Minnesota Timberwolves defense (⬆️ UP)
It can’t be written off as a small sample size any more. The Wolves defense is for real. Through 17 games this season, Minnesota ranks seventh in the NBA in defensive rating (104.4) and is holding opponents to the worst 3-point percentage (29.7%) in the league. Incredible. The Wolves’ defensive rating over the first six seasons of Karl-Anthony Towns’ career, beginning with his rookie season in 2015-16 to last year: 28th, 27th, 25th, 24th, 20th and 28th. No opponent has reached 100 points during the team’s current four-game winning streak. Head coach Chris Finch is on to something.
Turtles (⬇️ DOWN)
It’s a tough week to be a turtle. The Twins designated fan-favorite utility man Willians Astudillo on Friday, marking the end of his four-year stint with Minnesota. And boy oh boy, it was memorable. Some of our favorite memories? His sprint from first base to home plate which earned him the nickname “La Tortuga.” His walk-off homer in 2018 at Target Field. The way Astudillo would chase after a fly ball while holding his hat in his right hand. We’ll miss you, Tortuga.
Justin Jefferson, Vikings receiver (⬆️ UP)
Jefferson is the best player on the Vikings roster. Period. He showed it again Sunday with eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the 34-31 win over the rival Green Bay Packers. It was Jefferson’s fourth game of the season with 100+ receiving yards, and the 11th of his career. Only one receiver -- fellow LSU alum Odell Beckham Jr. -- notched more 100-yard games over his first two NFL seasons (15). He also joined Randy Moss and Stefon Diggs as the only Vikings players with multiple games of 150+ yards and 2+ touchdowns in the last 30 seasons.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings quarterback (⬆️ UP)
If Jefferson is trending up, so is QB1. Cousins has made a conscious effort to push the ball downfield the past two weeks, and guess what? It resulted in a pair of Vikings wins. Cousins has averaged 9.0 and 11.5 yards per pass attempt in those contests compared to 5.3 in the ugly loss to Dallas in Week 8. Cousins ranks third in the NFL passer rating (106.3), fifth in passing touchdowns (21) and seventh in yards (2,775).
Kevin Fiala, Wild forward (⬆️ UP)
Fiala’s 2021-22 campaign got off to a rough start. Coming off back-to-back stellar seasons, expectations were sky high for the 25-year-old to lead the Wild’s offense along with Kirill Kaprizov. However, he tallied just three points (one goal, two assists) in the first eight contests. Fiala lit the lamp in the season opener but went through a 10-game drought before his next goal. On Sunday, though, Fiala found the back of the net again with under three minutes to play, trimming Tampa Bay’s lead to one. The Wild went on to score again, force overtime and steal a point on the road.