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Tuesday September 20th, 2011

Three years after the StarCaps controversy began, the Vikings' Kevin Williams (pictured) and Saints' Will Smith are set to return from two-game suspensions. (AP)

Two weeks in a row, the Vikings defense imploded in the second half, the latest example coming Sunday as Tampa Bay hung 24 points on Minnesota in the final two quarters to pull off a come-from-behind win.

The good news for the Vikings is that a very big reinforcement is on his way.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, a starter for all but two Vikings games since 2003, rejoined the team after serving a two-game suspension for his involvement in the StarCaps case. Williams figures to slide right back into Minnesota's starting lineup up front.

The Vikings actually have done a nice job against the run so far this year but are allowing 280 yards per game through the air and have faded down the stretch in a pair of losses.

This figured to be an interesting year along Minnesota's defense front, even prior to Williams' suspension, since the franchise opted to let Pat Williams -- part two of the team's "Williams Wall" -- leave. Minnesota tried to rebuild that wall with Remi Ayodele and Letroy Guion in Weeks 1 and 2 with varying levels of success.

Kevin Williams returns just in time for a must-win game against Detroit in Week 3. The 2-0 Lions are one of the toasts of the league thus far and have yet to allow a sack of QB Matthew Stafford.

With the Vikings' secondary looking shaky at best thus far, getting to Stafford might be their only hope on defense. Williams could be the key to achieving that goal.

New Orleans is in much better shape than Minnesota, thanks to an easy Week 2 win over Chicago that included six Saints sacks of Jay Cutler. But the Saints could be equal beneficiaries of the StarCaps suspensions ending. This week, they'll welcome back defensive end Will Smith this week, who has 55 career sacks of his own.

Smith should reclaim one of the starting end spots, though the Saints also have rookie Cam Jordan and the underrated Turk McBride, who smoked Jay Cutler and forced a fumble in the second half Sunday.

While the Vikings need anything Williams can provide to help snap them out of their early-season slump, Smith's return might just be a case of "the rich get richer" in New Orleans.

Partially thanks to Chicago's pitiful pass protection, the Saints blitzed the Bears to smithereens. Even in Week 1, while giving up 42 points to the Packers, New Orleans dropped Aaron Rodgers twice. Somewhat susceptible to the pass, the Saints -- like the Vikings -- rely on a strong rush to create some havoc.

That was already happening, especially against Chicago, without Smith, so his return ought to only buoy that unit. There's little doubt that both Minnesota's and New Orleans' defense got better for Week 3. For the Saints, they'll hope it simply extends their current momentum. For the Vikings, the help couldn't have arrived soon enough.

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