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Thursday Night NFL Picks — Pittsburgh Steelers vs Minnesota Vikings

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Minnesota Vikings Have to Shake Off Loss and Face Revived Pittsburgh Steelers

By Charles Jay

Those BetAnySports customers who are engaged in making their Thursday Night NFL picks might primarily be interested in a major offensive weapon for the Minnesota Vikings, as they embark on a redemption effort against the Pittsburgh Steelers, after losing to the previously winless Detroit Lions.

And so Dalvin Cook’s shoulder injury will remain a subject for discussion all the way up to game time.

And we say that literally, because the star running back’s participation is being reported as a game-time decision.

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Thursday Night NFL Picks — OK, so what happened?

A week ago Sunday, against the San Francisco 49ers, Cook dislocated his shoulder. He was limited in practice this week, and will have to work out a little before the game for a determination to be made. It would be very soon of him to come back if he could.

And maybe that brings up the question as to how much effect he’d have if he played. Cook is averaging 4.5 yards a carry (771 yards total), and he offers a certain explosiveness that is not necessarily possessed by backup Alexander Mattison.

And a ground game could be central to the festivities, particularly if the Steelers are intending to exert as much pressure as they did last week against Lamar Jackson in a 20-19 win over the Ravens.


Thursday Night NFL Picks — Kissin’ Cousins

If you follow the NFL, you know that Kirk Cousins is usually going to put up some numbers. Whether that results in victories is quite another thing. Cousins is one of those quarterbacks who can get rid of the ball quickly, so he has suffered only 18 sacks. And that may go along way toward mitigating the effect of the Pittsburgh pass rush, which is second in the league in sack percentage and put Jackson down seven times last week.

Pittsburgh won’t have to deal with Adam Thielen, who is dealing with a high ankle sprain and will sit for now. But they will be severely challenged by Justin Jefferson, who has some gaudy stats (1209 yards, 15.5 yards per catch) and has been able to connect with Cousins in almost 70% of all targets.

Thursday Night NFL Picks — Here are the numbers…..

In the odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, the Vikings are favored at home:

Minnesota Vikings -3 (-120)
Pittsburgh Steelers +3 (+100)

Over 44.5 points -110
Under 44.5 points -110


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Thursday Night NFL Picks — How will Pittsburgh move the ball?

That’s an interesting question, because while Ben Roethlisberger found some clear sailing against the Ravens (236 yards through the air with two TD’s), they’re kind of worried these days with him at the controls. But Mason Rudolph has not proven to be a real alternative,and with a 6-5-1 record that keeps them in the playoff hunt, the Steelers want the veteran and the presence he brings to the huddle.

Head coach Mike Tomlin was hoping to build a dominant ground game around Najee Harris, the first-round pick out of Alabama, but it hasn’t worked out that way. After looking like they were going to achieve an ideal balance between pass and run, the Steelers are currently running the ball just 37% of the time, and Harris has not busted anyone’s doors down. He’s averaging just 3.6 yards a carry, and has only 133 yards in his last three games.

Thursday Night NFL Picks — Our conclusion

Neither of these teams defends the run all that well, but the Steelers might be the team that benefits more from it, as they may need it more and therefore can exploit that Minnesota allows 4.7 yards per attempt. It is interesting that the Vikings, at least as far as the analytics site Pro Football Focus is concerned, have an incompetent secondary, with none of their corners ranked with a Top 50 grade.

Minnesota can’t stand prosperity either. Up until last week’s shocking loss to Detroit (which also tied Pittsburgh, by the way), they had led by at least seven points in every contest. That means they have managed to blow a lead in six games.

The Vikings may have found a way to keep Cousins’ jersey clean,and to help Cook carve out 4.5 ypc, but PFF ranks their offensive line 29th in pass blocking grade, and they have had the highest percentage of running plays stopped for a loss or no gain.

So while some of the fundamentals may appear to favor the Vikings, they may come up short in the intangible department. The Steelers may have been fortunate that Baltimore coach John Harbaugh elected to go for two points on the final TD drive and failed, giving Pittsburgh a one-point win, but it was a confidence-builder just the same.

And this is a dangerous dog, having covered eleven of the last 14 in that situation. This is the kind of underachieving opponent (and not completely healthy) that they might be able to take advantage of. So we’ll go with the visiting Steelers.

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