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The Daily Sweat: Vikings need to bounce back right away vs. Steelers

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  • Minnesota Vikings
    Minnesota Vikings
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  • Pittsburgh Steelers
    Pittsburgh Steelers
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  • Kirk Cousins
    Kirk Cousins
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The Minnesota Vikings aren't even in terrible shape to make the playoffs after losing to the Detroit Lions last week, which dropped them to 5-7. Thanks for that playoff expansion, NFL. 

The negative to the playoff expansion is more times than not, mediocre and undeserving teams will be let in. But the positive is games like the Vikings vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night have a lot more importance. 

The Vikings have to brush off last week's loss quickly. They are 3.5-point favorites at BetMGM over the Steelers in what looks like a bit of a playoff elimination game. 

Analytically, the Vikings aren't bad. They've lost a lot of close games. They rank 11th in Football Outsiders' DVOA. But sometimes analytics aren't going to tell us everything. We can watch the Vikings and know there's a reason they lose close games. It's not all coach Mike Zimmer's fault, it's not all QB Kirk Cousins' fault, but the Vikings always seem to be that team. After a while it can't just be bad luck.

The Steelers got a huge win over the Baltimore Ravens last week to improve to 6-5-1. They're still in the mix for the postseason, thanks to a defense that battles every week and an offense that has found ways to do just enough. It's a hard-nosed team that isn't as talented as other recent Steelers teams and doesn't have a big upside, but the Steelers haven't gone away. That's why I like the Steelers getting more than a field goal on Thursday night. We know the Vikings are likely going to play a close game. And we also know it seems likely they'll find a way to break their fans' hearts again too. 

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 05: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings walks off the field after a 29-27 lost to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 05, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 05: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings walks off the field after a 29-27 lost to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 05, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday: 

How about Thursday night NFL props? 

The Vikings have a bad run defense. They've given up the fourth-most rushing yards, and the second-most yards per attempt. That's their weakness and it should guide a few props. I'll take a few positive props on Najee Harris, but the main one is over 18.5 rushing attempts. I anticipate a close game and the Steelers are going to want to pound it with their rookie back. Related to that, I'll take Ben Roethlisberger under 257.5 passing yards. 

On the Vikings side, K.J. Osborn is going to play a full complement of snaps with Adam Thielen out. Over 41.5 receiving yards seems to be way too low. 

What else is on the schedule? 

There are only three games on the NBA schedule, but the Utah Jazz at Philadelphia 76ers is a good one. The Jazz are 3.5-point favorites and the 76ers are intriguing home underdogs. 

In college basketball, No. 7 Texas plays No. 23 Seton Hall in the marquee game of the day. Texas hasn't really been tested since losing to Gonzaga. Seton Hall is off to a fine 7-1 start. Texas is a 2.5-point favorite and there might be a little value in Seton Hall at home. 

There are also 10 NHL games, including a fantastic matchup between 16-5-4 Tampa Bay and 18-7-2 Toronto. The Leafs are -140 favorites

What's the best bet? 

I'll sign off on any Najee Harris prop you like: first TD at +600, anytime TD at -125, over 71.5 rushing yards or over 18.5 rushing attempts (my personal favorite). The Steelers rookie running back is in a great spot to have a big night. 

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