NFC North: Have at it 14
By minor miracle, we managed to keep this week's "Have at it" topic relevant for the past 48 hours.
We asked you to take a side on a sticky issue: Should Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams pursue legal action to lift their four-game suspensions? By doing so, they run the risk of having their suspensions temporarily overturned but later reinstated by the courts, a scenario that would leave them suspended for a potential playoff game.
The alternative would be to drop their legal challenge, serve the four-game suspension and be eligible for the playoffs.
The players' attorneys decided Wednesday afternoon to pursue the temporary injunction, but the overwhelming number of you argued for them to serve the suspension now.
Aginor_DM believes the Vikings have a strong shot to win two of their final four games without their star defensive tackles, a formula that should be good enough to win the division:
"Sit for the remainder of the season and take your chances. There is a good bet they beat Detroit for one win and there is a good bet the Giants rest their starters for the final game of the year for the other. Add in a good shot at the Cardinals and Falcons and there is no reason to jeopardize a possible playoff game on the off chance that the Vikings don't at least take two of the final four games. I don't see them running the table, but to say they won't win 2 games seems like a stretch even without the Williams wall."
NorsemanPower thinks other players would step well into the Williamses' shoes if they sit out the final four games:
"Take the suspension now. I believe the suspect suspension of two team leaders will elevate the play of the whole team. Use it to motivate the team!! We can get 2 of the next 4. Detroit and Arizona are very winnable and Atlanta and NY are in the dome. NY will be resting for the playoffs."
Doug Pretty sympathizes with the inherent problem -- it's conceivable the Vikings could miss the playoffs if the Williams sit out the next four games.
"It really is a "chicken or egg" type dilemma. As a fan, it's been so long since they've won a title or been in the playoffs, the temptation is great to want them to play now. However, what would the point be if we put a shell of our original defense on the field for the duration (however long or short) of the playoffs? Three of the four teams the Vikings finish the season with are contending for or have already clinched playoff berths, so at some point we're going to have to face a playoff caliber team without them anyway. Better to take our lumps now, since we get Detroit, and end the season with two home games."
My take? One thing I'll say off the top is there are some people in the Vikings organization who agree with you: They would prefer to see the Williamses take their punishment now and not risk missing a playoff game.
They know the players have some legitimate points and stand to lose more than $1 million in combined base salary, a total that their shares for playing even in multiple postseason games wouldn't make up. But they also know there is no precedent for challenging the NFL's steroid policy in court. There's no guarantee this lawsuit will work, no matter how legitimate the points are. And while it's possible that a good group of attorneys could delay the issue into the offseason, that's not a risk you want to be wrong on.
So here's my opinion: Let's find out how good the Vikings really are. If they're a legitimate playoff-caliber team, they should be able to beat Detroit and one of their final three opponents without the Williams Wall. Doing so almost certainly will win the NFC North title.
A team's regular-season competitiveness shouldn't be based on the presence of two defensive tackles, no matter how good they are. Playoff football, on the other hand, takes place on an entirely different plane and every team needs to be at full strength.
In the end, I think the Vikings have a better chance of winning two of their next four regular-season games without the Williams Wall than they do of winning a playoff game without them.
The general topic of this week's "Have at it" seems pretty obvious. But we need to winnow down the Williams Wall angle into something that applies to the entire division and is specific enough to foster a lively debate.
I'm interested to know your thoughts on the Williamses' legal options, because there is a legitimate dilemma here. If Pat Williams and Kevin Williams receive a legal injunction to continue playing, they run the risk of serving an eventual suspension during the playoffs. This could happen if a judge temporarily allows them to play but then ultimately rules in the NFL's favor a week or more from now.
But if they abandon the injunction and sit out the final four games, the Vikings won't have them for their playoff push. (By our analysis, the Vikings need at least two more victories to lock up the NFC North title).
So here's your question: What is the preferable scenario? The Vikings trying to make the playoffs without the Williams Wall? Or playing a postseason game without them? Is a playoff appearance in itself the most important goal? Or are the Vikings better off ensuring they will have their defensive tackles for a potential postseason game that they might never play?
We could learn the Williams' legal fate as soon as Wednesday, but the spirit of this question will remain relevant all week. As always, give us your thoughts in the comments section below or in the mailbag. I'll publish a representative sample, as well as my own take, Friday morning. Have at it.
A few things to keep in mind:
- The Vikings haven't made the playoffs since 2004 and haven't won their division since 2000. Does that make the postseason push more important than having your best team available for a playoff game?
- Coach Brad Childress is in the third year of a five-year contract. Does his job security rest on making a postseason appearance?
- The Vikings' run defense will be significantly tested in the final two regular-season games, against Atlanta and the New York Giants.
- If you need it, you can view the Vikings' remaining schedule here.
- Here is Chicago's schedule.
- Here is Green Bay's.
- And here is a link to our argument that the Vikings have a strong chance to win the division with a 9-7 record. And one of those games is at Detroit this weekend.