Suspensions Put Vikings Playoff Hopes In Jeopardy

James WilliamsonSenior Writer IDecember 2, 2008

Several weeks ago, six players were discovered to have been using substances that are banned by the NFL.

The players were: Charles Grant, Deuce McAllister, and Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints, Bryan Pittman of the Houston Texans, and Kevin and Pat Williams of the Minnesota Vikings.

The substances are diuretics and water pills. The reason they are banned is because players can use them to hide use of steroids and these pills can be harmful to players.

The NFL has issued a statement on Tuesday, stating that all six players will be suspended for four games each. Four games is the remainder of the regular season. Players, whose teams make playoffs, have a chance to be reinstated on Dec. 29.

The loss of any player is damaging, but of the three teams, only the Vikings currently hold a playoff spot. Last Sunday, after defeating the Chicago Bears 34-14, the Vikings moved into first place of the NFC North with a 7-5 record. The Chicago Bears are second with a 6-6 record and the Packers are third with a 5-7 record. 

Kevin and Pat Williams are not just ordinary players. They are the two starting defensive tackles for the Minnesota defense. Minnesota has always been about its defensive line, dating back to the '70's with the Purple People Eaters. That line has two players in the Hall of Fame, and another who, arguably, should be there.

The Vikings have looked to duplicate the old line by adding defensive end Jared Allen, who was acquired via a trade with Kansas City, to the mix. The combination of him with the Williams duo and other defensive end, Ray Edwards, has generated much success.

Two safeties and 23.5 sacks are just part of its success. The line has been very good at stopping the run and showed it on a goal line stop against Chicago last Sunday. They are No. 2 in the NFL in rush defense with only 73.1 yards allowed per game.

This is a tremendous discomfort for the Vikings. With the division of the NFC North as tight as it is, the Vikings could lose the lead spot. The Vikings still have a tough schedule ahead of them.

Week 14 at Detroit: That should be easy to do since the Lions haven't won a game this season, but nothing is guaranteed.

Week 15 at Arizona: Arizona is a playoff team with Kurt Warner at quarterback. The Vikings, without pressure, should easily be destroyed by Warner's accurate arm.

Week 16 vs. Atlanta: Atlanta will be fighting for a playoff spot as well, and Michael Turner is an excellent running back with rookie sensation Matt Ryan at quarterback.

Week 17 vs. NY Giants: They might win that game, because the Giants will most likely have a first round bye in playoffs, and the game won't really matter to them. However, last year New York had a playoff spot locked up and still came to work against the Patriots for the regular season's last game.

The Vikings could end up at 8-8 or 9-7. If the Bears win the next four games they will be 10-6 and that takes away Minnesota's playoff spot. The Packers could win their next four and be 9-7 as well.

Whether they miss playoffs is a question only time can answer. The fact is, that with these suspensions and the schedule they have remaining, it will be very difficult.