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So, as we all know, a couple of weeks back the Vikings got the news that they could potentially be without defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams for the first four games of the 2010 NFL season. We've lamented the fact that these two stars could miss a portion of what could be a huge 2010 season for the Vikings, but it's time to take a closer look at just how bad things could potentially be for the Beloved Purple. More specifically, we're going to have a look at how it could potentially affect Minnesota's first four contests, as those appear to be the games that the pair are most likely out for.
We'll start with the Vikings' season opener for 2010, their NFC Championship Game rematch against the New Orleans Saints.
While everyone might immediately look at the game against the Saints and say, "Well, the Vikings have no chance against that team if the Williams Wall is out," there's a bit of a different dynamic involved with this one. Because, if you'll remember, the Saints were the other team that was caught up in the StarCaps mess with the Vikings. . .and if Pat Williams and Kevin Williams aren't playing for Minnesota, the odds are pretty good that an equally important member of the Saints won't be playing either, that being defensive end Will Smith.
The Saints had 35 sacks as a team in 2009. . .13.0 of them came from Smith, 5.5 came from DE Charles Grant (who is currently not signed and would, presumably, miss this game if the Williams Wall did as well), and 5.0 from defensive tackle and professional cheap shot artist Anthony Hargrove. Nobody else on the Saints' roster last year had more than two.
The Saints' pass rush is relatively weak even with Smith and Grant lining up at the end spots. . .without the two of them, it's pretty much non-existent. Keep in mind, the Saints' defense wasn't exactly lights out with them in the lineup, either, ranking 25th in the NFL in terms of yardage and 20th in terms of points allowed. And, as anyone that watched last year's NFC Championship can recall, the Vikings' offense did more to stop themselves than the Saints' defense did. . .infinitely more.
So, while Minnesota's very strong defense might be weakened a bit against the Saints on 9 September, New Orleans' already weak defense would be even weaker. This game is a winnable one with or without Pat and Kevin Williams in the middle of the defense, as are all of the games we could potentially be without them. If the Vikings don't turn the ball over five times in this one. . .and they won't. . .the defending champs are probably looking at a great bit loss to start the season.
Minnesota's next game would be their home opener on 19 September against the Miami Dolphins. This one actually scares me a bit more than the Saints' game does. . .why? Because the Vikings know what they're going to get from the Saints, and know that they match up with the Saints. The last time we saw the Miami Dolphins, back in 2006, there was no Wildcat, there was no Brandon Marshall in Miami, and the Dolphins were not as good a team as they are right now, in my opinion. The Dolphins had the fourth-highest rushing total in the NFL in 2009, averaging 139.4 yards per game, and now their offense has a big-time receiving weapon in Marshall on the outside to go with Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, and company. Can the Vikings slow down the Dolphins' rushing attack. . .up to and including the Wildcat formation. . .and get to quarterback Chad Henne? That will be the key. . .the Miami defense isn't particularly scary, having ranked 22nd in the NFL last year, so the Vikings will get their points, so it will come down Minnesota's ability to contain the run without two of the best.
Next, we're looking at another home game, and the only divisional game we would be without the Williams Wall for, as the Detroit Lions come to town. Yes, we all know the stories about the Vikings' recent dominance of the Lions, with Minnesota having beaten Detroit in 18 out of their last 20 meetings. And, yes, the Lions are getting better with Matthew Stafford at quarterback and the newly acquired Jahvid Best at running back. . ..and, yet, I can't help but think that of the first four games on the Vikings' schedule, this one is the least daunting. I think a lot of people would agree with me on that. . .heck, Lions fans might even agree with me on that.
After the bye week, the Vikings head for the Big Apple to take on the New York Jets on Monday night. Yes, we know that the Jets had the #1 rushing offense in football in 2009. . .however, they got rid of a 1,400-yard back in Thomas Jones, replacing him with a guy who, to put it mildly, might not have it any more in LaDanian Tomlinson. But even with that in mind, this game would be a tough matchup for the Vikings with or without the Williams Wall because of the Jets' incredible defense, particularly their defense against the pass. They already had the best corner in the NFL in Darrelle Revis, and they added Antonio Cromartie to that secondary while drafting Kyle Wilson in Round 1 to strengthen it even further. The combination of the Jets' defense, being on the road, and being without the Williams Wall is going to make a victory in this one a tall order for the Vikings regardless of what personnel they have available to them.
Of course, after this, the Vikings would have Pat and Kevin Williams back for the toughest four-game stretch of their season. . .home against Dallas, a trip to Green Bay, a trip to New England, and a home game against Arizona. So they'd be fresh for those games, at the very least, and getting the Vikings going on their run to the post-season.
Can the Vikings win without Pat and Kevin Williams? Of course they can. . .the Vikings are, from top to bottom, one of the most talented teams in the NFL, and are capable of beating any team in the league. Obviously things will be a little tougher without the best defensive tackle duo in the league, but not impossible by any means. What do you folks think?