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NFL DFS Showdown Spotlight: Week 14 Thursday Night Football DraftKings & FanDuel | Steelers vs. Vikings

Eric MacPherson

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For each of the featured games, typically Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football slates, this column will provide free analysis for the single-slate action on DraftKings and FanDuel. This will include team capsules, player rankings, comments and NFL DFS picks for today. There are loads of information and NFL DFS Showdown picks to get into for both DraftKings and FanDuel on this Week 14 Thursday Night Football slate featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings.

NFL DFS Showdown Picks: Week 14 Thursday Night Football

Pittsburgh is very thin on offensive linemen, though other than JuJu Smith-Schuster and Eric Ebron being on the injured reserve, no other skill position players currently have injury designations. On defense cornerback Joe Haden and linebacker Robert Spillane are out. T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are now healthy after being out the last time the Steelers were on a prime-time slate.

Adam Thielen is out with an ankle injury, and tackle Christian Darrisaw is unlikely to play with his own ankle issue. Dalvin Cook missed last week with a shoulder injury, though he was a limited participant in the final two practices of the week and will likely be a game time decision.

Pittsburg Steelers: 20.25 Points

Quarterback

While the Vikings are solid against the pass, they have a bottom-five run DVOA. This plays into the Steelers’ preference to run the ball. At age 39, Ben Roethlisberger may be in his final season and clearly is a game manager at best right now. Though he has limited the interceptions and his sack percentage is below his career average, Roethlisberger does not throw downfield much, and his touchdown percentage is the lowest it has been since 2008 when his teammates were Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Hines Ward, Heath Miller and Santonio Holmes. Roethlisberger somehow has the second-highest salary on FanDuel, but he is appropriately coming with the sixth highest on DraftKings.

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Running Back

Rookie Najee Harris continues to carry the load for the Steelers, accounting for nearly 75% of the yards rushing and seeing the second-most targets on the team, though to be fair, every receiver has missed at least one game this year. Since the Week 7 bye, non-Harris running backs are combining for just under three carries per game.

With such a heavy workload, Harris is in a prime spot to continue his backfield dominance, and you can take advantage of all of that usage in the NFL player prop betting market. Harris’s over/unders have some great expected win rates and ROI on the Awesemo OddsShopper tool. Be sure to utilize those free projections before making your favorite NFL player prop bets tonight.

Wide Receiver

Diontae Johnson leads the team with 120 targets seeing double digit looks in all but one game this season. Chase Claypool is next, and over his last three healthy games he has averaged 6.7 targets. Ray-Ray McCloud and James Washington each get one or two opportunities when the other wideouts are healthy, which makes them dart throws at best.

Tight End

Rookie Pat Freiermuth has been outstanding this season, and since the bye he has averaged six targets per game, while the rest of the tight ends are seeing just two combined on average. Since Eric Ebron was lost in Week 11, Zach Gentry is the only other tight end with targets, and he had a pair in each of the last two games.

Defense/Special Teams

Pittsburgh is back on top of the sacks leaderboard with 37 — just over three per game — but Minnesota has allowed the second fewest in the league, at 1.5 per matchup. The Steelers are logging barely one takeaway per game, while the Vikings have ceded only six, which is the lowest figure in the league.

Minnesota Vikings: 23.25 Points

Quarterback

Kirk Cousins has the fourth-highest quarterback rating this season and is averaging 279.4 yards, which is the seventh most in the league. Twenty-five touchdowns against three interceptions is quite the ratio, but tonight he will be without Adam Thielen, who is his go-to option in the clutch. Pittsburgh has been a disaster on defense, other than collecting sacks, and they have the 24th run and 25th pass DVOA ratings according to Football Outsiders. Cousins is savvy enough to take what opponents give him, which by the end of the game adds up in the fantasy points column.

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Running Back

Dalvin Cook (shoulder) was looking at a multi-week injury, so it is far from a guarantee he will play tonight. If he is active, he may cede a fair amount of the opportunities to Alexander Mattison, who has been productive over the last two seasons when starting for Cook. Fullback C.J. Ham is an afterthought since he rarely gets offensive opportunities and plays on around a third of the snaps. Last week when Cook was out, Kene Nwangwu played on only nine of the 11 snaps for which Mattison was on the sideline.

Surprisingly, Cook appears to be trending toward playing, which our NFL DFS lineup optimizer recognized. Cook was coming in as a top play in the Captain/MVP/Superstar play in our DraftKings NFL cheat sheet, FanDuel NFL cheat sheet and Yahoo NFL cheat sheet tonight. Check them out for all of our free NFL DFS showdown picks tonight.

Wide Receiver

Justin Jefferson has been phenomenal once again, and he is building on the success he had as a rookie. Currently he is second in the league in yards receiving per game with 100.8 while leading the league in plays of at least 20 yards with 21. When Thielen went down last week, it was K.J. Osborn who led the team with 92% of the snaps, with Jefferson getting 91% and Dede Westbrook seeing a season-high 42% as the third wide receiver. Westbrook has just five targets in the six games since the Week 7 bye, while Osborn has 19 and Ihmir Smith-Marsette one, which he saw last week after Thielen was lost.

Tight End

Tyler Conklin saw a season-high nine targets last week, and on the season he has all but nine for the position. Theoretically, Chris Herndon will be the next man up, though he has had a near identical snap count to Luke Stocker over the last half dozen games and only two targets in the timeframe, also matching Stocker.

Defense/Special Teams

Minnesota and Pittsburgh are each in the middle of the pack from a turnover perspective. The Vikings are one sack behind the Steelers for the league lead, and Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 times in the last four games.

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Thursday Night Football Single-Game NFL DFS Strategy

The rankings below are best utilized for building out single-entry and three-max lineups and for head-to-head and three-man formats. They provide a nice barometer for player value, but for those taking the MME approach, remember that correlation is key. This means matching a receiver or two with a quarterback in the Captain/MVP slot. This also works conversely with pairing a Captain/MVP pass catcher with their quarterback.

Week 14 Thursday Night Football NFL DFS Rankings

Top 10 NFL DFS Showdown Picks

  1. Justin Jefferson: In his last four games he is averaging 11 targets, eight receptions and 144.3 yards receiving and has a total of three touchdowns.
  2. Diontae Johnson: He has been peppered with targets all season and is second with 10.9 per game. In his last three outings he is averaging eight receptions for 100.3 yards and three trips to the end zone, including two against Baltimore last weekend.
  3. Najee Harris: Should see volume, and Roethlisberger can do just enough to keep the Vikings from constantly stacking the box.
  4. Kirk Cousins: Nobody likes to roster him, but the fantasy production has been stellar.
  5. K.J. Osborn: Scored last week and has three games with at least 75 yards.
  6. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison: If Cook is inactive or does not start, move Mattison above Harris.
  7. Ben Roethlisberger: Double-digit fantasy points in every game; has just one over 20, though.
  8. Chase Claypool: More than 12 full-PPR fantasy points only three times this season.
  9. Greg Joseph: Eight games with double-digit fantasy points, 6-for-7 from beyond 50 yards this year after not catching on with any team last season.
  10. Chris Boswell: Drilled 24 of 25 field goals so far, including all seven from 50 or more yards.

Secondary NFL DFS Showdown Picks

  1. Pat Freiermuth: Banking on a touchdown to justify his well-deserved salary.
  2. Minnesota D/ST: Home game, and Roethlisberger could easily air mail a pick-six.
  3. Dede Westbrook: The savings are necessary on DraftKings. Pencil him in for around three targets; Awesemo has him at 2.59.
  4. Tyler Conklin: There is an argument to be made for swapping him with Freiermuth depending on popularity.
  5. Ray-Ray McCloud: Four targets last week after missing a game in the health and safety protocol.

Lottery Ticket NFL DFS Showdown Picks

  1. Pittsburgh D/ST: Cousins limits sacks and turnovers.
  2. Zach Gentry: Punt option on DraftKings; Awesemo has him for under two targets.
  3. James Washington: Absurd salary on DraftKings; no need to use him over McCloud on FanDuel.
  4. C.J. Ham: In 74 career games he has 74 targets and 32 carries, which is proportionally in line with this season as well.
  5. Benny Snell and Kalen Ballage: Hope they break a carry for a first down when Harris is on the sidelines.
  6. Chris Herndon and Luke Stocker: Yikes!
  7. Derek Watt: He has three more carries than his brother T.J., although 16 fewer sacks.

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View our DraftKings NFL rankings and our FanDuel DFS NFL rankings. We also have single-game projections and NFL single-game ownership projections. If you’re interested in other NFL DFS data for multiple game slates, head over to DFS NFL ownership projections, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, daily fantasy football rankings, and NFL DFS stacking. Take a look at our starting lineups, NFL inactives and NFL depth charts.

Eric "EMac" MacPherson won the 2007 Fantasy Baseball grand prize (trip for two to the MLB All-Star game) in the Roto format on ESPN. He won again in 2008, this time in the H2H format. As one of the early adopters of daily fantasy sports, EMac has been providing content for baseball and basketball as well as both professional and college football since 2012 for a variety of websites including DraftKings Playbook, FanVice, RotoWorld, Daily Fantasy Bootcamp, and RotoGrinders. He is well into his third decade of fantasy sports and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Follow him on Twitter @EMacDFS or contact EMac by emailing [email protected].

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