Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
I don't think you can overstate the impact of Minnesota nose tackle Pat Williams' fractured right scapula, a shoulder injury that will keep him out at least two weeks and probably longer. Especially when you consider the two opponents remaining on the Vikings' schedule.
We pretty well documented Williams' value as a run stopper during the weeks of speculation regarding his potential four-game suspension. Now, the Vikings must face the NFL's top two rushing offenses without their big nose tackle.
Atlanta and the New York Giants each average 148.7 rushing yards per game, a mark that ties them for the league's best. And conveniently, the Vikings close out the regular season against the Falcons (this Sunday) and the Giants (Dec. 28).
Williams, whose streak of 72 consecutive starts will come to an end, is a major reason why the Vikings have the NFL's best interior run defense. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Vikings are giving up 2.53 yards per inside rush this season. Here is a list of the league's top four:
San Francisco: 3.07
Yes, the Vikings still have a strong defensive line led by Kevin Williams and Jared Allen. But it's no secret that offenses must pick their poison when blocking against the full-strength Williams Wall. Now, opposing offenses can get away with routinely double-teaming Kevin Williams. The likely replacement for Pat Williams, Fred Evans, is a decent player but certainly doesn't require a double team.
Like most cover-2 defenses, the Vikings are built around the idea of their front four creating regular havoc. Monday's news isn't curtains for the Vikings' playoff hopes, but it is as impactful as the loss of a nose tackle can be.