Wild Card on The Line

Neither the Minnesota Vikings nor the Washington Redskins looked much like a playoff team just a few weeks ago, but both find themselves still in the mix for a postseason berth.

The Vikings, who have an easier path to the playoffs, host the Redskins on Sunday, hoping with a little help they can clinch a playoff spot.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Minnesota –6.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 40.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on Minnesota –6.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

After a frustrating start, Minnesota (8-6) has won five straight games and could clinch a spot in the postseason with a win, coupled with a loss or tie by New Orleans against Philadelphia on Sunday.

For the Vikings, who haven't made the playoffs since 2004 and finished 6-10 last year, they insist they aren't looking that far ahead.

"It's really been a day-at-a-time philosophy," coach Brad Childress said. "I know that's trite, but that's really how we've looked at it."

The Redskins are using a similar philosophy. In what has been an extremely difficult season, Washington has won consecutive games following a four-game losing streak as it tries to secure a playoff berth for the second time in three seasons.

Washington, however, needs to win its final two games - including a season-ending home contest against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 30 - plus get New Orleans to lose one of its last two games or the New York Giants to lose their final two.

Despite what seems like insurmountable odds, coach Joe Gibbs said the team feels fortunate to be in this position.

"It certainly helps when you come to work and you've got something to come to work for," he said. "You've still got a chance to make the playoffs. It's a big deal. It's motivation."

Washington hopes to take advantage of Minnesota's short week after the Vikings rallied for a 20-13 win over the Chicago Bears on Monday night.

Tarvaris Jackson threw a career-high 249 yards, but was intercepted three times and did not throw a touchdown pass. Running back Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, overcame a poor first half to finish with two touchdowns and 78 yards on 20 carries in the come-from-behind win.

Peterson scored both of his touchdowns in the second half, including an 8-yard run with 10:56 to play to give Minnesota the lead. Darren Sharper secured the win with an interception in the end zone with 1:38 left.

"We realize that we're a better football team than what showed up in Lambeau a month ago or so," said guard Steve Hutchinson, referring to Minnesota's 34-0 loss at Green Bay on Nov. 11. "Our motto from there on out was, 'Don't worry about the record. Don't worry about the rest of the season.'"

Despite his three interceptions, Jackson continued to show steady improvement that has often been overshadowed by the breakthrough rookie season of Peterson. The second-year quarterback had thrown for four of his six touchdowns the previous three games.

"I think he'll progress from that," Childress said. "Unfortunately those are hard lessons to learn."

The Redskins emotional season continued this week with news that safety Sean Taylor had been named posthumously to the NFC Pro Bowl team. Taylor died Nov. 27 after being shot during a burglary at his home in suburban Miami.

"It is well-deserved," center Casey Rabach said. "If he would have been able to finish the season, he would have been in there. It just shows the respect everybody in the league had for him and what a great player he was."

Washington lost its first game after Taylor's death, but has bounced back with two wins and is coming off a 22-10 victory over the New York Giants last Sunday. Clinton Portis rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown, easing the burden of quarterback Todd Collins, who won while making his first start in 10 years.

The 36-year-old Collins went just 8-of-25 without a touchdown, but he did throw for 166 yards and led five scoring drives starting in place of the injured Jason Campbell, who is out for the rest of the season with a dislocated kneecap.

"To go through what we've gone through this season," Rabach said, "with injuries and Sean's situation and losing close games and giving games away, it speaks a lot of the kind of guys we've got on this team to never give up and keep on playing."

Childress said he admires what the Redskins have done with their season.

"That is a team that has fought through more than their share of adversity off the field as well as on the field," Childress said. "I don't know how any of us or our teams would deal with what they have dealt with."

Minnesota has won three of the last four against Washington, including last year's 19-16 road victory. This is their first meeting at the Metrodome since the Vikings' 41-7 victory in 1998.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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