NFL

FanDuel Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 14 Thursday Night (Steelers at Vikings)

These two teams had very different results a week ago, although both games came down to the wire. While the Minnesota Vikings fell to the previously winless Detroit Lions, the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a big home win over the Baltimore Ravens.

On FanDuel Sportsbook, the Vikings are 3.0-point home favorites over the Steelers in a game with a 43.5-point total. That makes the implied score 23.25-20.25 in favor of Minnesota.

For those unfamiliar, single-game slates feature five flex spots with identical scoring to the main slate. However, kickers are included in these contests, and there is an "MVP" roster slot. The MVP receives 1.5-times his total fantasy points, making this spot crucial.

Our Brandon Gdula has done a deep dive on single-game strategy, and we have projections for the single-game slate if you select the game from the slate tab. It's worth checking out both of those things before you make your lineups.

MVP Candidates

For a game with a lowly 43.5-point total, there are a surprising number of viable MVP plays. I think you can make a case for all of Kirk Cousins ($16,000 on FanDuel), Dalvin Cook ($12,000) and Justin Jefferson ($13,500) on the Minnesota side -- more on Cook's status in a second -- as well as the Steelers' Najee Harris ($14,000), Diontae Johnson ($13,000) and Ben Roethlisberger ($15,000).

It's hard to pin down exactly how MVP draft percentages will shake out, but with so many options, there probably won't be one mega-chalk MVP play.

Cook's status and expected role are things to monitor. He has gotten in back-to-back limited practices and appears to be on track to play. Will he return to a workhorse gig? I'm not sure. If he does, he needs to be on the MVP radar, and he's an extremely appealing play overall at his $12,000 salary. If we get reports throughout the day Thursday that Cook will be eased back and split things with Alexander Mattison ($12,000), Cook should be relegated to flex-only status. If Cook sits, Mattison is worth considering at MVP as he played 86% of the snaps and handled 25 total touches last week sans Cook.

Of the other five guys I listed above, Cousins rates out best by our projections, which peg him to score a slate-leading 17.5 FanDuel points. However, I'm most interested in Harris, Jefferson and Johnson at MVP.

Johnson is coming off a two-score, 105-yard day against Baltimore and is taking on a Minnesota D that has allowed the second-most FanDuel points per game to wideouts (35.2). Johnson owns a 27% target share and 35% air yards share, both of which are team-high clips by a comfortable margin. Last week, Johnson accounted for 36% of the targets and 43% of the air yards. He's the clear top wideout in the Steelers' offense, and I really like him in this spot. Plus, I think he'll likely slip through the cracks a little at MVP compared to Jefferson and Harris.

Jefferson is going to deservedly attract a lot of MVP attention after he detonated on the Lions last week to the tune of 11 catches for 182 yards and a score. With Adam Thielen -- who is out tonight -- getting hurt early in that game, Jefferson amassed a 36% target share and 54% air yards share. He should get fed again in this one, and Pittsburgh has surrendered the 10th-most FanDuel points per game to receivers (29.7%).

While those two wideouts are money MVP picks, Harris is in a smash spot, too. The Vikings are allowing the 12th-most FanDuel points per game to running backs (21.7), and Harris has averaged 22.9 total touches per game this season. He racked up 21 carries and five targets a week ago. The elite volume trumps any concerns about Harris' meh efficiency, and our algorithm projects him for a whopping 17.2 FanDuel points, rating Harris as the best point-per-dollar play on the slate.

Flex Breakdown

I want to hit on Big Ben real quickly. I don't think I can stomach him at MVP, although I think it's wise to at least consider using him in the multiplier spot, which is something I like to do for any signal-caller who isn't going to be a popular MVP play. The negatives are that Big Ben has scored more than 20 FanDuel points just once this year and offers no rushing juice. But if you don't use Harris, a Johnson-Roethlisberger stack makes sense.

Sticking with Pittsburgh, Chase Claypool ($10,000) and Pat Freiermuth ($9,500) are fine secondary plays. Of the two, I much prefer Claypool, especially with him just $500 more than Freiermuth. Claypool has underwhelmed this year, getting bogged down by Big Ben's decline and an offense that funnels through Harris and Johnson, but he's still got big-play ability, sporting a 25% air yards share for the year. Our projections have him as the best play among those salaried under $12,000.

On the Minnesota side, K.J. Osborn ($8,000) and Tyler Conklin ($8,500) are solid options who should be in store for a boost in volume with Thielen sidelined. Osborn actually led Minnesota's receivers in snap rate last week (92%) and finished with seven targets, catching four for 47 yards and a tud. He's been good when given chances this season and figures to be a popular salary-saver. You can say a lot of the same things for Conklin, who logged a 95% snap rate last week on his way to nine targets, seven grabs and 56 yards.

Dede Westbrook ($6,500) jumped into the third-receiver role versus the Lions once Thielen went down. The role wasn't much -- 42% of the snaps and two targets -- but he's on the punt-play radar.

According to Brandon Gdula's single-game study, which is linked in the intro, kickers are better suited for low-scoring games. The 43.5-point total puts Chris Boswell ($9,000) and Greg Joseph ($8,500) firmly in play, and this game being indoors helps both of their outlooks. For his career, Boswell is 16 of 17 on field goals when kicking indoors. Joseph is 20 of 22 in the split, including 12 of 13 at home this year in his first campaign with the Vikes. We have Joseph and Boswell forecasted for 9.2 and 9.0 FanDuel points, respectively.