Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton told the Vikings in his latest column for the Pioneer Press to keep working. Tarkenton penned the following to his former team:
Five weeks into the 2016 NFL season, there is one undefeated team standing.
But a word of warning for Vikings players, coaches and everybody else around the team: don't be content with your success so far.
Tarkenton urged players to stay away from the attention and hype of the media and remain focused on the goals they've set for themselves. He believes the Vikings are good enough to keep winning, but he also said, "An NFL season is a long process."
Tarkenton reiterated the message that he said he knows Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has already emphasized for the team: take each week at a time.
The challenge of all team sports is to be able to forget the last game and prepare for the next one. The world starts over every week. You don't get to carry your performance over from one week to the next; you have to start over each and every Sunday. None of the great things you do in one week can help once you kick off against your next opponent.
3 of 5 ESPN writers think Vikings have NFL's top defense
In a roundtable discussion, ESPN's panel of Insiders weighed in on which NFL team has the league's best defense. Three of the five writers chose the Vikings. Matt Bowen wrote the following:
The Vikings continue to make quarterbacks panic, and they are wrecking offensive game plans with versatility, speed and physical play in Mike Zimmer's system. […] Yes, the Broncos and Seahawks have nasty units. And I wouldn't want to devise game plans against those defenses. But what I've seen on film this season tells me it's the Vikings. Zimmer's group is dictating the flow of the game from the jump.
KC Joyner went right to the stats. He said the Vikings have the top defense largely due to their ranking in points allowed per drive and percentage of drives that end in an opponent's turnover versus percentage of opponents' drives that result in a scoring play. He added:
This platoon also shut down Odell Beckham, Jr. and sacked Cam Newton eight times. It is difficult to make a case that any defense is better right now.
Mike Sando said Minnesota's defense is his pick at this point in the season.
*The Vikings get my vote right this second, based on their size, talent, schematic complexity and track record against established quarterbacks this season. *
Chris Wesseling: Bradford a late bloomer
After four starts with the Vikings, Sam Bradford ranks second in the NFL with his 109.7 passer rating, trailing only Matt Ryan (121.6). He's thrown for 990 yards (second highest in his career through four games), six touchdowns and no interceptions.
In an article identifying 10 players who he sees as "late bloomers" across the league, Around the NFL writer Chris Wesserling highlighted Bradford.
Bradford has finally recaptured the early-career form that had NFL scouts, coaches and executives stubbornly standing by their pre-draft assessments of a legitimate franchise quarterback.
*In an 11-game span dating back to Nov. 8, 2015, Bradford has completed 68.9 percent of his passes with a 16:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 101.2 passer rating. *
*Beyond the improved numbers, the difference in Bradford's playing style has been astonishing. Formerly a game manager, he's now standing strong in the face of pressure, delivering courageous, accurate shots downfield and featuring a different Vikings receiver each week. *
Wesseling included another Viking on his list at No. 10: wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Although Patterson had a standout rookie season, Wesseling emphasized his uptick in production this season.
*The league's most dangerous kickoff returner has also emerged as an effective gunner on punt-return coverage. For the first time in the Zimmer era, he has earned a significant role on offense with play calls that highlight his tackle-breaking ability near the line of scrimmage. If the past two weeks are any indication, Patterson might be the hardest-to-tackle wideout in the league. *
The other "late bloomers" Wesseling wrote about included Brown wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, Packers linebacker Nick Perry and Seahawks running back Christine Michael.