Thursday Night Football features the Steelers (6-5-1) and Vikings (5-7), the two teams the Lions defeated and tied.
And I expect it to be a shootout.
- Moneyline: Pittsburgh (+145) | Minnesota (-175)
- Spread: Pittsburgh +3.5 (-118) | Minnesota -3.5 (+100)
- Total: 43.5 -Over (-110) | Under (-110)
- Game Info: Dec. 9, 2021 | 8:20 p.m. ET | NFL Network
The Vikings averaged 29 points per game across their last three games, while the Steelers scored 22.3 points per game. Get this: Minnesota has allowed 31.3 per game across the last three, while Pittsburgh has allowed a league-high 33.7.
POINTS. Fantasy managers certainly hope so. And I do too.
Minnesota has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game (131.5), and 134 per game over the last three. Yes, that’s more than the Lions and even the Jets.
Pittsburgh hasn’t fared any better. On the season, Pittsburgh's run defense is surrendering 130.9 yards per game and 154 yards per game across the last three. Wheels up for Alexander Mattison, who could start again in place of Dalvin Cook. Cook is questionable for the game after registering back-to-back limited practices.
Both teams struggle against the pass too. The Vikings have surrendered a whopping 283 passing yards per game across their last three games and Pittsburgh has surrendered 255 in that stretch. They're both bottom-five during this span.
Let’s talk offense.
Sure, Big Ben is old, but last week he had one of his best games of the season against a struggling Baltimore secondary. The Ravens made him look more like Ben Button than Ben Roethlisbeger. Minnesota could also oblige. All of Pittsburgh's weapons are healthy, and Diontae Johnson continues to dominate the receiving action. Najee Harris is having a strong rookie season, and serves admirably in the bell-cow role.
The Vikings have a knack for letting things get too close, and it burned them last week in a loss to the hapless Lions. They also lost veteran wideout Adam Thielen to an ankle injury, and he is out this week. Mattison does a fine job filling in for Cook in this run-first offense, and should have a good game Thursday. Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson will certainly show off, and K.J. Osborn and Tyler Conklin will chip in.
Minnesota has covered the spread 50% of the time this season, while Pittsburgh has covered the spread 41.7%. The over has hit in 58.3% of the Vikings' games, while the under has cashed in 63.6 % of the Steelers' contests.
If that helped you, congrats.
I’m not overthinking this one, I am taking the points. The two teams are fairly evenly matched, but Pittsburgh’s offense is 100%. Sometimes, it’s just that easy.
THE PICK: Pittsburgh +3.5, Over 43.5
Now, let’s have some fun with player props!
Diontae Johnson over 81.5 receiving yards (-120)
DJ has had double-digit targets in all but two games this year. The only receiver with more targets per game is Cooper Kupp. Johnson has surpassed this prop in each of his last four games and in seven of eleven games. Meanwhile, The Vikings have allowed 277 passing yards per game to opposing QBs across the last four contests.
Chase Claypool over 51.5 receiving yards (-120)
Claypool has topped his prop in each of his last three games, including last week when he only saw three targets. The Vikings' secondary has yielded 195 yards per game and 9.73 yards per target to opposing receivers across the last four contests.
Najee Harris over 70.5 rushing yards (-120)
I’m taking the over, even though it seems like Harris is slowing down a bit. Harris has surpassed this prop five times this season, and the Vikings have allowed an average of 90 rushing yards per game to running backs across the past four contests. Harris is a featured back, and hit this mark against a much-tougher Ravens defense last week.
K.J. Osborn over 42.5 receiving yards (-120)
Osborn should have more opportunity in Thielen's absence as Jefferson can’t take all the receiving yards, right? Last Sunday against the Lions, Osborn saw seven targets for 47 yards with Thielen sidelined for most of the game. Osborn has hit this receiving prop in every game he’s seen more than six targets.
Tyler Conklin anytime TD (+215)
With Thielen sidelined, Conklin gets bumped to grab targets over the middle of the field. Conklin saw nine targets in Sunday’s loss, second only to Jefferson. On the season, he’s third in target share (14%) behind Jefferson and Thielen. Conklin has 14 red zone targets, which is tied with Mark Andrews and Hunter Henry. It makes sense that the 6-foot-3 Conklin is the big red zone target that fills in for Thielen.
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