Well, I was getting all geared up to write my preview for Sunday's pivotal contest against da Bears and then, as is my habit, I took a look at the Star Tribune's site. That's right--there's only a 25% chance that Pat Williams is going to play on Sunday. Don't everyone get excited at once.
I was really close to talking myself into picking the Vikings too. Rex Grossman throws interceptions like it's his job (except at home). Da Bears' defense is weak against the run (8th in the NFL) and teams like to pass against them (32.2 attempts/game for only 163.1 yards). And the cold weather should favor the Vikings and their more run oriented attack (da Bears average 116 yards/game on the ground to the Vikings 112). Due to my complete disregard of the facts, I was almost able to predict an ugly, Tice style, NFC North battle, culminating in a 13-10 Vikings win (the only thing holding me back was the knowledge that Brad Johnson was going to be wearing a glove on his throwing hand because of the cold).
But now that the best defensive player on the team is out, even I have to face facts. Let's see if you can follow this logic: If the Vikings win, then they shut down da Bears rushing attack. If the Vikings shut down da Bears rushing attack, then Pat Williams clogged up the middle, drew double teams and generally wreaked havoc in da Bears backfield. Pat Williams will not be playing on Sunday. Therefore, the Vikings will have problems stopping da Bears when they run the ball. Everyone follow?
Now, I'm not saying that the Vikings will let Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson run all over the field. But I am saying that for them to have any chance of stopping da Bears' offense, they need to continue to dominate their opponents running games, something they aren't going to be able to do without Pat Williams. The coverage continues to be mediocre at best, and the lack of anything resembling a pass rush means that Grossman is going to have time to pick apart that mediocre coverage. That, combined with even an average ground game, will lead to an above average offensive attack (something we all know the Vikings' can't match). Really, it could get ugly.
Unless, of course (trust me--you can't keep a good optimist down), da Bears change their game plan to reflect the cold weather and the loss of Pat Williams. If they decide to play it like Mike Tice did in 2003 and over commit to the run in order to get a true representation of games in the "Black and Blue Division", then the Vikings have a chance.
The problem with that theory is that, last time I checked, Lovie Smith wasn't a moron. Da Bears in a rout: 31-10. It's gonna be ugly on Sunday.