Similar to most seasons, Thursday night games have left a lot to be desired this season. That being said, with less than two months of football left, we’ll be longing for games on Thursday night once the offseason begins. Regardless of what two teams are playing on Thursday night, there always seem to be surprising developments that take place.
This week, we have the Pittsburgh Steelers traveling to take on the Minnesota Vikings. In NFL DFS, the oddities that have occurred on Thursday night have typically led to unsung players sneaking into winning lineups. So when you are putting together your lineups for Thursday night games, don’t be afraid to go against what you believe is going to happen. Ahead of Thursday’s showdown between Ben Roethlisberger and Kirk Cousins, here are my favorite captain and flex plays on DraftKings.
Captain Spot Considerations
Justin Jefferson ($16,500)
Even before Adam Thielen was officially ruled out for the Vikings, Justin Jefferson was going to be a smash play on Thursday night. But with Thielen being ruled out, Jefferson is cleared for takeoff this week. Minnesota already had such a condensed target share between Jefferson, Thielen, and a couple of other guys, so with Thielen out of the mix, Jefferson may see 15+ targets. Over the past four weeks, Jefferson has combined for 32 receptions, 577 yards, and three touchdowns on 44 targets. The second-year standout has totaled 118 DraftKings points in those four games. Pittsburgh’s defense has given up the 10th most points (36.19) per game to WRs on DraftKings this season and they are without Joe Haden still. If the Vikings put the ball in the air on Thursday, there’s a good chance that No. 18 is who Cousins is targeting. Whenever you use Jefferson at the captain spot, you’ll likely want to pair him with Cousins at one of your flex spots.
Diontae Johnson ($15,300)
On the other side of the field, we have another target hog in Diontae Johnson. Johnson has been spectacular this season, garnering double-digit targets in all but two of his appearances. Even with a noodle-armed Roethlisberger, Johnson is able to make the most of his targets, scoring no fewer than 11.7 DraftKings points in any week this season, so the floor is extremely high. And with Chase Claypool struggling and JuJu Smith-Schuster out for the season, there aren’t many guys standing in Johnson’s way of getting 10+ targets again in Week 14. On top of all of that, the Vikings allow the second-most points (41.96) per game to WRs on DraftKings. Once again, you’ll likely want to correlate Roethlisberger with Johnson if you use the latter at the captain spot. I believe either Jefferson or Johnson leads the game in scoring.
Alexander Mattison ($14,700)
At the time this article was being written, Dalvin Cook owned a questionable tag for the Vikings as he was limited in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. Cook is dealing with a shoulder injury that could require surgery once the season concludes. If Cook is unable to play for the second consecutive week, Alexander Mattison is set up for a massive workload again on Thursday night. In the three games that Mattison has started in this season, he has yet to score fewer than 21 DraftKings points. While Pittsburgh’s defense is typically known for containing opposing running backs, they are allowing the fifth-most rushing yards (105.5) per game to running backs. And if Thielen and Cook are out, then more opportunities would open up for Mattison in the passing game. In the event that Cook is able to suit up, I’d pivot to Najee Harris for $300 more than Mattison at the captain spot.
Flex Spot Considerations
Pat Freiermuth ($6,600)
Instead of targeting the No. 2 wide receiver in Pittsburgh’s offense in Claypool, I’ll take the salary savings to go with Pat Freiermuth instead. Freiermuth has emerged as a reliable weapon for the Steelers recently, seeing no fewer than four targets in his past seven games. The rookie tight end has also hauled in five touchdowns since Week 8. Whenever Pittsburgh gets into the red zone, there’s a good chance that Roethlisberger will be looking for Freiermuth, who boasts the second-highest target share (22.2%) in the red zone for the Steelers. That number is impressive considering that Freiermuth wasn't seeing the field nearly as much to begin the season. With us wanting to have each player that scores a touchdown in Thursday night’s game, Freiermuth seems like the better bet than Claypool at a similar salary.
K.J. Osborn ($5,600)
While Jefferson should be plenty busy on Thursday night, the Vikings do need someone else to step up at the wide receiver position. In the moments where Minnesota used three wide-receiver sets or whenever Thielen went out, K.J. Osborn has typically been the next man up at the position. Osborn caught four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown in relief of Thielen last week against the Detroit Lions. I would be wary of inserting Osborn into my lineups if he was priced up in the $7,000+ range, but he’s priced in a decent spot given his expected role. As previously mentioned, the Steelers aren’t exactly locking down opposing wideouts this season. And with Pittsburgh likely centering their attention on Jefferson in the aerial game, Osborn may see more chances to find the end zone again on Thursday night.
Greg Joseph/Chris Boswell ($4,000/$3,800)
Both teams have kickers that have been relatively consistent on DraftKings this season. Greg Joseph, the kicker for the Vikings, has averaged 9.4 DraftKings points per week as he's recorded eight 10+ point performances thus far. On the other side of the field, Chris Boswell has been nearly perfect by making 24 of his 25 attempts, where he’s also averaged 9.4 DraftKings points per game. Boswell has five double-digit showings this season. With the Vikings and Steelers both possessing offenses that can falter at times, kickers are absolutely in play on Thursday night.
Dede Westbrook ($2,200)
There is typically a low-salary player on every Thursday night slate that emerges as the ideal salary-saving option. The Steelers don’t have many cheap players on Thursday night’s slate that could see an increased workload as they have a small group of guys they tend to get the ball to. For the Vikings, with Thielen out — and the possibility of Cook being out again — there are plenty of opportunities opened up. Jefferson, Osborn, Mattison, and even Tyler Conklin could see more usage against the Steelers. However, if Minnesota does utilize 11 personnel in certain situations, Dede Westbrook could see a surprising uptick in snaps this week. Westbrook has shown he’s a capable wideout previously in his career, but injuries have hindered him in recent years. With Thursday night games having unexpected players perform well, Westbrook is someone I’d take a flier on if you need the salary.