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Fantasy Football Picks: Steelers vs. Vikings DraftKings NFL DFS TNF Showdown Strategy

Garion Thorne preps you for Thursday’s 8:20 p.m. ET contest between the Steelers and the Vikings with game-script analysis and Captain’s Picks.

At least half of talking about sports is narratives. For as much as even I love stats, it’s the storylines that make football beloved. One of the most classic narratives is the bounce-back spot. It suggests that a team that was embarrassed in their previous game will take said loss to heart and come back even stronger. Well, there might never be a bigger bounce-back opportunity than the Minnesota Vikings, fresh off a last-second defeat to the once winless Lions.

Can the Pittsburgh Steelers avoid their own bounce-back spot next week? Let’s break it all down from a Showdown perspective.

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $1.5M Thursday Night Showdown [$500K to 1st] (PIT vs MIN)


Captain’s Picks

Justin Jefferson ($16,500 CP) - With the uncertainty surrounding the status of Dalvin Cook ($10,800; shoulder), there is no debate about the most trustworthy asset on the Vikings’ side of the field. Jefferson has been playing like a man possessed the past four weeks. Dating back to Week 10, among the 69 wide receivers who have logged at least 50% of their team’s snaps, Jefferson ranks first in receptions (32), receiving yards (577), 100-yard receiving games (3), DKFP per snap (0.48) and overall DKFP (117.0). In fact, he’s scored 23.6 DKFP more than any other wideout within that span of time, and you can only assume that his target share will be going up with Adam Thielen (ankle) now inactive. Also worth noting is how strong a matchup this is for Jefferson. Joe Haden (foot) has already been ruled out for Pittsburgh and the team’s secondary has been torn apart in his absence. The last three weeks, with Haden sidelined, the Steelers are conceding an AFC-worst 9.7 yards per target to opposing WRs.

Najee Harris ($15,000 CP) - While Harris’ final stat line from Pittsburgh’s 20-19 victory over Baltimore in Week 13 won’t blow anyone away at first glance, there’s one unescapable truth in the numbers: Volume. The rookie RB was on the field for 96.7% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps, which translated into 26 touches and 107 scrimmage yards. It was the fifth time in Harris’ past seven games that he’d garnered at least 20 carries. Within that same span, Harris has also managed at least three receptions each and every week. These roles simply aren’t that common in 2021. Matchups as enticing as the Vikings aren’t all that common, either. Minnesota comes into Thursday allowing the most rushing yards per game of any NFC team (131.5). On top of that, the Vikings are surrendering a league-worst 4.97 adjusted line yards per opponent rush attempt. If Harris is going to see anything resembling 20 carries, I’d have to imagine he has an amazing chance at the 100-yard bonus.

FLEX Plays

Chase Claypool ($7,400) - I mentioned above how weak the Steelers D/ST ($4,200) has been against wideouts recently. Well, if you can believe it, the Vikings D/ST ($4,400) has somehow been worse. Since Week 11, Minnesota is giving up a league-high 10.8 yards per target to opposing WRs. In fact, for the season as a whole, the Vikings are surrendering the most DKFP per contest to wideouts — the direct result of the secondary giving up the third-most 20-plus yard passing plays (49). It’s not often the case with Ben Roethlisberger ($9,000) and his noodle arm, but Pittsburgh legitimately has an opportunity for some chunk plays on Thursday night. Obviously, Diontae Johnson ($10,200) is the No. 1 option in the passing attack, but it’s Claypool who leads the Steelers in yards per target (9.2) and yards per touch (14.9). He’s the big play waiting to happen.

Tyler Conklin ($6,200) - I’ll preface this by saying I don’t think Conklin is going to be a variance play by any means; however, with the aforementioned injury to Thielen, I could see K.J. Osborn ($5,600) being a popular mid-tier asset after logging more snaps than any Vikings wide receiver last week (70). That’s all well and good — and Osborn is certainly viable — yet I’d far rather find the $600 to pay up for Conklin. The tight end was on the field for 94.7% of Minnesota’s offensive snaps against the Lions, and with Thielen only able to log six snaps, Conklin finished with a season-high nine targets. The 26-year-old also has nine red zone targets in his past four contests, which speaks to his massive upside on this slate.


Ben Roethlisberger ($9,000) - It’s just hard to get excited about Roethlisberger anymore. Coming into Week 14, the veteran pivot ranks 31st in aDOT among qualified QBs (7.3). At 0.39 DKFP per drop back, Roethlisberger has been a less efficient fantasy passer than the likes of Trevor Siemian, Sam Darnold and Justin Fields. In fact, there have been 24 quarterbacks who have started at least 11 contests so far in 2021 and Roethlisberger’s single 300-yard passing game puts him in a four-way tie for dead-last with Jared Goff, Daniel Jones and Taylor Heinicke. This is not exactly the most breathtaking company. Put simply, Roethlisberger has only exceeded 20.0 DKFP once this season and there’s no real reason to expect him to double that total against the Vikings.


If I’m being completely honest, I have no faith in betting on either one of these teams. In terms of week-to-week inconsistency and overall disappointment, the Steelers and the Vikings are basically the AFC and NFC versions of each other. So, I think when presented with such a scenario, one should just take the points. Minnesota is 2-7 ATS in its past nine home games and 1-9 ATS its last 10 times as a favorite. It’s pretty bleak.

Final Score: Pittsburgh 24, Minnesota 20

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $1.5M Thursday Night Showdown [$500K to 1st] (PIT vs MIN)

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