NFL

Thursday Night Football Betting: Will the Steelers Cover as Road Underdogs Against the Vikings?

In this cross-conference matchup involving two teams that are fighting for playoff berths, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 3.5-point road underdogs against the Minnesota Vikings, per FanDuel Sportsbook. The total is set at 44.5 points.

Our nERD-based rankings have this potentially as a lopsided affair -- the Vikings sit 14th while the Steelers sit in the bottom third at 24th.

Let's dive into some interesting betting angles for this contest.

How Do They Measure Up?

The battle at the quarterback position will be particularly interesting for this Thursday Night Football matchup.

Father Time is catching up -- quickly -- with veteran Ben Roethlisberger. Utilizing our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Big Ben has really struggled with a mark of 0.05 Passing NEP per drop back. For reference, the league average is 0.10 Passing NEP per drop back on the season. The immobile Roethlisberger has taken 25 sacks. The best thing going for him tonight is that the Vikings' D is roughly league average against the pass, according to our numbers.

On the other side of the field, the play of Kirk Cousins has been outstanding. He blows away Roethlisberger, recording a clip of 0.25 Passing NEP per drop back. Cousins leads what ranks as the second-best passing attack in the league, per our metrics, and he's thrown 25 touchdown passes against only three interceptions.

As for the running games, Dalvin Cook injured his shoulder 11 days ago, but all signs currently point to him suiting up. Between Cook and Alexander Mattison, Cook has been the far more efficient runner, logging a mark of -0.02 Rushing NEP per rush.

In Pittsburgh, Najee Harris is the bell-cow. He has recorded 217 rushing attempts for 779 yards, and he checks in with a mark of a -0.01 Rushing NEP per carry.

Neither defense is all that good, per our metrics. We rank Minnesota as the 8th-worst overall D while the Steelers sit 16th.

Bets to Consider

The Vikings are a 3.5-point favorite, and the total sits at 44.5 points. Where should you have your money for this one, according to our numbers?

We really like Minnesota's side of things. We are projecting the Vikings to pull out this home tilt by a score of 27.89 to 20.13. That makes Minnesota to cover a sound bet. We forecast the Vikings to cover 3.5 points 62.15% of the time and rate it as a three-unit bet. We also have the Vikings' moneyline rated as a two-star wager. We think they win 74.6% of the time, and their -176 moneyline price implies win odds of only 63.7%.

On the total, our model sides with the over, which we project to win out 59.1% of the time. It's another two-star play.

One player prop our projections like is the over on Justin Jefferson's receiving yards prop, which is set at 90.5 yards (-110).

With Adam Thielen out, Jefferson should be very busy, and he's been red-hot of late. Peep this -- he's recorded 140-plus receiving yards in three of the last four games. Pittsburgh has given up big days to the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers in recent weeks, which included 112 receiving yards to Keenan Allen and 114 to Tee Higgins. Our model has it being close, but we peg Jefferson for 91.3 yards.

Historical Betting Trends

-- Both teams have been mediocre against-the-spread (ATS) bets this season, with the Vikings sitting at .500 (6-6) while the Steelers are 5-7.
-- The under has been a great bet in recent history when the Steelers hit the road. It's hit 37 times in their last 50 such games.
-- As a favorite, the Vikings are a bad bet. They are only 1-9 ATS in their last 10 games as favorites.