Kickoff: Thursday, December 9th, 8:20 PM ET
Location: U.S Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Betting Odds: MIN -3, 45 Total on Vegas Insider
Network: NFL Network
Ben Roethlisberger (Sit, QB2)
It appears that this will be Ben Roethlisberger’s final season as the Steelers’ quarterback. I know the past few years haven’t gone as planned, but let’s not overlook what has been a hall-of-fame career for the 38-year-old. As for this game, the Vikings’ secondary has struggled this season, but that affects the outlook of Pittsburgh’s pass catchers more than Roethlisberger. This season, Roethlisberger has been a QB1 just one time. Don’t feel the need to start him here.
Najee Harris (Start, RB1)
Coming into this week, only Joe Mixon had a greater share of his team’s rushing yards than Najee Harris. With 5+ targets in three straight games and a bell-cow workhorse role, there’s no way you should ever consider benching Harris- the floor is just too high. Facing a defense that has allowed the 9th most PPR points to running backs, this is a great week for him to get back on track.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
Diontae Johnson (Start, WR1), Chase Claypool (Start, Low-End WR2), Ray-Ray McLoud (Sit), James Washington (Sit), Pat Freiermuth (Start, TE1)
It is time that we acknowledge Diontae Johnson as a fringe top-five wide receiver moving forward. After all, he’s finished as a top-24 receiver in EVERY game he’s played since Week 1, and has now finished in the top-12 in four straight weeks; that’s the beauty of receiving double-digit targets in three straight games. Chase Claypool is currently playing through an injury, which will limit his snaps, but he had seen 8+ targets in back-to-back games, and his ceiling is high being worked down the field against a vulnerable secondary. Furthermore, even though the Vikings are quite strong against tight ends, it’s hard to not start Pat Freiermuth, who now has an entrenched role in Pittsburgh’s offense with the injury of Eric Ebron; the team is also running a lot of 12-personnel sets, which also may boost his target share since backup tight end Zach Gentry is more of a blocking threat.
Kirk Cousins (Start, Low-End QB1/High-End QB2)
The Vikings may have lost to the Lions, but Kirk Cousins performed well, at least for fantasy purposes. Cousins has now finished as a QB1 in five straight weeks, and is Pro Football Focus’ second-highest graded quarterback. At this point, it’s becoming harder and harder to take him out of your starting lineup.
Alexander Mattison (Start, RB1), Kene Nwangwu (Sit)
*Recent reports have Dalvin Cook attempting to play Thursday night. It would be awfully hard to sit Cook if he is active, and it would be difficult to trust Mattison in that situation as well.*
As expected, with Dalvin Cook sidelined with a shoulder injury, Alexander Mattison played a carbon-copy role, playing 85.5% of the offensive snaps and scoring 19.9 PPR fantasy points in the process. The Steelers run defense has faltered as of late, and I’d expect Mattison to have another big game this Thursday.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Justin Jefferson (Start, WR1), KJ Osborn (Sit*, Low-End WR3), Tyler Conklin (Start, Low-End TE1)
Adam Thielen left Sunday’s loss to Detroit after six snaps due to a high-ankle sprain, leading to Justin Jefferson commanding 14 targets. Since offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak came out and stated that they wanted to get the ball more to Jefferson, the star wide receiver has 42 targets over the past four weeks; the ceiling is the roof at this point. With Thielen out, KJ Osborn will fill in as a low-end WR3, though with some intrigue after receiving two end-zone targets on Sunday. Speaking of end-zone targets, that’s what we’d expect from Tyler Conklin, who also becomes a greater part of the picture with Thielen injured. Conklin received nine targets on Sunday and had a near touchdown, so look for him to redeem himself here. This is a condensed passing attack, so either it’s going to be more condensed to Jefferson, or Osborn and Conklin are going to a greater share of the work. Honestly, why can’t both things be true?
All Stats via Pro Football Focus