Wyche: Vikings hit hardest by suspensions

(David Sherman / Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings will be without defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams for the remainder of the season. (David Sherman / Getty Images)

NFL.com Senior Writer Steve Wyche on the six suspension dished out by the NFL on Tuesday:

The four-game suspensions of six NFL players for testing positive for banned substances didn’t come as a surprise, but that still doesn’t make things any less painful – especially for the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams will be lost for the rest of the regular season, which is crushing for a team whose fragile one-game grip atop the NFC North just got more precarious. The Williamses are perennial Pro Bowlers and the guts of the Vikings stout defense – just ask Chicago, which got snuffed on a game-changing goal-line stand Sunday night.

If you’re the Vikings, you’ve got to feel like you got your two front teeth yanked out and have been asked to survive on a diet of corn on the cob.

The Vikings face Detroit and Arizona next so their interior run defense won’t be tested like it will over the final two games, when they face Atlanta and the New York Giants. Still, with teams not having to deal with Pat and Kevin Williams, they can turn their attention to standout pass rusher Jared Allen.

Three New Orleans Saints players were suspended: RB Deuce McAllister, and DEs Will Smith and Charles Grant. Grant is on injured reserve so his suspension won’t directly affect things. Smith is a solid pass rusher – the only one New Orleans really has – so his absence could be significant. Efficient offenses – starting Sunday against Matt Ryan and the Falcons – could have plenty of time to carve up a suspect secondary.

Though McAllister is a beloved player and leader, pass-first New Orleans has been preparing for his absence. Pierre Thomas has played a more prominent role over the past few weeks, in part because of injuries to Reggie Bush. Thomas could emerge as the starting tailback or play in tandem with Bush.

Houston’s Bryan Pittman, also suspended, has been the Texans’ long snapper for the past six seasons and the importance of a long snapper is huge – as the Pittsburgh Steelers found out earlier this season. Houston plans to promote LS Clark Harris off the practice squad.

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