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