The Vikings could get a huge boost for their No. 1-ranked rushing defense if nose tackle Pat Williams regains enough strength in his shoulder to play in the Vikings' first playoff game since 2004.
The Vikings could get a boost Sunday if Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams
is able to return after missing two games.
Williams suffered a fractured right scapula in the Vikings' 35-14 victory at Arizona on Dec. 14. Coach Brad Childress said at the time that Williams would miss two to six weeks.
Internally, the feeling was that Williams probably would be out a month. Sunday would mark three weeks since Williams suffered the injury when he collided with linebacker Chad Greenway
after an Arizona pass completion.
Coach Brad Childress said Monday that Williams would "try and make the push for this weekend."
Williams was cleared to practice after an examination Monday and is expected to go through practice Wednesday.
Williams said Tuesday on Twin Cities-based KFAN Radio that the plan is for him to play against the Eagles.
The Giants' top-ranked run game had success going against a Vikings front that included Fred Evans
and Jimmy Kennedy
sharing time at nose tackle on Sunday.
The Giants had 135 yards on the ground, only the fifth time this season the Vikings have given up 100 or more rushing yards.
The Eagles are ranked 22nd in rushing in the NFL with an average of 106.1 yards per game, but Williams' presence in the middle could still be a factor.
That's because it's unlikely Philadelphia would try to mount much of a rushing attack at all if the Williams Wall — Pat Williams plays beside Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams
— was back together.
"It's huge, as far as linebackers are concerned, to have Pat and Kevin up there because either they have to be double teamed or if they're not double teamed they're going to make plays, which they've done over the course of their careers," said Greenway. "For me, and Ben (Leber) and Napo (Napoleon Harris
), we love having guys up front that are as good as these guys, because a lot of times they let us run clean and make plays. And, if not, they're the ones making the plays and make the whole defense look good. I know we're all excited about being the No. 1-ranked defense against the run again this year. It's a credit to the guys up front, because that's where it starts."
This could make the Eagles and quarterback Donovan McNabb
more one-dimensional and thus easier for the Vikings to defend.
QB Tarvaris Jackson had his shakiest outing since returning as the Vikings' starting quarterback three games ago. Jackson completed 16 of 26 passes for 239 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Vikings' 20-19 victory over the New York Giants. The interception came on a pass from the Giants 6-yard line. Jackson is now 2-3 as a starter this season and will remain in that role as the Vikings open the playoffs on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
QB Gus Frerotte is recovered from a lower-back injury suffered Dec. 7 in Detroit and has said he is ready to return. However, Frerotte has lost the job to Tarvaris Jackson, despite going 8-3 as the starter after replacing Jackson in Week 3.
RB Adrian Peterson became the first Vikings player ever to lead the NFL in rushing, finishing with 1,760 yards on 363 carries. Peterson, though, also had an NFL-high eight fumbles (four lost), including one that he did not lose against the Giants on Sunday. San Francisco's Frank Gore was second in the league among running backs with six fumbles this season.
RB Chester Taylor had only 10 yards rushing on four carries against the Giants, and he caught only one pass. Taylor finished the season with only 399 yards on the ground on 101 carries. That is his lowest total since joining the Vikings. Taylor had 303 carries for 1,216 yards in his first year with Minnesota and 157 carries for 844 yards last season. That was Adrian Peterson's rookie year. Taylor did finish third on the Vikings with a career-high 45 catches for 399 yards.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe had only two catches for 14 yards against his former Giants teammates last Sunday, but he finished with 42 catches for 597 yards and seven touchdowns, which tied for the team lead. Shiancoe showed major improvement from his first season with the Vikings, when he appeared to be a free-agent bust. He had only 27 catches for 323 yards and a touchdown last year.
WR Bernard Berrian played Sunday despite a sprained ankle and had four catches for 81 yards and a 54-yard touchdown against the Giants. He proved to be worth the $16 million in guarantees the Vikings gave him as a free agent last offseason. Berrian was second on the Vikings with 48 receptions this year, but he tied for the team lead with seven touchdowns and had 964 receiving yards, the most by a Vikings player since 2004. He averaged 20.1 yards per catch, the most among receivers in the NFL.
WR Bobby Wade had a career-high 98 yards receiving on Sunday against the Giants and finished with a team-leading 53 receptions. Wade has led the Vikings in receiving the past two years after having 54 catches in 2007. Wade appeared far more comfortable this season in part because Berrian's presence enabled Wade to mainly play in the slot.
DE Jared Allen finished with a team-leading 14.5 sacks, one off his total from last season, when he led the league while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. Allen played through injuries for a good portion of the regular season but proved to be well worth the three draft picks the Vikings sent to Kansas City to obtain his rights. With Allen rushing the passer, the Vikings finished with 43 sacks. That was third in the NFL.
DE Ray Edwards injured his left knee against the Giants, and it's possible he could miss Sunday's playoff game. Edwards had an MRI on Monday, but the results were not immediately known.
NT Pat Williams has been cleared to practice, and it's possible he could return from a broken scapula to play against the Eagles. Williams missed two games after being injured Dec. 14 in Arizona. A Pro Bowl force in the middle, Williams could help take away the Eagles run game.
The Vikings sold 6,000 tickets on Monday, but they still had 14,000 left to sell before the game would be declared a sellout and not subject to local television blackout rules. Prices for the game range from $30 to $160, and fans are encouraged to visit www.ticketmaster.com to purchase tickets. Fans can also call Ticketmaster at (651) 989-5151 or toll free at (800) 745-3000. The Vikings will have another update on Wednesday afternoon.