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Monday’s 10 p.m. ET kickoff should be a great sim between the Steelers and the Vikings. Both these teams have been very good in our sims to this point and would be in playoff position if we were going to do a postseason. Minnesota has gone an NFC-best 24-10 in their 34 sims and the Steelers are atop the virtual AFC North with a 22-12 record. In the first meeting between these teams in the sim-universe, the Vikings shut out the Steelers, 13-0, in a game that didn’t have much offense. Will this sim follow the same script and give the Vikings another win or can the Steelers get the offense rolling enough to avenge the earlier loss?
Both these teams have been very productive at times in these sims and have multiple options in their offenses. I’ll let you know how I think it will play out and my favorite picks for your showdown lineup in this post.
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The virtual Vikings built the team’s offense around RB Dalvin Cook ($9,200), who has been very consistent and has a high ceiling as the focus of the team’s typical gameplan. He has averaged 16.8 DKFP per sim and has double-digit DKFP in 12 straight contests and in 17 of his past 18. He typically gets involved as a receiver out of the backfield. He has nine total touchdowns in his past 10 games and is up to 26 in his 34 sims overall. Cook is always a good option to build around due to his high ceiling and low risk.
Remarkably, Kirk Cousins ($11,000) is the most expensive play in this matchup despite his inconsistent play. He has an 82 overall rating but has only reached over 20 DKFP in four of his 34 sims (12%). He has thrown multiple touchdowns in three straight sims and is up to 50 on the sim season. The Vikings try to rely on Cook as much as they can, though, so it’s hard to think he’ll get enough work to be worth his $11K salary in this one.
When he has had to throw, Cousins has had success in part due to his talented WRs. WR1 Stefon Diggs ($10,400) started these sims extremely slow but has turned things around lately with over 13 DKFP in five straight sims. He is still averaging just 12.3 DKFP per sim, but most of that production has come recently. Taking into account the whole sim season, Diggs has been significantly outplayed by WR2 Adam Thielen ($8,600). Diggs has a slightly better 93 overall rating, but Thielen isn’t far behind with a 91 overall rating and also has an X-Factor. He has the “Double Me” ability which increases his success rate on aggressive catches against single coverage after he activates it by making multiple catches of 20-plus yards. Thielen’s Superstar skills are “Slot Apprentice” and “Slot-o-matic,” which give him faster cuts and better hands-on short routes out of the slot and more hot routes to choose from. He has averaged 15.2 DKFP per sim and totaled 19 touchdowns while producing 4.2 catches for 67.1 yards per contest. He had seven straight games with at least 14 DKFP before finishing with just 9.0 DKFP in his most recent sim.
When Thielen slides over to the slot in three-wide sets, Laquon Treadwell ($4,200) comes in on the outside. He only has a 71 overall rating and has gotten inconsistent volume from game-to-game. WR4 Olabisi Johnson ($1,800) has also made a few big plays but has only been involved in 18 of the Vikings 34 sims. He does have five touchdowns and is probably the best punt play in this matchup, but know you’re taking a risk that he’ll totally bust and leave you with nothing.
The Vikings also use TE Kyle Rudolph ($7,000) as a pass-catcher, but he doesn’t typically get a ton of volume. He has scored seven touchdowns on the sim season, including one in each of his two most recent sims. He had a monster game with five catches for 150 yards to go with his score against the Eagles for 29 DKFP and now has double-digit DKFP in seven of his past nine contests. The uneven workload makes him risky at $7K, but he has flashed some upside recently.
The true hero of Minnesota’s win in its first sim against the Steelers was definitely the Vikings’ DST ($3,600) which had 14 DKFP with two sacks and a defensive fumble recovery to support the team’s shutout. Minnesota has totaled 33 takeaways in 34 sims with 75 sacks and five defensive touchdowns. X-Factor Superstars Harrison Smith and Danielle Hunter along with Superstar Everson Griffin lead this unit which has been one of the best in all of Madden. Especially at this affordable price, the Vikings should be a good play even though I doubt the unit will post another shutout.
The Steelers’ offense has been good in most of the team’s sims, although Pittsburgh couldn’t get anything going the first time against Minnesota. Ben Roethlisberger ($10,800) being back under center has turned things around and the veteran QB has averaged 17.2 DKFP per sim, which edges Cook out for the highest average in this matchup. Roethlisberger has been awful in his two most recent sims with just 6.76 DKFP against the Cowboys and 3.12 DKFP against the Bears. Before those two duds, though, he had reeled off five straight games with over 20 DKFP, highlighted by a 32.84 DKFP performance against the Texans. He only had 5.08 DKFP against Minnesota in the teams’ first meeting but should fare better this time around. It’s still hard to see him going off for a big game against this defense, but he’s still my preferred QB play if you’re going with one passer in this showdown.
Big Ben’s top WR, JuJu Smith-Schuster ($9,600) was completely shut out against the Bears but had double-digit DKFP in each of his previous 10 contests. His 86 overall rating and 91 speed rating give him plenty of upside as the Steelers’ best offensive playmaker. He plays out of the slot, which is a place the Vikings have had struggles, so he has some potential to bounce back and may have lower ownership after hanging the bagel on the board in his most recent sim. There is some solid value in the Steelers’ passing game as well. WR2 James Washington ($5,400), who has a 77 overall rating, had at least 9.9 DKFP in seven of his previous eight games before posting just 2.8 DKFP against the Bears. WR3 Diontae Johnson ($4,600) is just behind Washington in terms of salary and with his 75 overall rating. However, Johnson has boom-or-bust potential due to his 91 speed rating and 81 elusiveness rating. He has been held under double-digit DKFP in five of his past six contests but can go off as we’ve seen with over 15 DKFP in eight of his 34 contests.
TE Vance McDonald ($6,200) can be a little boom-or-bust as well, but he has a catch in all 34 of the Steelers’ sims and has averaged 12.1 DKFP per contest. He had a two-touchdown game against the Bucs four sims ago, giving him 12 touchdowns to go with his 53.6 yards per game. He’s actually very affordable in this sim and is one of the players you can expect to return good value while also offering a high ceiling.
In the running game, James Conner ($7,800) has still been quiet for the most part but does have a touchdown in each of his two most recent sims. Even when he does get a score, though, he struggles to return value since he loses the third-down work to Jaylen Samuels ($1,600), who is extremely cheap but is usually involved, averaging 6.1 DKFP per sim with either a rush or a reception in every Pittsburgh sim.
The Steelers’ DST ($3,400) is stacked with playmakers like the Vikings with Superstars T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Heyward. However, Pittsburgh hasn’t been quite as good as Minnesota. The Steelers have forced 26 turnovers in 34 sims with 65 sacks, four defensive TDs and an average of 5.1 DKFP per sim. Pittsburgh is a solid pivot play if you think the Vikings’ DST will be too heavily owned and you’re looking to differentiate your lineup. Another way you could do that is by going with K Chris Boswell ($3,800), who has averaged 6.7 DKFP per contest and has multiple FGs in five of his past nine.
The best option at Captain’s Pick based on consistency and matchup is Dalvin Cook ($13,800 CP). However, he’s also likely to be a very chalky play, so you’ll need to find other places to go against the majority if you roll with him as your Captain. If you’re looking to go a different direction, I like Vance McDonald ($9,300 CP) a lot at his price and in this matchup. The Vikings’ DST ($5,400 CP) is another affordable way to go in your Captain’s Pick, so you have lots of space under your salary cap for flex options. Adam Thielen ($12,900 CP) and James Washington ($8,100 CP) have also been productive WR2s, so either of them could work in that spot as well. If you do need some value to round out your roster, Samuels is my top bargain play.
The Vikings probably won’t shut out the Steelers again, but can Pittsburgh generate enough offense to outscore Cook and company? Pittsburgh’s defense is solid enough and their offense has been better at home than on the road. They usually play much better than they did in that first meeting, and I think they will do just enough to earn a close, low-scoring win at home.
Final Score: Steelers 20, Vikings 17
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is z.thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.