Welcome to the NFL Week 14 Thursday Night Football Showdown Slate!
We’ve got quite the interesting match-up tonight as both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings are fighting for their playoff lives here in Week 14. A loss will certainly make things very difficult in today’s playoff hunt. Pittsburgh was lucky to escape with the win last week as the Ravens just missed their game-ending two-point conversion while the Vikings are in serious need of a regrouping after handing the Lions their first and, likely, only win of the season. Both offenses are led by a strong ground game and have been able to put up strong numbers, but both defenses have been struggling. The over/under of 44 is a bit curious, but if both teams stick to the run, we may not see as many points as we’d like.
We also have a serious injury watch here, so pay very close attention to the status of Dalvin Cook which should be revealed with the inactives, at least an hour before game-time. His presence or potential lack thereof, will have a major impact on Alexander Mattison’s value.
Now before we begin, please take a moment to understand what exactly you are getting yourself into by playing single-game Showdown Slates. We love to have some skin in the game, for sure, but these slates are, for all intents and purposes, a lottery ticket. Sure, there are times when the chalk hits and everyone shares in the prizes, but, more often than not, you need to hit on that random dart-throw that differentiates your lineup from that of the herd in order to claim the top prize. As a result, we encourage you to play responsibly and not over-invest. Stick to the GPP contests (single-entry preferred), don’t blow your whole bankroll, and understand that, unless you are a max-entry player, you should prioritize having fun.
OK. Lecture over. Let’s get to tonight’s action.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings
Spread: Vikings -3
B.J. Finney, LG – back (out)
Joe Haeg, LG – COVID
Isaiah Buggs, NT – ankle (out)
Joe Haden, DB – foot (out)
Dalvin Cook, RB – shoulder (questionable)
Adam Thielen, WR – ankle (out)
Christian Darrisaw, LT – ankle (questionable)
DVOA Defensive Rankings
vs Pass: 25th
vs Run: 24th
vs Pass: 13th
vs Run: 29th
**Please note that players not listed below are not necessarily a complete fade and any player listed can certainly be used as the MVP/Captain. These are merely suggestions for players to use when setting Showdown lineups.
Alexander Mattison, RB MIN – Obviously, this will be a game-time decision as we wait to find out if Dalvin Cook is active and, if he is, what his role will be. If he is active but limited, then we’re still bullish on Mattison, though I wouldn’t leave him here in the captain’s spot. If he is active without limits, then just sub in Cook right here and take the shot. The Steelers are allowing the 10th-most fantasy points and over 130 rushing yards per game while coughing up 12 rushing touchdowns on the year. Without their starting nose tackle, the holes up the middle should be even wider.
Justin Jefferson, WR MIN – The already troubled Steelers secondary will be without veteran Joe Haden, so Jefferson should see plenty of action tonight. He’s an obvious play in this match-up, but just in case you need some data, how about three touchdowns in his last three games with three 100-yard efforts in his last four?
Diontae Johnson, WR PIT – The Vikings may rank 13th in DVOA against the pass, but they’ve allowed the second-most passing yards (286.3) over their last three games and have allowed the fourth-most receiving touchdowns (21) on the year. Johnson have averaged almost 11 targets per game this season and has seen double-digit targets in all but two games. If the Steelers really are going to pass more as some reports have indicated, then he’s a strong captain play.
Najee Harris, RB PIT – Things have certainly slowed down for Harris who has averaged just under 14 carries and only 44 rushing yards per game over his last three. He’s also seen the end zone just once over his last four. Still, the Vikings have been soft against the run, allowing 131.5 rushing yards per game and have allowed 11 rushing touchdowns on the season. I wouldn’t expect a 100-yard effort, but if he can get 15 touches and finds the end zone, he’ll be worth the roster spot.
Kirk Cousins, QB MIN – Pittsburgh is allowing 233.2 passing yards per game with 17 touchdowns through the air all season. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a fairly impressive 96.3 passer rating against them, so once the Vikings have established the run and open things up via play-action, Cousins should post strong totals tonight.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB PIT – Big Ben loves the prime-time attention and opposing quarterbacks have been strong against Minnesota, posting a 93.1 passer rating while averaging 250.5 yards through the air. They’ve also given up 21 passing touchdowns. If the Steeler fall back from the run, Roethlisberger should post a strong night’s worth of stats for you.
Chase Claypool, WR PIT – With no injury designation coming in, Claypool could be a solid play tonight as the Vikings rank 29th against the opposition’s No. 2 wideout and are allowing just over 71 receiving yards per game to them. If Claypool can see 6-to-8 targets tonight, he should produce against a struggling secondary.
Tyler Conklin, TE MIN – It was Conklin who saw the targets increase when Adam Thielen went down and since the Steelers rank 17th in DVOA against the position, we’ll look to Conklin as a nice pay-down with some strong upside in a full-point PPR format.
Pat Freiermuth, TE PIT – While the Vikings have been good against the tight end position, Freiermuth is still going to see his usual red zone targets. That upside tends to make him a strong play, especially when touchdowns are so important in a showdown contest.
K.J. Osborn, WR MIN – He’ll take over the No. 2 job for the Vikings with Thielen out and should see some decent targets in this one. He’s usually a slot receiver, but will likely stay on the outside and work against Akhello Witherspoon who serves as the back-up with Joe Haden out.
Dede Westbrook, WR MIN – Westbrook will see some reps out of the slot tonight with Osborn moving to the outside to play the Z-receiver role. The Steelers do rank 21st in DVOA against the slot, so you could definitely get a cheap touchdown here.
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