Frank Schwab is your TNF betting guru this week with a lean on the game line and a few player props ahead of this massive matchup with playoff implications on the line between the Minnesota Vikings and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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FRANK SCHWAB: Welcome to "Yahoo Sportsbook Daily." It is Thursday, December 9, 2021. I'm your Thursday Night Football betting guide, Frank Schwab. Let's dive into this Thursday night match-up, which has huge playoff implications for both conferences, with both teams fighting for a wildcard spot. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-point underdogs at the Minnesota Vikings. We all saw what happened to the Vikings last week, lost on the last play to the winless Lions. Now they've got to come home, get right back on track against a Steelers team that did beat the Baltimore Ravens last week when the Ravens' 2-point conversion for Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews was incomplete.
I really do like the Steelers in this game. I'll tell you why. We know what we're getting out of the Steelers. This team fights hard every week. I don't think Ben Roethlisberger is nearly the quarterback he used to be, but that's OK.
You know you're going to get a great effort from them on defense. They're going to be able to run the ball. Diontae Johnson's on a hot streak. Mike Tomlin is a fantastic coach.
I just like this Steelers team to bet on as underdogs, because I know the effort level. We know they're going to keep games close. We know they're going to fight. This is a team I enjoy backing, and especially against a Vikings team that, I don't know where they're going to be at mentally.
All week we talked about, has Mike Zimmer lost his job? Is Kirk Cousins going to get traded? That's how damaging this loss was to the Vikings. They're still in the wildcard mix. That just shows how bad that race is in the NFC.
There's still a 35% chance of the Vikings making the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders odds. But I wonder where the psyche is with this Vikings team that's been so up and down all year. They've suffered some terrible losses. They've had some good close wins, but you wonder, how could they keep that going, especially against a Steelers team that's also fighting for their playoff lives?
I also-- there's one part of the match-up I don't like for the Vikings, and that's their run defense against the Steelers rushing offense. The Vikings have one of the worst run defenses in the entire NFL. They've given up the fourth most yards in the league this year, second most yards per carry. If you like advanced stats, their run defense DVOA is 29th in the league.
This is just not a good Vikings run defense, so you could see what the Pittsburgh Steelers' plan is going to be. They're not going to expose Ben Roethlisberger that much in this game. He's going to have to make a couple throws, like in every game, but this is going to be a Najee Harris game.
And I think Najee has a big game against a defense that hasn't stopped many running backs this year. I just don't like this match-up overall for the Vikings. And even when they have the ball, you know TJ Watt's going to be in Kirk Cousins' lap. He doesn't do well with pressure. Everything in this game points to the Steelers for me.
With those 3 points, I'm going to be on a moneyline too. And even the under 43 looks pretty good to me because of the way I see this game script going for the Steelers. They're really going to try to grind it out, keep the Vikings off the field. Their defense is very capable.
I don't they're going to give up a ton of points, even to Justin Jefferson and a lot of explosive playmakers on that side. Give me the Steelers here. I have full trust in Mike Tomlin going and maybe even getting a huge win, but at least covering with the 3 points.
Let's take a look at some props too. I really like KJ Osborn over 42 1/2. Adam Thielen's banged up. He's got the ankle injury. There's going to be a lot more targets for Osborn, who's had a very good year as their slot receiver. Think he's going to get an expanded role here.
Steelers have often struggled to guard the slot. I think Kirk Cousins is going to lean on him in this game, and 42.5 not that big of a number.
Now let's go back to the match-up I was talking about with the Steelers run offense against the Vikings run defense. And obviously I'm going to be on Najee Harris over 18 1/2 rushing attempts. His first [INAUDIBLE] plus 300. That's not great odds, but you're going to feel pretty good with holding that ticket if the Steelers drive downfield in a scoreless game.
Najee Harris is going to be their bell cow. He's their goal line guy. He might get in the end zone here.
And correlated with that, I like Roethlisberger under 257 1/2 passing yards. Again, Roethlisberger, not the quarterback he used to be. This isn't the Hall of Famer anymore. I think the Steelers are going to come into this game-- maybe not a Mac Jones game plan. I think he's going to have a few more than three passing attempts in this game, but maybe not more than 20, 25. So give me the under for Roethlisberger here. I just don't think there's going to be a lot of aerial attacks from the Pittsburgh Steelers here.
So let's recap what we got. I really like the Steelers plus 3. I'm going to be on them with the money line. I like the under 43, assuming they grind it out and their defense plays this kind of ugly game, almost like they won at the Browns earlier this year. That's the kind of game that they really like.
Some props I like, I like KJ Osborn over 42 1/2 with his bigger role this week. And give me under Big Ben passing yards 257 1/2 and over Najee Harris rushing attempts 18 1/2. You can follow me on Twitter over at YahooSchwab, and follow all of our content over at Yahoo Sportsbook.
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