrendered a season-high six runs in four innings in his last start Thursday against the New York Yankees. He bounced back, combining with four relievers for the shutout.

“He gave us all that he had,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He got into the sixth with two outs and that’s outstanding.”

Cease faced challenges from the start, as Royals leadoff batter Whit Merrifield doubled in the first. He moved to third with one out, but Cease struck out Salvador Perez and Ryan O’Hearn to end the inning.

The Royals had runners on second and third with one out in the third. Cease again struck out Perez and O’Hearn.

“I have enough experience now to where I know when I’m doing too much and not enough,” Cease said. “It’s just staying the course and trusting it.”

The Royals came up empty again in the fourth when Hunter Dozier was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on a single. The play at the plate wasn’t close.

All three runs came in the fifth. Reese McGuire doubled and scored on AJ Pollock’s sacrifice fly to left. José Abreu made it 3-0 with a two-out, two-run double.

Abreu went 2-for-3 with a walk.

“Looking more like himself, isn’t he?” La Russa said.

Abreu fielded a grounder and beat O’Hearn to first for the third out of the fifth as the Royals stranded two more runners.

Cease exited after striking out MJ Melendez for the second out of the sixth on his 94th pitch.

“He worked hard,” La Russa said. “I didn’t want to push him there in the sixth. He gave us what he had. He worked out of some jams.”

Bennett Sousa struck out pinch hitter Michael A. Taylor with a runner on second to end the sixth.

Joe Kelly allowed a double and two walks to begin the seventh. Kelly bounced back, striking out pinch hitter Carlos Santana (Perez left with a left thumb sprain) and O’Hearn and getting Dozier to pop out to second.

“His command you can tell, he hasn’t been here,” La Russa said of Kelly, who was on the injured list April 4 to May 9 as he recovered from a right biceps nerve injury. “He’s got outstanding stuff. He’s a great competitor. He’s got great guts.

“You see that pitch he made on Santana and O’Hearn. … He’s tough as nails. When he had to, he made pitches. It’s the sign of a champion.”

The Royals went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and struck out 14 times.

“The way that I was taught to look at it is what did they have to hit,” La Russa said. “We pitched Perez (1-for-3 with two strikeouts) like the Hall of Famer he is. There were very few mistakes in RBI situations.”

Before the first game, the Sox selected the contract of pitcher Davis Martin from Triple-A Charlotte, added reliever Kyle Crick from Charlotte as the 27th player for the doubleheader, placed starting pitcher Michael Kopech on the paternity list and transferred reliever Garrett Crochet (season-ending Tommy John surgery) to the 60-day IL.

Martin, 25, made his major-league debut as the Game 2 starter. He is 4-1 with a 2.50 ERA and 41 strikeouts in seven starts between Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham this year.

He allowed two runs or fewer in four of his five starts at Birmingham before being promoted to the Knights on May 5. He is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and eight strikeouts in two outings with Charlotte.

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