Are the Vikings for real?
Week Eight begins tonight with an old NFC Central showdown between the 2-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 5-2 Minnesota Vikings. As we near the halfway point of the season it's fair to say the Vikings have been one of the surprise teams of the 2012 season. But are they for real?
The first thing that jumps out is the Week Three win over San Francisco followed by a road victory at Detroit. So the Vikings have at least a few legitimate wins under their belt. The flip side of the argument is that the San Fran win is the only one against a team with a winning record. Minnesota is also 3-0 against the bottom three teams in the AFC South. One thing is for sure: the Vikings have not been challenged week in and week out. That changes after tonight with Seattle, Houston and two games against both Chicago and Green Bay on the schedule.
Adrian Peterson is off to a magnificent start and appears to be on his way to a 300 carry season. That is incredible considering Peterson tore his ACL in late December. However, one trend as emerged and it may lead to a Tampa Bay win tonight. In both of Minnesota's losses Peterson rushed for under 80 yards. So the game plan appears to be take AP away and force Christian Ponder to throw the ball. The Vikings are 2-2 when Ponder throws the ball 35 times or more. He has taken a big step forward from his rookie year but he's not quite at a level where he can take over a game. Meanwhile, the Bucs come into tonight ranked third in the league against the run.
Go back and look at who the Vikings play in the back half of 2012. Including tonight five of Minnesota's remaining games are against teams ranked in the top ten in rushing defense. If the take AP away trend continues against Tampa Bay then we may be on our way to finding out if the Vikes are for real.
If you've been following along during the college football season you know that we've been geeking up on Clemson's offense. The Tigers have scored at least 37 points in every game since their season opening win over Auburn. With quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins Clemson has plenty of fire power.
Tonight Clemson takes on Wake Forest, a team ranked 74th in scoring defense. Over the last couple of weeks the Demon Deacons have tightened up defensively but they also haven't been really challenged since a September stretch when they gave up 52 to Florida State, 37 to Army and 34 to Duke. We'll see if Wake is up to the task but it looks like another 40 point night for Clemson.
The real question for the Tigers is if they can get help in the Atlantic Division, Clemson is tied with Florida State but earlier this year the Seminoles beat the Tigers and thus hold the tiebreaker. If Clemson runs the table but doesn't win the division where will they fall in the BCS standings? An 11-1 record would include a win over South Carolina but it is likely that the Tigers will be on the outside looking in and booking a trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.