Before we get any further into this post, let it be known: I have a bad feeling about the 2017 Vikings. It’s probably based more on intuition and gut feeling than anything else, which is either dangerous or useful depending on how you feel about such things. If you asked which record is more likely for Minnesota this year: 6-10 or 10-6 … I would answer 6-10 without hesitation.

If you answer 10-6, you’re hardly crazy. That’s entirely reasonable. But you also might be banking on things about the 2017 Vikings that I don’t think you should be banking on. As such, here are five assumptions we shouldn’t be making about this year’s team. And, as advertised, most of them lean toward the negative.

1 The defense will be elite. Defense is the Vikings’ identity, and for good reason. Resources early in Mike Zimmer’s tenure were devoted to defense, and he’s done a very good job building that side of the ball. But I’m still nagged by what happened during the latter half of 2016.

After producing 16 turnovers and allowing an average of 14 points in the first six games of 2016, the Vikings allowed 23.9 points per game in their next nine games (with just six total turnovers produced). Included in that mix were two late-season clunkers against the Colts and Packers, the latter of which included some controversy over what was at least initially explained as defensive players freelancing. Was last year’s defense worn down from having to carry the load and/or compensating for some key injuries, or was there something larger at play? At the very least, it is a defense (and a coach in Zimmer) with something to prove this season before we can call it elite.

2 The special teams will be fine. When you operate on thin margins like the Vikings do, relying on defense and field position to win games, special teams are very important. thinks the Vikings will once again have a very good special teams unit (this link has good insight in general), but let’s not forget: they have a brand new punter (Ryan Quigley) and for as shaky as Blair Walsh had become on field goals he was generally very good on kickoffs — something that cannot be said for Kai Forbath. In 2014, the last full season in which both Forbath and Walsh kicked, Forbath’s kickoffs yielded touchbacks just 37.5 percent of the time (27th in the league) while Walsh was at 62.3 percent (sixth). The Vikings also lost ace kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson and will be relying on some new players in kick/punt coverage as well.

3 The offense will be better. The Vikings have never had a good offense during Zimmer’s tenure, and the woes on that side of the ball — particularly the offensive line — derailed a promising 5-0 start last year. If your default position is that things can’t be as bad as last year, you need to reset expectations. This is still an offense without a lot of proven playmakers, and it’s still an offensive line full of question marks. As one anonymous NFL executive told on that above link, “They paid the offensive line, but I don’t know if they improved the offensive line.” The preseason is just for practice, but it was not encouraging.

4 The passing game will still be dink-and-dunk. Here is the one assumption that could turn out to be a more pleasant surprise. We cannot assume the offense Sam Bradford ran last year is what we will see again this year because the offensive line dictated so much of what Minnesota did (and didn’t do). With no run game and no time to throw, so much was funneled into a short passing game. If the offensive line and blocking scheme opens things up a little, this offense could be more dynamic and finally take some pressure off the defense.

5 Everyone will survive with their jobs intact. When the Vikings went 11-5 and won the NFC North in 2015, it seemed they were on a stable upward trajectory. Last season changed that assumption, and it turned 2017 into somewhat of a crossroads year. Columnist Chip Scoggins wrote today about the pressure GM Rick Spielman is feeling this season, and by extension that applies to Zimmer as well. This is a high-visibility year for the Vikings with the Super Bowl coming in February. One would have to think that a bad season would at least test the patience of the Wilfs.

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