Posted 12/03/2008 at 05:14 PM
There is a lot of unrest in the Twin Cities with the suspensions of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams looming but the Vikings are still in control of the NFC North. At 7-5 Minnesota would likely win the division if they split the final four games. The Bears would have to win out to reach 10-6 and Minnesota would in almost all scenarios have the tie-breaker over the Bears if both teams finished 9-7. If Green Bay wins out to reach 9-7 the Packers would win the division but asking either of those teams to win four straight games is asking an awful lot, although neither team has a horribly difficult schedule remaining.
The Vikings have the toughest remaining schedule of the three teams by far and if there is any team that could lose to the 0-12 Lions, the Vikings would be that team, particularly with all the distractions this week. If the Vikings survive Detroit they would seemingly be in great shape in the division race but this is also a team that has had several recent late season collapses. Last season Minnesota choked a golden opportunity to seal up a playoff spot by losing badly to Washington at home, and there have been many similar situations for this franchise.
Minnesota has to go to Arizona (a spot of another recent final game choke that knocked Minnesota out of the playoffs in 2003), then hosts Atlanta and the New York Giants. Atlanta will obviously be in a fight for the playoffs and the Giants are not likely to rest its starters given how well playing the season finale hard worked for them last year. Atlanta and New York are also two of the best rushing teams in the league so the losses on the D-line will have a big impact. So Minnesota would be best served to win the next two games on the road over the 0-12 Lions and a Cardinals team that should lock up its division this week.
Back to the suspensions, where is the NFLPA in this mess? Pat Williams stands to lose $941,000 if he is suspended the final four games yet the union sits back and is at the mercy of the Commissioner, who has to do something because of the public knowledge of the case. In this era of sports no one can be considered immune from lying but a close look at the players involved in this case makes a pretty strong probable cause argument that the players used the supplement as a weight loss tool and not a masking agent. The players should be responsible for what goes into their bodies but the league has to be responsible for making clear what is allowed and what is not, and in this case it does not appear that effort was sufficient.
The Vikings do not have time to waste looking for excuses and complaining. Take an example from the Giants who had immense distractions last week and delivered a convincing win over a divisional rival on the road. All Minnesota has to do is beat a 0-12 team and a flawed Cardinals team that has an even worse history of collapses than the Vikings and in all likelihood will have nothing to play for. Even if the Vikings do not complete that task the Bears and Packers could send Minnesota to the playoffs anyway.