In our Cheering Interest Guide for this week, we laid out the scenario in which your Minnesota Vikings could clinch a playoff berth in Week 16 of the regular season, and the first of the three dominoes that needed to fall in order to make that happen has done so.
And the Vikings can thank Blaine Gabbert. Yeah, that Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert, in relief of an injured Marcus Mariota, found former Vikings’ tight end MyCole Pruitt for a 2-yard touchdown just before the two-minute warning at Nissan Stadium to push the Tennessee Titans a 25-16 victory over the Washington Redskins on Saturday afternoon.
Mariota was injured just before halftime with a shoulder stinger after landing awkwardly on a sack, and Gabbert took over for the entire second half. The Redskins took the lead late in the second quarter, and led until the Gabbert-to-Pruitt touchdown toss. The final margin was provided by cornerback Malcolm Butler, who intercepted Josh Johnson’s last-second desperation heave and returned it 56 yards for a score.
The loss for the Redskins drops them to 7-8 on the season, and it means that the Vikings can eliminate them from playoff contention with a victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. The loss also means that if the Vikings can beat the Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles lose to the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon, Minnesota will secure a playoff spot for the second season in a row and the third time in four years.
As we keep stressing, if the Vikings beat both the Lions and the Chicago Bears to finish off their season, they’ll secure a playoff spot regardless of what any other team does. Still, if we’d like the anxiety to go away by the time this week concludes, the Vikings are one-third of the way there.