Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)


Patrick Werkmeister

Following a winless 0-3 performance in Monday Night Football’s best bets, this game is guaranteed to deliver more positive results. In this cross-conference matchup, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Minneapolis to face off against Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings. Last week, the Vikings gave the Detroit Lions their first win of the season whereas the Steelers were able to pull off an impressive upset victory over the Baltimore Ravens. With one team struggling and the other gaining momentum, this is a surprising line given where both of these teams are. With that in mind, here is what I love in this primetime battle.

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Steelers (+3)
The line for this game opened favoring the Vikings by three and a half-points and they are currently listed as three point home favorites. While Pittsburgh is a sharp 13-5 ATS in their last 18 games as a road underdog, Minnesota is 1-9 ATS in their last 10 games as a favorite. Additionally, the Vikings have gone 6-13 ATS overall in their previous 19 contests. Although Big Ben looked particularly awful vs the Bengals in Week 12, he still holds an efficient stat line on the season of 16 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. In addition, their defense has been pressuring opposing quarterbacks all year long led by edge rusher TJ Watt, where he leads the NFL with 16.5 sacks in just 10 games played. With injuries to RB Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen, Minnesota’s offense is not fully equipped for this one to overcome this impregnable defense. The Vikings key to victory is on defense by forcing turnovers, where they are +6 in turnover ratio. However, now that the Pittsburgh offense have found part of their identity with rookie running back Najee Harris, they should have a run-first approach for the rest of the season that will help mitigate turnovers. I like Pittsburgh in this spot to continue their hot streak and will be taking them to cover and ultimately win as the road underdogs.

Kirk Cousins Over 249.5 Passing Yards
After throwing for nearly 350 yards and two touchdowns during their Week 13 defeat, Kirk Cousins should be airing it out all game now that they are thin at the running back position. Following the loss of Pittsburgh Pro Bowl corner Joe Haden, their pass defense has slightly declined, and teams have taken notice. He had made massive contributions to the teams’ success, and they have suffered slightly since his absence. In their Week 11 loss to the Chargers, Pittsburgh allowed nearly 400 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air. Last week, the Steelers defense allowed 250 passing yards vs the Ravens and ‘running back’ Lamar Jackson, so I expect Kirk and the great passing game of the Vikings to have much more success. Cousins has gone 8-4 on the over for this yardage mark this season, so expect him to at least make it close. Take the over for Kirk Cousins passing prop. 

Chase Claypool Any Time TD (+210)
With normal WR1 Juju Smith-Schuster out for the year for Pittsburgh, receiver Chase Claypool serves as a great candidate to get in the end zone. Although Diontae Johnson was the only Steelers receiver that was able to find the end zone in their 20-point performance last week, Claypool has the ideal red zone receiving stature and he’s well overdue for a score. With only one touchdown so far on the year, Claypool hasn’t had a score since Week 5 and has not had much action overall on the year. The Vikings currently own the 28th best pass defense in the NFL, so this puts him in a great spot to at least be productive. He has shown freak like abilities of Calvin Johnson and is always hungry for the end zone where in 2020 he crossed the plane nine times. They’re not an especially stout unit, so expect Chase to have some form of success. Take him to score in what should be a rout of the Minnesota defense.

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