The Chicago Bears just climbed back in the playoff picture without taking a snap.
The Bears are one game back of Minnesota with four games to play, but the Vikings lost All-Pro defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams when the NFL suspended them on Tuesday. That is big stuff, as big in Chicago as it is in Minnesota because it could allow the Bears to get back in the division race.
The schedule is favorable to the Bears, with their next three games at home -- and all against non-winning opponents. Now the NFL is favorable to them, too, sitting down two of the most valuable members of the league's second-ranked run defense. Only you may not see the results immediately. The Vikings' next two opponents are Detroit and Arizona, two clubs that rank 30th (Detroit) and 32nd in rushing, so they may not miss Kevin and Pat Williams as much immediately as you might think. Except they will miss their inside push on pass rushes against Kurt Warner, and that game is in Arizona where the Cards lost only once this year.
Then look what happens:Then come the Falcons and New York Giants, the league's top two rushing offense. They were formidable opponents already; now they have decided advantages by running Michael Turner and Brandon Jacobs through the crippled interior of the Minnesota defense.
"This is going to kill the Vikings," one GM told me Tuesday. "Now, everyone can double-team Jared Allen. It just disrupts the entire defense."
Of course, the Bears have to win to take advantage of this unexpected opportunity, and that's been difficult lately -- with the club dropping three of its next four.
I might mention how today's suspensions affect New Orleans, too, with the Saints losing three significant players (one of whom, Charles Grant, is out for the season), but I won't because they're last in their division and dead in the water. All this does is guarantee they stay there.