With six weeks of the 2016 NFL season now in the books, NFL.com's Dan Hanzus put together a piece that asks the questions "what's the same" and "what's changed" around the league this season.
Hanzus opined the Vikings into the latter category, saying their success throughout the first part of the season wasn't anticipated when they lost their starting quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater during the preseason. Hanzus wrote:
*The Vikings rule the world. What are we witnessing right now? First Teddy Bridgewater went down. Then Adrian Peterson. And the Vikings keep getting stronger. They're the only undefeated team left, they have the best defense in football and they're playing in a brand new stadium that's the envy of the rest of the league. It feels like the Vikings took the best shot the football gods could deliver and kept charging. *
Hanzus emphasized that it's early in the season and too soon to predict how everything will shake out. He added, however:
But it feels like something special is in the air.
Coller: Captain Munnerlyn is Vikings most underrated defensive player
The Vikings defense has turned plenty of heads across the league thus far, as Minnesota stands at 5-0 and the NFL's only undefeated team. Matthew Coller of 1500 ESPN said Captain Munnerlyn is the most underrated defensive player on the Vikings roster.
The 28-year-old corner has spent the last three seasons in [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's defense and has improved each year. Part of that equation is the team's extremely effective pass rush. Minnesota corners are not often required to stay on their man past 2.5 seconds. But Munnerlyn is an important piece of the Vikings becoming the league's best defense, as nickel has become Minnesota's (and most of the NFL's) base defense.
Coller said that Munnerlyn has played three-fourths of Minnesota's defensive snaps, and his value has increased when facing spread offenses and three-receiver sets, such as the Giants. Coller offered looks at film throughout the article to demonstrate Munnerlyn's performance.
Since Munnerlyn is a smaller-bodied player, Coller said his tenacity is one of his biggest assets.
He is a strong tackler, who wide receivers have a difficult time blocking […]. Against Carolina, Kelvin Benjamin was set up to block Munnerlyn on a screen and could not eliminate the corner from the play. That's 6-foot-5, 230 [pounds] vs. 5-foot-9, 195.
Coller also pointed out that Pro Football Focus rated Munnerlyn ninth among cornerbacks against the run.
His ability to face receivers man-to-man and shut down the run opens up Zimmer to use his safeties and linebackers' versatility rather than requiring them to help with the slot receiver.
Xavier Rhodes uses bye week to give back
The Vikings bye week offered players five days off, a one-time commodity during the NFL season. Many planned visits home or to their college stomping grounds, including cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes returned to Tallahassee to see his alma mater, Florida State, take on Wake Forest.
Orlando Sentinel reporter Safid Deen caught up with Rhodes during his time in Florida.
"It takes me back to memory lane when I was here," Rhodes told Deen. "Being on this field, playing with my guys, doing the same thing these guys are doing: trying to get a win."
Deen said Rhodes' biggest contribution, however, is an off-field partnership with Kids1stFund. The foundation was built by Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher as a way to fund research for Fanconi Anemia, a rare blood disorder that affects one of Fisher's sons, Ethan.
Considering the University of Minnesota, the main FA research center in the United States, is just miles away from where the Vikings play in U.S. Bank Stadium, the move made perfect sense for Rhodes.
"It's always good to give back, to help out," Rhodes told Deen. "I felt the need, and I wanted to help so I called [Fisher], talked to him, and we went from there."