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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 17: Kirk Cousins has no shot

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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 17: Kirk Cousins has no shot

UPDATE: 12:22 p.m. Saturday
Pittsburgh has its Immaculate Reception. Now Minnesota has its Inevitable Infection.

Kirk Cousins, the unvaxxed Vikings quarterback, is going to remain socially distant from his team during its most critical game of the season tomorrow night in Green Bay. The timing is awful for the Vikings, and fantasy mavens who were counting on a huge game from Justin Jefferson, who will not catch a huge number of passes from Sean Mannion.

Cousins won’t be the only quarterback watching Sunday’s play. Both Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo are very doubtful to play in Week 17.

The list of players recently ruled out includes Washington RB Antonio Gibson, Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy, Raiders WR Nelson Agholor, Jets WR Elijah Moore, Giants WR Kadarius Toney and Chargers TE Jared Cook,

The outlook is better for Eagles RB Jordan Howard, Bucs WR Antonio Brown and Raiders TE Darren Waller, who are graded as questionable.

One bright spot: Niners RB Elijah Mitchell is expected to return Sunday.

ORIGINAL POST: 1:18 p.m. Wednesday

It’s the final week of fantasy football playoffs for many, and a lot of questions will be answered on this 17th week. But one big question was answered some time ago: the identity of the fantasy most valuable player.

It’s Cooper Kupp, in a landslide.

The Rams’ most reliable receiver is having a season for the ages that could earn him several lines in the NFL record book:

– His 132 receptions are only 17 short of Michael Thomas’ record from 2019.

– His 1,734 receiving yards are only 230 away from the mark set by Calvin Johnson in 2012.

– His 14 touchdown catches lead the league, though he’s still a bit short of Randy Moss’ record of 23 in 2007.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp makes a catch during warmups before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Pretty good for a guy who was a third- or fourth-round pick in most draft. But Kupp wasn’t the only player whose performance exceeded expectations and brought bliss to fantasy mavens. He had company:

Jonathan Taylor (Colts RB) –Indy’s star has slowed a bit recently, making a run at 2,000 yards unlikely, but he’s still the No. 1 running back by a mile. His 297 carries for 1626 yards and 17 touchdowns has kept the Colts in the playoff chase, almost singlehandedly.

The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
Houston Texans middle linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) tackles Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Justin Rex)

Cordarrelle Patterson (Falcons RB) – The former Viking’s rushing attack has been the season’s biggest surprise. All told, Patterson had 189 touches for 1102 yards and 11 touchdowns. He even threw one pass. Mr. Versatility.

1640811007 641 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Deebo Samuel (49ers WR) – It turns out Samuel is both San Francisco’s best receiver and best running back. While his 70 catches for 1247 yards and five touchdowns are nice, his 302 rushing yards and seven TD runs are even nicer.

1640811007 223 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel, right, straight arms Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Mark Andrews (Ravens TE) – Baltimore’s best offensive player has quietly surpassed Travis Kelce as the MV-TE. With two games to go, Andrews stands at 93 receptions, 1187 yards and nine touchdowns. All that despite the Ravens’ injury issues at quarterback.

1640811007 105 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) knocks off the helmet worn by Bengals safety Michael Thomas during Sunday’s game in Cincinnati.

Jalen Hurts (Eagles QB) – Philly’s sophomore has been a top-five quarterback this season, mostly because of his running. He has rushed for 740 yds and 10 touchdowns, to go with just under 3000 yards passing and 16 TD tosses. A middle-of-the-draft steal.

1640811007 374 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts celebrates after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Nick Folk (Patriots K) – New England’s kicker was tied for the NFL lead with 34 field goals, and his only three misses were from 50 yards or longer. His numbers were helped by a Patriots offense that occasionally struggled in the red zone.

1640811009 32 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
New England Patriots kicker Nick Folk (6) kicks a 25-yard field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts aturday, Dec. 18, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Dallas Cowboys (defense-special teams) – Led by all-world sophomore Trevon Diggs and his 11 interceptions, the Cowboys have been dominant after several years of stinkage. No team had more than Dallas’ seven defensive and kick return touchdowns.

1639544501 232 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 15 Are there stars
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (7) breaks up a pass intended for Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

SITTING STARS

Pittsburgh RB Najee Harris looks like he’s out of gas, so don’t count on him against Cleveland. … You could say the same thing about Washington RB Antonio Gibson, who’s facing Philadelphia this week. … And Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs, who has a tough matchup against the Colts. … Arizona QB Kyler Murray has been a shadow of his old self recently and will continue to be against Dallas. … And Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa may have a hard time moving the surprisingly hot Dolphins in Tennessee.

1640811009 206 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (43) slows down Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) in the second quarter of an NFL game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

MATCHUP GAME

Need a running back with a weak foe this week? How about Tampa Bay’s Ronald Jones vs. the Jets, or New England’s Damien Harris vs. the Jaguars, or Chicago’s David Montgomery against the Giants … Cincinnati’s Tee Higgins had a breakout game last week against Baltimore, and he should be great again against Kansas City. … Both quarterbacks in the offseason’s big trade have good matchups today: the Rams’ Matthew Stafford vs. the Ravens and Detroit’s Jared Goff against Seattle. … And if Taysom Hill passes COVID protocols, the Saints will finally get some decent quarterbacking against Carolina.

1640811009 63 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
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)

INJURY WATCH

There are three big running-back injuries that top the list: Jacksonville’s James Robinson tore his Achilles’ tendon, the Chiefs’ Clyde Edwards-Helaire bruised his shoulder, and Philly’s MIles Sanders broke his hand. … The Vikings are getting RB Dalvin Cook back, but WR Adam Thielen is done for the year after ankle surgery. … Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson and K.C. tight end Travis Kelce are back, but will Indy QB Carson Wentz get off the COVID list in time? … The long list of the questionable includes San Fran RB Elijah Mitchell, Detroit RB D’Andre Swift, Arizona RB James Conner, Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans, Chargers WR Mike Williams, Houston WR Brandin Cooks, Raiders tight end Darren Waller and Las Vegas QB Derek Carr.

1640811009 84 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) celebrates in the end zone after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

THE DEEPEST SLEEPER

COVID-plagued Buffalo wasn’t expecting too much last week from wideout Isaiah McKenzie. He came into the game with only seven catches on the season. But with Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis out, the former Georgia Bulldog had a career day. Eleven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown for the fifth-year backup in the Bills’ big win over New England. We’re willing to bet he’ll have another strong outing this week against the low-rent Atlanta defense.

1640811010 604 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 17 Your MVP is
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (19) during an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 27, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

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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More than 5,000 fans support new women’s soccer club in inaugural match

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More than 5,000 fans support new women’s soccer club in inaugural match

Minnesota Aurora president Andrea Yoch stood at the gates of TCO Stadium and watched fans of the new pre-professional women’s soccer team stream in for their inaugural match about an hour before kickoff Thursday.

“We just made this up,” Yoch said through a smile and in an orange romper and light green coat to match Aurora’s vibrant colors.

About 15 minutes before kickoff, Gene Wilder’s “Pure Imagination” played on the stadium’s speakers, and a community-owned club created out of the pandemic came to fruition with an announced crowd of 5,219 supporting the USL Women’s League.

Thursday’s attendance in Minnesota was on par with the average of seven pro-level National Women’s Soccer League crowds this season, including in Louisville, Seattle, San Diego, North Carolina, Orlando, Chicago and New Jersey.

Aurora benefited from a Green Bay Glory own goal early in the second half and Minnesota gave up an equalizing goal in the 89th minute to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Aurora, which has 3,500 season ticket holders, also took up another Minnesota soccer tradition: waiving scarves during corner kicks, a mainstay at Minnesota United games for years.

The crowd, which included MNUFC center back Michael Boxall, filled the stands at the Vikings’ field and lined the concourses, with the merchandise tent having lines for all 90 minutes.

Aurora’s supporters section chanted “No Glory” toward Green Bay and supported its own side in song. But there was also a small chorus of young girls chanting, “Let’s go, Aurora. Let’s go!” from the stadium’s grassy hill. On the concourse, another group of young girls were running around and one was overheard saying, “Sarah is my favorite.”

That was toward Aurora’s famous goalkeeper Sarah Fuller, showing signs of support were big and small.

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Yankees bats awake late in 7-2 win over Rays

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Yankees bats awake late in 7-2 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Aaron Boone popped out of the dugout in the ninth inning to boos. It was not the Rays fans booing, but the large group of Yankees fans. The manager was headed to the mound to get Nestor Cortes, who had just given a leadoff single to Wander Franco—but had been brilliant all night.

Cortes dominated the Rays’ dangerous lineup for eight innings as the Yankees beat the Rays 7-2 at Tropicana Field Thursday night in the first of the four-game series.

The Yankees (32-13) have won three straight games and 13 of their last 18. They maintained the best record in baseball and increased their cushion in the American League East to 5.5 games over the Rays (26-18)

Cortes threw eight scoreless innings, but Franco scored on Manuel Margot’s single off Wandy Peralta to charge him with a run. It was his 18th consecutive start allowing three earned runs or less. The 27-year old scattered four  hits, walked one and struck out five for his fourth win of the season. It was just the second time in his career that Cortes pitched into the eighth inning.

Cortes walked Yandy Diaz to lead off the bottom of the first and then gave up a single to Harold Ramirez before getting out of the inning unscathed. Cortes matched scoreless innings with Yarborough, retiring 14 straight Rays. The Yankees most consistent starter this season, Cortes threw 109 pitches and got seven swings and misses, four off his four-seam fastball.

It was just the second time in his career Cortes had gotten through eight innings. He spared a bullpen that has been hit hard recently by injuries.

And gave a lineup that has also been hit by the injury bug a chance to catch up.

The Yankees were no-hit through five innings by Ryan Yarborough, who walked Anthony Rizzo in the first and then retired 14 straight before it unraveled in the sixth. Matt Carpenter, who had arrived in the Yankees clubhouse just hours before, was hit by a pitch, the first base runner since the first, and Marwin Gonzalez’s line drive to center field was the Bombers’ first hit of the night.

Aaron Judge grounded a single—98 miles an hour off the bat—up the middle to bring in the Yankees’ first run. The slugger, playing center field after Aaron Hicks was a late scratch, stole second. Miguel Andujar singled to drive in another and a  second run scored on the Rays’ throwing error on the play.

Isaiah Kiner-Falefa led off the seventh with a walk and scored on a Ralph Garza, Jr. wild pitch. Judge drove in the Yankees’ fifth run on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the ninth. Anthony Rizzo followed with a sharp line drive double that plated two more.

The Yankees signed Carpenter, who exercised his opt-out earlier this week, and immediately brought him into the fold with uncertainty about DJ LeMahieu, Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton on the injured list.

LeMahieu, who had a cortisone shot in his wrist, was still out of the lineup and he tried hitting and took balls at third base before Thursday night’s game. He said the shot had not yet helped enough. The Yankees are also without Josh Donaldson, who is on the COVID-19 list but has not tested positive for the coronavirus. The third baseman is back in New York dealing with a respiratory illness. He is also facing a possible one-game suspension after his altercation with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, whom he repeatedly called “Jackie,” in reference to Jackie Robinson. Donaldson issued a statement saying that he and Anderson, who is Black and interpreted the comments as racist, have a mutual understanding. Donaldson is appealing the league’s discipline.

Thursday night, the Yankees were just trying to get through their first series against the always tough Rays. It is also the first of a streak in which the Bombers will play 10 out of 13 games against teams with a winning record, after facing the perpetually rebuilding Orioles seven out of the last 10.

Carpenter, signed by the Yankees after opting out of his minor league deal with the Rangers last week, arrived at the visitors’ clubhouse about an hour and a half before first pitch and minutes before he was hustled off to the hitters’ meeting. The three-time All-Star and former Cardinal was rushed into the lineup less than an hour before first pitch when Hicks was scratched with tightness in his right hamstring.

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Jessica Gelt: Why The Onion’s take on the Uvalde shooting captures every parent’s worst nightmare

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Jessica Gelt: Why The Onion’s take on the Uvalde shooting captures every parent’s worst nightmare

It’s the yellow caution tape that gets to me when I look at the pictures tweeted by the satirical website The Onion in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, this week. Emblazoned with the words “Sheriff’s Line Do Not Cross,” the yellow tape is draped around the schoolyard after an 18-year-old man gunned down 19 small children who had recently finished their honor-roll ceremony.

Yellow is a bright, cheery color. It’s one of my 6-year-old daughter’s favorites. It’s the color of the sun, of sunflowers, of balloons and candy. It’s the color of her hair — soft and fine as corn silk.

On police tape, however, yellow is the color of every parent’s worst nightmare: that their child’s school became the target of yet another mass shooting, and that maybe their precious baby has been violently murdered.

It’s a fear we have lived with since the unthinkable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, after which absolutely nothing was done to effect change when it comes to guns in America. In fact, since 20 children were shot down in cold blood in Newtown, Connecticut, gun laws have actually loosened in this country. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to soon deliver a decision undoing a long-standing New York law that forbids people from carrying guns in public without first demonstrating a “special need” for self-defense.

Wednesday morning, The Onion devoted its entire home page to dozens of images from mass shootings dating back to 2014, accompanied by the same devastating headline: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

The picture at the very top is the one of Robb Elementary in Uvalde, with the yellow tape circling a schoolyard that should have been filled with joyful kids. The image made the rounds across Twitter and trended rapidly. The Onion has a history of cutting to the chase when it comes to moments of extreme national tragedy in the way that only razor-sharp satire can. No one looking at it was laughing, though. Especially not parents, for whom that specific set of signifiers has a particularly horrific resonance.

The image of yellow tape, paired with police cars, sirens flashing, in front of a school — that’s the image that fills parents with the kind of grief they can taste. The kind that keeps them up at night, wondering if one day they too will have to face such a scene at their child’s school.

The crushing news out of Uvalde came about an hour before I was due to pick up my 6-year-old and her best friend from kindergarten. I could not get to the elementary school fast enough. My heart pounded, and I wiped at my eyes because I couldn’t see through my tears to drive. The radio didn’t help, as the scope and scale of the carnage in Texas began to crystallize. I was not alone in my race to get to my child. The schoolyard was filled with parents who had shown up early, who could not wait to wrap arms around their babies. Our worried, pained eyes met as we hustled toward the pickup line. But we didn’t speak. We couldn’t. What would we say?

The bell rang, and children burst forth from the school doors — yelling and laughing, chasing one another and running to their waiting parents. Little kids full of giggles and questions, wearing clothes dirty from play, shoelaces untied, hair messy, faces caked in food, bearing lopsided smiles.

As we walked back to the car, my daughter and her friend chattered on about the dance party they had in school and the glow-in-the-dark bracelets they got as a special treat. They wore paper crowns that they made in art class, decorated with tender kid drawings: smiling faces, stick arms, flowers and birds.

The worry and fear were more palpable Wednesday morning, as parents who had spent the night stewing in this new horror were further processing its vast implications — and realizing that this grief was theirs to shoulder forever, maybe, unless actual change was made in favor of common-sense gun legislation.

This week had been spirit week at Robb Elementary, and Tuesday was foot loose and fancy-free day, with the kids encouraged to wear their fanciest footwear. We parents had to grapple with images of tiny bodies in glittery, fabulous shoes — shoes that made the morning fun and exciting to kids who were still learning to read. I thought about that as I put my daughter’s feet into her own glittery shoes as we got ready for school. They are the kind that light up when she runs. She finds so much joy in those shoes. Because little kids can find joy in anything.

I thought about not taking my daughter to school this morning. But I did. And I wasn’t alone. We parents got up and did it again. As we walked toward the main doors, we held our children’s hands a bit more tightly. Many parents got down on their knees at the school gate and hugged their kids longer than usual. Our eyes still filled with worry. We were not yet ready to speak.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a conversation I had with my daughter a few nights ago, just before the nightmare in Uvalde. I had just put her to bed, when she got up again and came timidly into my room. She said two things were “concerning her.”

She asked if dying meant she would never imagine anything again. I said that was likely the case. I told her everyone dies. That her daddy would die one day, that I would and that she would too. But, I said, she didn’t have to worry about that for a long, long time.

She asked how people die. I told her it happens when our hearts stop beating — from sickness, or accidents, or when we are very, very old.

She nodded and then said, “Maybe if I die, I’ll come back as a little baby somewhere else.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Some people believe that. Your grandma Boo always said she would come back as a yellow butterfly. That’s why when we see yellow butterflies, we think of her.”

She thought about this for a moment.

“I’m going to come back as a black and white cat,” she said. “And I’m going to show up at your door, and you’ll know it’s me. I’ll push up against your door, and I won’t go.”

I liked the image of the cat, but I didn’t at all like the idea that I would still be around when she was not.

I told her, “Oh, sweetheart, I hope I’ll be long gone before then.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

I said, “I hope I die before you. Mamas should die before their babies.”

“Most mamas and daddies stay alive until their babies are gone,” she said.

I could tell she needed me to say I’d never leave her, so I said, “OK, deal. I’m not going anywhere, as long as you promise not to either.”

“Deal,” she said.

I kissed her and tucked her back in. Then I went to my room and cried my eyes out.

Parents aren’t supposed to lose their babies. We aren’t supposed to show up at school to be confronted by the shock and horror of yellow tape and police cars on a clear blue day just before summer vacation is about to begin. We aren’t supposed to digest one mass shooting after another after another, always hoping that the bullets won’t one day fly closer to home.

And we should never have learned to accept the standard line after such a tragedy occurs, the one currently blanketing The Onion’s homepage in a heart-shattering tableau of yellow tape and emergency vehicles. Like a relentless funeral dirge, it reads: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

Jessica Gelt writes for the Los Angeles Times.

 

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