“Thursday Night Football” is back to kick off another fantasy football week. Week 14 brings a potentially profitable interconference matchup between the Steelers and Vikings in Minnesota (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video). As always, you want to make the right fantasy start ’em, sit ’em decisions — especially with potential playoff berths on the line — by either deploying players who can give you a nice early lead going into the Sunday or avoiding players who are bound to bust in prime time.
The Steelers’ offense is at full strength with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Chase Claypool playing through their injuries to support rookie running back Najee Harris, No. 1 wide receiver Diontae Johnson, and rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth. The Vikings’ offense, meanwhile, will likely be shorthanded, as running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder) is expected to miss another game and wide receiver Adam Thielen (ankle) didn’t have enough time to heal after getting hurt early against the Lions on Sunday.
MORE TNF: FanDuel lineup | DraftKings lineup | Cook updates
For the Steelers, they are leaning toward passing more with Roethlisberger settling in better into Matt Canada’s system. They’re also playing with a sense of urgency in what could be Roethlisberger’s final season. For the Vikings, Alexander Mattison should step in again as a strong fill-in workhorse for Cook, while a committee of targets need to help replace Thielen to better complement elite No. 1 Justin Jefferson.
Here’s breaking down the entire start ’em sit ’em picture for TNF, including a couple DFS lineup suggestions for FanDuel and DraftKings:
WEEK 14 FANTASY: Sleepers | Busts | Start ’em, sit ’em
Steelers: Who to start or sit in fantasy football on Thursday night
Start: QB Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger is only QB30 on the season and much lower than that when you consider his average points per game (14.8). He also hasn’t been great on the road, but in his past four games overall, he has three with multiple TDs. Looking closer, that’s two top-10 QB finishes in the past three games.
He should have massive volume again, as the Steelers have become better up front and got more confident throwing the ball downfield last week against the Ravens. The Vikings have a good pass rush, but their cornerbacks are terrible and Roethlisberger’s wideouts are made to destroy them.
WEEK 14 STANDARD RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker
Start: RB Najee Harris
The Vikings’ run defense also has started to tank, making this a strong matchup for the dynamic rookie. He can also be a big part of Big Ben’s success in the passing game. It’s been a while since he’s had a strong RB1 showing, but he’ll be at worst a strong RB2 again, regardless of whether he finds the end zone.
Start: WR Diontae Johnson
Johnson has matured and become more durable, blossoming into the complete No. 1 wideout they thought he would be. For fantasy, he had been a consistent WR2 all season until he exploded against the Ravens to finish WR2 overall for Week 13. The Vikings’ cornerbacks allowed the combination of Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds to look top wideouts, so Johnson will have another efficient game with big-play upside.
WEEK 14 DFS LINEUPS: DraftKings | FanDuel | Yahoo
Start: WR Chase Claypool
Claypool has struggled to deliver as a WR3 this season. The biggest reason why is after scoring nine TDs as a rookie, he has only one in 2021 despite averaging more yards per catch. He’s just not getting enough targets in key situations, and his catch rate is low. If there were ever a time for the Canadian behemoth to go off again, it would be here just 300 miles south of the border. He has the speed to crush the Vikings corners should Big Ben get a nice shot off play-action.
Start: TE Pat Freiermuth
Since the Steelers’ Week 7 bye, the rookie has been a TE1 in four of six games. His role has expanded with a couple of breaks, the injuries to first JuJu Smith-Schuster then Eric Ebron. He’s also getting the key red-zone trust Roethlisberger once had in Heath Miller. The Vikings have been pretty good against the tight end, but T.J. Hockenson did score against them last week.
WEEK 14 PPR RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker
Start: Steelers D/ST
Just like with Big Ben’s recommendation, there’s reason to go against the grain here. The Steelers’ pass rush demolished the Ravens last week. The Vikings have been good in pass protection, but they will be without rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw. Pittsburgh has a league-leading 37 sacks, and its continued pressure will raise the chances of takeaways.
Start: K Chris Boswell
Boswell has been money all season and is kicking in a controlled environment in a matchup that’s good by the numbers. Set him and forget it.
MORE WEEK 14 DFS: Best stacks | Best values | Lineup Builder
Vikings: Who to start or sit in fantasy football on Thursday night
Sit: QB Kirk Cousins
Cousins has been a rather steady QB1 with only five finishes outside of the top 12 and nine multiple-TD games. Overall he’s QB8 on the season. This week he falls more into the borderline category. This feels like the 49ers game, which looked great on paper but was underwhelming in terms of the final total. He has a solid floor, per usual, but if you need real ceiling, go elsewhere.
Start: RB Alexander Mattison
His name is Alexander Mattison and there’s a million things he hasn’t done, but just you wait … he’ll get it done for fantasy again filling in for Dalvin Cook (shoulder). He just looks like a better all-around back this season. The Steelers’ run defense keeps on reeling, so Mattison will get fed(eralist) often to protect the defense in a game where Minnesota’s passing attack won’t have the same feelin’ without Thielen.
Start: WR Justin Jefferson
Jefferson has been amazing over the past month, establishing himself among the truly elite wide receivers in the league. Forget sophomore slump, JJ has smashed it, moving on up with his route-running, speed and hands, now right behind Cooper Kupp and Deebo Samuel and ahead of Tyreek Hill in fantasy scoring. Jefferson is making a case to be the No. 1 WR drafted in fantasy in 2021. So, yeah, start the dude.
Start: WR K.J. Osborn
Just in time for the release of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” comes a sneaky promotion for the return of Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn. K.J. is not related to him or Harry as far as we know. The K stands for Kendrick, while he stands in for Adam Thielen (ankle) as Minnesota’s No. 2 wide receiver. The Purple Goblin was a sneaky WR2 with a TD last week and can at least be a free WR3 this week.
Sit: TE Tyler Conklin
The idea of Conklin, the fill-in for Irv Smith Jr., has been better than the execution’s. He did finish inside the top 12 against the Lions and in two other games he’s been a top-five option. There’s a chance he keeps seeing key targets with Thielen on the shelf, or the Vikings just might spread the field more with wide receivers. By the numbers, the Steelers are strong vs. the tight end, too.
Sit: Vikings D/ST
The Vikings D/ST has finished inside the top 12 five times this year, but that production has been an unpredictable roller coaster. They came through, for example, against the 49ers in Week 12, but in a much “easier” matchup against the Lions in Week 13, they did not. They’re simply not good against either run or pass, and there’s no compelling reason to play them when there are so many good streamers this week.
Start: K Greg Joseph
Joseph has been money all season and is kicking in a controlled environment in a matchup that’s good by the numbers. Set him and forget it.
Steelers vs. Vikings: FanDuel single-game lineup
- MVP (1.5X): WR Justin Jefferson $13,500
- AnyFLEX: QB Ben Roethlisberger $15,000
- AnyFLEX: WR Diontae Johnson $13,000
- AnyFLEX: WR Chase Claypool $10,000
- AnyFLEX: WR K.J. Osborn $8,000
It’s hard not to take Jefferson in a big-time spot, as he should dominate targets with no Thielen. Adding the cheapness of Osborn filling in for Thielen helps balance things out. In between is the true meat of our lineup, where we trust the Steelers’ passing offense to go off with Big Ben and his big-time wideouts.
Steelers vs. Vikings: DraftKings Showdown lineup
- Captain (1.5X): WR Chase Claypool $11,100
- FLEX: WR Diontae Johnson $10,200
- FLEX: RB Alexander Mattison $9,800
- FLEX: QB Ben Roethlisberger $9,000
- FLEX: WR K.J. Osborn $5,600
- FLEX: D/ST Steelers $4,200
The Steelers’ passing game has a great matchup downfield against the Vikings’ cornerbacks. Johnson has been on fire and Claypool is overdue for one of his downfield explosions with scoring involved. The Vikings figure to stay grounded with Mattison as much as possible, while Osborn should pick up most of Thielen’s targets opposite Jefferson. The Steelers D is really an investment in T.J. Watt.