top of page

Thursday Night DFS Preview: How to smartly build your lineup for Pittsburgh-Minnesota

Welcome back to Week 14 of the Thursday Night Football Showdown Build here at Aaron Torres Online. It’s crunch time and most season long leagues are headed to the playoffs this week or next. The good thing is that even if you didn’t make the playoffs in your leagues, you still have DFS! This week we get a Minnesota team coming off a crushing loss to Detroit at the last second playing host to a Pittsburgh team after a tough, close divisional win last week. This game has some solid fantasy options and hopefully we will get a solid game.

As you know, I come to you weekly with a column specifically focused on one type of DFS contest, the Showdown style on DraftKings. I am here every Thursday, specifically giving you players and strategy for the Thursday Night Football Showdown contests. Showdown Style is a DFS contests, also referred to as Captain Mode contests, where your roster consists of only 6 players and must include players from both teams. The positions in this type of contest are a “Captain” and 5 “Flex” players. This means that you can play a QB, RB, WR, TE, K or Defense in any of those roster spots with no minimum or maximum at any position. The player you select as the captain will score 1.5 time the standard fantasy point value for every statistic but drafting a player in the captain spot will also cost you more salary than if you were to draft them in a flex spot.

Before we get started, remember to check out my “DFS Flash” podcast, a quick whip around DFS show, that’s only 15-20 minutes and gets you ready for the full Sunday DFS slate ahead. It’s been delivering winners every week so don’t miss out! Make sure to subscribe here or listen below.

With that, let’s build out our week 14 Thursday Night Football Showdown Slate Lineup!

The Captain Spot

As I mentioned, the player you use in this spot is going to cost you more salary by being the captain, but it will also score you 1.5 times the standard point value earned. This week, I really like the wide receivers in this game and will be looking to use one as my captain. Not only do we have some top tier receivers, but we also have 2 poor secondaries that these receivers should be able to exploit. Justin Jefferson is an absolute stud, but he is also the most expensive option on the slate. Using him at captain will force you to have to really dive deep for value so I think I’d rather use him in a flex and use a different receiver at captain.

The guy I am looking at in my captain spot is one who will save us $1,200 in salary if we use him over Jefferson. That guy is Pittsburgh wide receiver Dionte Johnson. Dionte is clearly Big Ben’s favorite target and is coming off a game where he caught 8 of 11 targets for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is frequently targeted and has had double digit targets in each of his last 4 games. In fact, Johnson has double digit targets in every game but 2 this season. Johnson averages 19.5 fantasy points per game, so even if he only gets to his average, that still gets you close to 30 points with the captain multiplier. Pittsburgh’s defense should also have them playing from behind, so that means more need to pass and more targets coming Johnson’s way. I think he gets over 30 in the captain spot and that’s why I will take the cost savings in using him over Jefferson at captain.

Flex Spots with high salaries

This is going to be an interesting build since we have 2 quarterbacks that aren’t the most exciting. Kirk Cousins is priced up at $10,400 which just seems too expensive for me. I do think he will toss a touchdown or 2, but Minnesota also has a good ground game and Dalvin Cook may be back this week. Cook has been practicing this week but even if he isn’t back, Alexander Mattison has been doing a good job in his absence. I think that Minnesota will run enough that paying all the way up for Cousins won’t return enough value for us. On the other side, Ben Roethlisberger is $9,000 and has been playing through a nagging injury to his throwing shoulder. Ben only threw 31 times last week and averages only 15.4 fantasy points per game this season. At this price, even 2.5 times return on investment is 22.5 points, so I don’t think Ben gives us enough to warrant that salary since he has only hit that mark once this whole season. Normally, we always have a QB in our lineup but this week I’m going against the grain.

The running backs are interesting. If Cook was out, then I would like to get Mattison in my lineup coming off a 21-point performance last week. He ran 22 times for 90 yards and a touchdown in last week’s loss. If Cook does return, Mattison could stil be involved if they ease Cook back in, but that volume would decrease and that would ruin his value at the high $9,800 salary. If Cook does return, it could certainly be at a limited capacity, and I would be willing to pay the $10,800 he costs to chance that. These uncertainties will have me avoiding the Minnesota backfield in a cash game since we don’t know how it will shake out yet. On the Pittsburgh side, there is no uncertainty. Najee Harris is the lead dog and gets almost all the backfield snaps for Pittsburgh. His price tag is high at $10,000, but he gets the volume to support it. Harris had 21 carries last week and added 5 receptions as well. If you can afford him, hes worth using since he should get plenty of work both on the ground and in the air.

Back to the wide receivers that I love in this matchup. I am going to use Jefferson in one spot, and I would like to get another Pittsburgh pass catcher in my lineup to pair with Dionte since I do think they will be playing from behind. Chase Claypool would be the next best option at $7,400. Claypool is a guy who can take the top off a defense, and I could certainly see him having a big game in this matchup. The problem with Claypool is that he is so boom-or-bust. With Roethlisberger struggling to get the ball down the field due to his achy shoulder and declining skills, it takes away a big part of what attracts us to Claypool. If we were building a tournament lineup, Claypool’s upside would be nice to have, but in a cash game lineup I don’t think he gives a safe enough floor to use. I would rather pay up for Jefferson and Harris, find a mid-range option and dart throw and roll that way instead of having to throw multiple darts by adding Claypool as well.

Flex Spots with value

With the focus on getting pass catchers in our lineups in this matchup of 2 shaky secondaries, there are a couple of guys under the $7,000 mark that you could use in this game. Most notably, the 2 starting tight ends are both usable in this contest. On the Pittsburgh side, Pat Freiermuth has a salary of $6,600 and could be the other Pittsburgh pass catcher to get in the lineup. The volume won’t be huge for the rookie tight end, but he has scored a touchdown in 4 of his last 6 games. Slightly less expensive at $6,200 is Minnesota tight end Tyler Conklin. Opportunity knocks once again for Coklin as Minnesota will be without their touchdown machine receiver Adam Thielen. Thielen left last weeks game early with an ankle injury and as a result of that, Conklin saw the most targets of his season and turned that into a season high 7 receptions on 9 targets. Cousins is going to need another weapon to rely on in the red zone with defenses focused on Jefferson, so with the expected increase in his role and the opportunity to be targeted in scoring position, Conklin is a nice value.

The man who could really benefit from the Thielen injury is Minnesota receiver KJ Osborn. Osborn had a couple of nice games earlier in the season and with Thielen out he will step into the WR2 role in the offense. Defenses key in on Jefferson so that could leave Osborn in single coverage against a very beatable secondary. At only $5,600, he is a great value as a guy who could be second on the team in targets.

Kickers are also in play in this game, and we have 2 good options here. Both Greg Joseph and Chris Boswell will have opportunities to score as both teams attempt multiple field goals per game. In addition, both teams also allow top 5 field goal attempts per game which tells me the secondaries are bad enough for teams to drive on them, but the defenses clamp down a bit in the red zone and force field goals. Both kickers are in the top tier in Lindellions’ weekly kicker tiers, and I trust her kicker advice more than anybody in the world! If she gives these guys the green light, then they can be in my lineup.

Dart Throw

The dart throw options I will look at here are guys who are tertiary options in their team’s passing game. For Minnesota, DeDe Westbrook will likely be that guy as he played 44% snap share last week after Thielen went down. Minnesota utilizes their tight end and fullback frequently, so Im going to look to the other side of this matchup for a receiver who will likely get more opportunity. For Pittsburgh, my dart throw is Ray Ray McCloud. Last week, McCloud played 40 offensive snaps which was the second highest among wide receivers. He only had 6 targets in the past 2 weeks, but the week before that he had 12 targets and 9 catches, so there is upside there. As a dart throw at a $3,200 salary, he could be the discount player that pops for us allowing us to get more of those higher priced options in our lineup.

Week 14 Thursday Night Football Showdown Style Lineup

Captain – Dionte Johnson

Flex – Justin Jefferson

Flex – Najee Harris

Flex – KJ Osborn

Flex – Greg Joseph

Flex – Ray Ray McCloud


College football is ROLLING and our partners at DraftKings Sportsbook have an INCREDIBLE offer for college football junkies. For new users, bet $1 - JUST $1 on any game - and if your team scores one point, you get $100 in free bets. Yes, you read that correctly: ONE DOLLAR, ONE GAME, $100 in free bets!!! Here's what you do: 1. Click this link and sign up for a new account with DraftKings Sportsbook and make your first deposit. 2.) Make a $1 bet on any team 3.) And if your team scores ONE POINT, you get an automatic $100 thanks to our friends at DraftKings. It's the best offer going in sports betting - so act now! If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL). Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (MI/NJ/PA/WV/WY), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 1-888-532-3500 (VA), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ) or call/text TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN). *21+ (18+ WY). AZ/CO/IL/IN/IA/MI/NJ/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY only. Min $5 deposit. Min $1 wagEligibility restrictions apply. See for full terms and conditions.


bottom of page