Their best player is recovering from a serious knee injury, their young quarterback is still learning the ropes, and the majority of the roster includes holes and question marks.
The Minnesota Vikings have been popular pick to finish at the bottom of the NFC North in 2012. But team owner Zygi Wilf refuses to buy into that narrative.
"I expect to be division champs," Wilf said Tuesday, via Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com. "I want to be able to fight for the division, as we always did every year and get better for years to come. That's always been our goal and it's been the goal since the first day I came here."
That first part of the quote is what people will notice, and for good reason. But Wilf seems to have an attitude rooted in optimism rather than delusion.
"Things don't happen overnight. There's going to be ups and downs, as we certainly have had them in the first seven years of ownership, but you have to be patient," he said. "As we were patient with the stadium, we're going to be patient and we're going to work hard to getting a championship ballclub."
Patience is the buzz word in Minnesota. Patience to get Peterson back to his old self. Patience to get a new stadium built. Patience to return the Vikings to the playoffs.
Progress can be made on all three fronts in 2012, but immediate payoff is unlikely.