GLENDALE, AZ — Here we go! Baseball is done, thankfully, before November with San Francisco sweeping Detroit to capture their second World Series in three years. The NBA starts this week, and the National Hockey League can’t figure out what to do.
The NFL has reached the midway point in the season. Atlanta remains the lone unbeaten team at 7-0 and currently is the class leader of the NFL. But make no mistake about it: They’d better not look over their shoulder. Twelve of the league’s 32 teams have winning records, and the race is on for the 12 playoff spots.
Houston appears to be the team to beat in the AFC at 6-1 and has beaten Baltimore (5-2) to have the look of a super team. The Chicago Bears (6-1) are playing lights-out on defense with a strong running game and special teams.
Never underestimate the heart of a champion. The New York football Giants at 6-2 have beaten the 49ers (6-2) convincingly at home, so three teams from the NFC appear to be heads above all.
Last year, the Green Bay Packers (5-3) had it going on at 15-1, scoring 560 points. So we know that they are capable of going the distance as they did three years ago.
New England (5-3) with Tom Brady and now a strong, consistent running game should never be underestimated. Denver (4-3) with Peyton Manning, the only four-time NFL MVP, back and healthy again also might have the right stuff.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) have overcome several injuries, and with six Vince Lombardi Trophies you know they play for keeps. Indianapolis is 4-3 with Andrew Luck getting his feet wet in this, his first go-round in the NFL.
I have talked about every winning team with a winning record except the Vikings at 5-3. Adrian Peterson is back and has been nothing short of sensational with 775 yards rushing, averaging 5.1 yards per carry to lead the NFL.
Percy Harvin with 60 catches for 667 yards receiving gives the Vikings two dominant forces on offense. But can quarterback Christian Ponder hold his own against Aaron Rogers, Jay Cutler and Mathew Stafford, all three established stars?
With wins over San Francisco, Arizona (who started 4-0), and Detroit, are the Vikings on their way back to the playoffs? Not so fast, not with Seattle, Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit (twice), Houston and St. Louis on the road.
Nobody in the NFL has a more challenging schedule the next eight weeks than the Purple. It’s good and bad news — they play everybody they have to play to prove they are capable.
The Vikings are in the toughest division in football, it appears, with a 6-1 and two 5-3 teams. And don’t forget about Detroit lurking at 3-4. It’s the NFL — enjoy the ride as the second half takes shape for the playoff push. It promises to be exciting.
Keep this in mind: The NFC teams are 20-12 head-to-head against AFC teams. The last four Super Bowl Champions — Giants, Saints, Packers, Giants — are all NFC teams. That’s the good and the bad that faces the Vikings, who have never won it all. After all, that is what this is all about!
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at Fitz BeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.