The Vikings will have their starting defensive tackles for this Sunday’s game against Detroit. A federal judge today blocked the NFL from imposing suspensions on Pat and Kevin Williams and several others, saying more time is needed to decide whether the NFL was justified in penalizing them for taking a diet supplement containing a banned substance the players claim they were unaware they were ingesting. The matter will be taken up again next week, at which time the suspensions may be reimposed. If the original four-game suspensions were then upheld, the Vikings would presumably lose Pat and Kevin for a hypothetical first-round playoff game, greatly hindering their chances of advancing – hence the argument, by some, that the Vikes would be better off taking their chances the last four games of the regular season without the Williams Wall, if it meant they would be reinstated for the playoffs. But that argument is moot now because the Williamses will indeed play against the Lions in a game that has major implications as to tiebreaker scenarios against the Bears. Basically, it breaks down like this:
- Vikings lead Bears by just one game in the division, meaning a tie for first at the end of the season is still a big possibility.
- First division tiebreaker is head-to-head. Vikes are 1-1 vs. Bears.
- Second division tiebreaker is division record. Vikes and Bears are both 3-2. Vikes’ last division game is at Detroit. Bears’ last division game is at home against Green Bay Dec. 22. If Vikes beat Detroit they’re 4-2 against the division, forcing the Bears to win against the Packers or lose the tiebreaker.
- Third division tiebreaker is win percentage against common opponents. Vikes are currently 6-4 against such opponents while the Bears are 3-5. Vikes have two remaining games that affect this tiebreaker – at Detroit and at home against Atlanta, while the Bears have four. A win for the Vikings against Detroit would mean the Bears would have to sweep their remaining four games to pull even in this tiebreaker (and if they did that they would be 10-6 and probably wouldn’t need the tiebreaker anyway since I don’t see the Vikings finishing 10-6).
You can tell just from that cursory breakdown what a tough situation the Bears would be in if the Vikings were able to win against Detroit. Victory over the Lions wouldn’t guarantee a division title for the Vikes but it would go a really long way toward doing so. And it would make that Packers-Bears game at Soldier Field on December 22 unbelievably huge. How much would the Packers enjoy spoiling the Bears’ playoff hopes? I’m guessing a lot.