NFL Week 14 Best Bets: Expect Low-Scoring Affair With Vikings – Steelers

Written By Eli Hershkovich on December 9, 2021 - Last Updated on December 10, 2021
nfl best bets

After a profitable card in the last go-around, there’s value in the first contest of the Week 14 slate. Let’s dissect my NFL best bets for Steelers at Vikings on Thursday Night Football, centering around the total.

Click on the odds below to place a bet now. You can continue the discussion in our betting community, as we break down all of the games throughout the week.

NFL Week 14 Best Bets: Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings

This matchup is critical for both teams’ playoff hopes, as they’re at most a game back of a wild-card spot. Here’s a breakdown of each side of the ball, along with how it impacts the total. It’s been bet down a little after opening at O/U 45.

Vikings’ Defense vs. Steelers’ Offense

Not only is this a Minnesota get-right spot after giving up a walk-off touchdown to the Lions in Week 13, but it’ll also be healthier on that side of the ball.

Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list, and linebackers Anthony Barr (knee/hamstring) and Eric Kendricks (biceps) are expected to suit up as well.  There have only been four games this season in which all three players have played togther.

Mike Zimmer’s defense yielded the second-fewest expected points added (EPA) per play in the initial two-game stretch, facing the aforementioned Lions in their first meeting and Panthers. In the second two-game span against the Packers and 49ers, they surrendered the most EPA per play. Those outcomes add up to their respective opponents, and it’ll now square off against a lowly Steelers attack.

  • EPA is calculated by expected points scored based on the down, distance, and field position at the start of a play — juxtaposed with the play’s conclusion.

For one, Minnesota is allowing the league’s eighth-lowest EPA per dropback. While Ben Roethlisberger & Co. boast as above-average explosive passing attack, the 39-year-old signal caller has struggled when under fire. The Vikings are tied for the fifth-highest pressure rate — with Kendricks’ return to the lineup reinforcing that category — and the Steelers’ offensive line is banged up.

Plus, Minnesota’s biggest liability comes against opposing rushing attacks, letting up the most EPA per carry. Pittsburgh has struggled on the ground throughout this season, but if offensive coordinator Matt Canada commits to rookie tailback Najee Harris, that’ll play towards a more methodical approach while grinding the clock in the process. Tomlin’s group ranks No. 18 in seconds per play when the score is within a possession.

Steelers’ Defense vs. Vikings’ Offense

Similar to the Vikings, the Steelers’ front-seven relies on putting pressure on the opposing quarterback, and they have a top-10 unit in that department. Both offensive lines are unsurprisingly bottom-six in pass block win rate, which should lead to an arduous task for Minnesota versus a defense that just racked up its second-highest blitz rate of the season.

  • This win rate metric shares the rate that offensive linemen can hold their blocks for 2.5 seconds or more.

On top of that, wideout Adam Thielen (ankle) has already been ruled out, removing Cousins’ most reliable third-down receiver.

Nevertheless, Pittsburgh’s run defense failed to limit the Ravens’ duel-threat Lamar Jackson until the latter part of its upset win — when it contained him inside the pocket. The same occurred versus the Chargers’ Justin Herbert. But it’s been plagued by that issue no matter the opponent, ranking No. 22 in EPA per carry.

Zimmer’s running game relies solely on their backfield with Dalvin Cook leading the charge. Cook (shoulder) was listed as questionable on Wednesday’s injury report, so Alexander Mattison could receive more touches if he’s on any sort of a snap count or ruled out.

Whether or not Cook suits up, his offensive line should generate enough space for he or Mattison to be efficient. That would translate into a Steelers-like game script.

How I’m Betting This Game

Both offenses just played in a physical game and are now on a short week. There’s still enough value in the under for this week’s Thursday Night Football affair.

Eli’s Bet: Under 44 (PointsBet Sportsbook — placed at 3:30pm ET on Tuesday, Dec. 7)
NFL Best Bets: Under 43.5 or better
Best Available Odds: O/U
2021 NFL  Record: 41-24 (+13.31 units)

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Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

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