NFL Thursday Night Football Public Betting Trends Heading Into Week 14

Mike Tomlin

USA Today Sports

Week 14 of the NFL season kicks off with the Minnesota Vikings hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Both teams are in win-or-go-home mode, as each franchise is clinging onto a potential postseason appearance. The Steelers are coming off a pivotal upset victory over the Baltimore Ravens whereas the Minnesota Vikings were upset by the Detroit Lions. The Vikings are currently three-point favorites despite the absence of star wide receiver Adam Thielen.

Betting on the NFL makes the game more exciting among fans. Monitoring public betting trends is one of the most pivotal tools used by professional handicappers to find the top wagers in the sports betting marketplace. Public betting trends allow you to track which teams the public is chasing and which teams professional gamblers are high on each and every week. Whether you want to tail or fade the public, knowing the public betting trends (bet percentages and money percentages) is pivotal when determining which teams to back. So without further ado, let’s take a look at who the public likes in Week 13’s Thursday Night Football matchup, and where you should place your wagers.

Note: The lines and public betting trends are always changing so be sure to check out FantasySP for the latest odds and trends.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings (-3)

The playoff race in each conference has become very tight. Nothing is guaranteed aside from a few teams at the top of their respective conferences. After fending off the Ravens in Week 13, the Steelers are ranked eighth in the AFC. They are behind the Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card race.

Ben Roethlisberger has taken a significant step back in his production this season, partially due to the several injuries and ailments he has had to endure. Big Ben is no longer the master of the deep ball and barely slinging it more than 20 yards. The Steelers are 21st in total offense. They have the 14th ranked passing offense and the 28th ranked run offense despite drafting rookie running back Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

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After losing 29-27 to the winless Lions last week, the Vikings are in major need of a victory tonight, especially if Mike Zimmer wants to keep his job as head coach. Let’s not forget that the Steelers didn’t fare much better against the Lions earlier this season when they had countless opportunities to win, but finished the game with the first and only tie of the season.

The Vikings were missing star running back Dalvin Cook, but Alexander Mattison played well in his absence. Once Thielen went down, Kirk Cousins had no choice but to rely pretty much exclusively on All-Pro wideout Justin Jefferson. Jefferson did his job against the Lions, hauling in a season-high 11 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown. Despite the second-year receiver’s phenomenal outing, it just wasn’t enough for the Vikings to escape Ford Field with a victory. Cousins completed 75% of his pass attempts for 340 yards and two touchdowns. It was the Vikings' defense that really let the team down. Minnesota’s secondary was in far too soft of a coverage formation on the last play of the game that allowed Jared Goff to throw an 11-yard strike to rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown for the game-winning score. Minnesota’s defense will have to improve if they have any shot at defeating the Steelers tonight.

The Vikings have played more one-possession games (11) than anyone in the NFL. All but one of their contests this season have been decided by one score. Minnesota is a bit of an enigma this season, almost impossible to predict. Fortunately for the Vikings, it appears Dalvin Cook will at least try to suit up for tonight’s pivotal matchup. Thielen will be out but Cook’s presence opens things up for the entire offense.

However, it’s difficult to back the Vikings when they are the favorites this season, especially when the spread is so minimal. Minnesota is 1-9 as favorites against the spread in their last 10 games while the Steelers are 7-3 as underdogs against the spread over their last 10 games. The public seems to be backing Minnesota, but this is a situation when I would fade the public. A whopping 68% of the money on spread bets is currently backing the Vikings. That’s why the spread has jumped back up to 3.5 points on some sportsbooks.

The only reason Minnesota is being favored is that they are the home team. Typically, Vegas oddsmakers automatically give the home team a 2.8-point advantage. If this game were to be played on neutral grounds, there probably wouldn’t even be a spread, as this would likely be a coin flip. Both the Steelers and Vikings rank similarly in many key categories.

Despite Cook’s potential return to the lineup, it’s hard to envision him being at full strength after the severity of the shoulder injury he suffered back in Week 12. Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t what it used to be, but T.J. Watt has been perhaps the best defensive player in the entire NFL this season. Something tells me that he and the rest of the Steelers’ defense will be ready to shut down Minnesota’s run-heavy approach. That will mean that Kirk Cousins will be forced to beat Pittsburgh’s secondary with Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, and tight end Tyler Conklin. Expect Jefferson to be double-teamed with Thielen out of the lineup. The Steelers are going to force the Vikings to beat them with their least reliable playmakers.

All that said, I think the Vikings will continue to play very close games. Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t anything to write home about either. Big Ben is simply a shell of the quarterback he once was and is unable to hit his receivers on the deep ball, which is what Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson are best at. However, the Vikings have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards this season, which means Pittsburgh will likely rely on Najee Harris to move the chains.

In a game that should be a low-scoring affair and come down to the wire, I like the Steelers on the road. They are flying high after knocking off their AFC North division rival from the top spot in the conference while the Vikings are in survival mode after suffering the worst upset of the season last week.

One of the biggest differences between these two teams is the head coaches that run the show. The Vikings lack synergy and rumors of Mike Zimmer’s potential firing can create a very uncomfortable atmosphere in the locker room. Mike Tomlin, however, runs a very tight ship and has the respect of all his players. The Steelers have never had a losing season in Tomlin’s 14-year tenure as Pittsburgh’s head coach. Many teams would have imploded following Pittsburgh’s tie with the Lions, but Tomlin did an excellent job at getting the Steelers back on track.

The Steelers should win this game because they are more effective on defense and are a bit healthier on offense. Minnesota also has a propensity to play down or up to their opponent’s level. The Vikings are a team that follows the pace of their opponent, rather than setting the tempo. Tomlin will get to determine how this game unfolds, and he will make sure that the game script plays to his roster’s strengths. The Steelers will run the ball a lot and use the play-action pass to move the chains. Pittsburgh will also put as much pressure on Kirk Cousins as he can handle. And while the Vikings are very difficult to predict in terms of how well they will play, their play calling is very easy to predict. Tomlin will make sure his defense dials in on Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook (if he indeed suits up).

Last week, Tomlin bested John Harbaugh, and called the Ravens’ two-point attempt at the very end of the game “predictable.” Something tells me he will have no problem taking advantage of the Vikings’ and Zimmer’s predictable nature as well.

Pick: Steelers (+3)

Prediction: 23-21 Steelers

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