Welcome to the NFL Showdown Matchups Showdown Highlights for Week 14 Thursday Night Football. Below is provide a quick overview of the game’s key storylines and highlight some of the key insights from Awesemo’s world-class suite of tools to find the best NFL DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel showdown lineups. Let’s dive into the NFL DFS picks today for the Week 14 Steelers vs. Vikings Thursday Night Football matchup.
Week 14 Thursday Night Football NFL DFS Picks
The 6-5-1 Steelers head to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings, who at 5-7, rank second in the NFC North, in a must-win game for both squads, as each team sits just one game back of the final playoff spot in their respective conferences. Pittsburgh shocked many a week ago with a win against the Ravens, though they nearly blew it at the end, and Minnesota allowed the Lions to win their first game of the season in Week 13. And now Minnesota will be forced to play this contest without star wideout Adam Thielen, who was quickly ruled out for this game with an ankle injury he suffered early in the team’s loss to Detroit. Though this matchup has an extremely low 43.5-point Vegas total, it has some sneaky shootout potential due to middling skill of both defenses and the star power on both offenses.
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In a surprise twist, it appears that Dalvin Cook ($10,800 DraftKings/$12,000 FanDuel) will be active for this game despite numerous reports that he was still a week or two away in his recovery from a shoulder injury. If healthy, Cook should step into a large workload, though his chances of earning 30-plus touches with a healthy Alexander Mattison ($9,800 DraftKings/$12,000 FanDuel) backing him up is slim to none. Still, 20 to 25 opportunities for a player like Cook, especially against Pittsburgh’s run-funnel defense, is more than enough for him to be a value at his salary. The Vikings are one of the more run-oriented teams in the NFL, which makes Cook a strong play, albeit slightly riskier than normal. His injury status should keep his ownership under-control, however.
Awesemo’s projections believe Justin Jefferson ($11,000 DraftKings/$13,500 FanDuel) is the strongest value play among the top-tier options. Without Thielen in the mix, Jefferson thrived against a putrid Detroit secondary, earning 14 targets, tying his season high, and finishing with a career-high 182 yards receiving en route to a WR1 overall performance. With Thielen ruled out early this week, the Steelers will almost certainly center their defensive game plan around stopping Jefferson, but that is easier said than done. Jefferson ranks seventh in targets, first in deep targets and third in fantasy points per game this season. Look for quarterback Kirk Cousins ($10,400 DraftKings/$16,000 FanDuel) to force feed Jefferson regardless of game script.
Ben Roethlisberger’s ($9,000 DraftKings/$15,000 FanDuel) most appealing quality is his salary. Though Roethlisberger has been hampered by injuries for much of the season, he has still thrown for at least 250 yards in three of his last five games and has scored over 19 fantasy points in two of his last three. He is much more of floor play than a ceiling one, however, as Roethlisberger has failed to score more than 23 fantasy points in a single game this season.
If chasing ceiling within the Pittsburgh offense, as most DFS tournament players should be, fantasy gamers should be looking at rostering one or both of Diontae Johnson ($10,200 DraftKings/$13,000 FanDuel) or Najee Harris ($10,000 DraftKings/$14,000 FanDuel), who have solid probabilities of leading their respective positions in total opportunities on a week-to-week basis. Johnson’s 70 targets since Week 8 are four more than any other player in the NFL, and his 31.3% target share during that span ranks second. Similarly, Harris ranks first among all running backs in snap share, opportunity share, weighted opportunities and targets this season. Despite running behind a below-average offensive line, Harris has maintained a solid 25.5% evaded tackle rate on an immense workload and could easily find the end zone multiple times. Though he is a distant third in opportunity, Chase Claypool ($7,400 DraftKings/$10,000 FanDuel) offers unique big-play upside and has received just 8% less of the team’s air yards than Johnson over his last five starts despite seeing 40 fewer targets.
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Without Adam Thielen playing, K.J. Osborn ($5,600 DraftKings/$8,000 FanDuel) should see his playing time drastically increase. Sure enough, Osborn ultimately played on 92% of the team’s snaps in the team’s Week 13 loss to Detroit, which indicates he is the next man up in the Minnesota offense. Though it is possible the Vikings will may ultimately employ a “WR2-by-committee” approach, and Dede Westbrook ($2,200 DraftKings/$6,500 FanDuel) is likely to eclipse 42% of snaps, Osborn should have every opportunity to produce. He saw seven looks a week ago, which was just two less than tight end Tyler Conklin ($6,200 DraftKings/$8,500 FanDuel), who saw a career-high nine targets a week ago.
That massive bump in Conklin’s opportunity, however, also boosted his salary, and while he should be an every-down player, Conklin only appears in the optimal lineup in 24% of Awesemo’s simulations. Pat Freiermuth ($6,600 DraftKings/$9,500 FanDuel), who ranks first among all tight ends in red-zone targets since Week 8, offers a higher target floor and higher touchdown upside for just a slight boost in salary. Freiermuth will cede some snaps to backup Zach Gentry ($2,600 DraftKings/$6,500 FanDuel), but not enough to be concerned whatsoever about his workload.
The Bottom Line
Though this game could easily wind up being a disgusting, mistake-filled slog, the 43.5-point Vegas total does not fully encapsulate the shootout potential, and fantasy upside of the offensive players involved, particularly at the skill positions. With Cook back in the fold for Minnesota, the Vikings should be able to keep Pittsburgh off balance in a way they were not able to last week without Cook and Thielen. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger has stepped up his level of play just enough over the season’s second half to allow his top options, particularly Harris and Johnson, to produce premier numbers themselves. However, though it has not necessarily translated to much more fantasy production himself. With five players (Harris, Johnson, Cook, Jefferson and Claypool) capable of scoring from anywhere on the field, fantasy gamers should be sure to include at least one of the top-flight playmakers in every lineup.
Week 14 Thursday Night Football Prediction: Vikings 24, Steelers 21
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