NFL Divisional Preview: NFC East

The AFC is done. In case you missed it, in order from seeds one through six, I think your playoff teams will be the Texans, Patriots, Raiders, Bengals, Steelers and Broncos. Now, let’s turn our attention to the NFC.

The NFC East is something else. Every team could be good, but at the same time, every team could be really, really bad. I realize how much of a cop-out that is in terms of predictions, but it’s true. So without further ado, let’s take a look.

Dallas Cowboys                

The Cowboys are far and away the best team when they are healthy. Dez Bryant is the best receiver in the NFL. Tony Romo is the best quarterback in the division. The ‘Boys’ offensive line is the best in football. They added Ezekiel Elliot in the first round of last year’s draft, to return to their former greatness in running the ball. But to go back to my first sentence, that’s when they’re all healthy. This is football, and injuries are a thing. Actually, injuries are why Dallas ended up picking in the top-5 this spring.

Offensively speaking, the priority needs to be keeping Tony Romo healthy. And despite the fact that the line is as great as it is, he seems to get hurt every single season somehow, some way. In fact, you can pencil him in to miss 2-4 games, which obviously isn’t beneficial to the Cowboys. They don’t really have a solid backup quarterback, so if he goes down, that really makes the offense one-dimensional. Dez Bryant had his share of injury troubles last year, and as good as the rest of the receiving options are, such as Cole Beasley and the declining-Jason Witten, they’re not even close to as good when #88 is on the field. It’ll help drafting Elliot, who many expect to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Elliot is a powerful, do-it-all back who can run in between the tackles or outside, he can catch passes, and he even takes pride in pass blocking. If the offense does become centered around him at some point this season, it probably means that injuries have taken their toll, and he’s really the only option left. Regardless if the offensive line is good or not, stacking 8 men in the box usually works in subduing a running back.

Defensively the Cowboys are awful. Pitiful. Disgusting. They only had 11 takeaways last season, which is a complete joke. With Jalen Ramsey on the board, as much as I like Elliot, I think they made the wrong pick (note- that doesn’t mean a bad pick. It means wrong pick. There was a better pick on the board). This unit really has the potential to be bottom-10, or even bottom-5 in the NFL this year. It doesn’t even take a great quarterback to win – if a team has a decent quarterback, they have a shot.

There’s a good 8 games on their schedule that I can see being losses with a fully-healthy team. But with anyone, especially Dallas, you can’t account for that. I just think that their margin for error is just too small, and their depth will be tested.

New York Giants

The G-men quietly had one of the best off-seasons in all of football. The biggest change is that Tom Coughlin, who was about 174 years old, is no longer at the helm. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do with newly-promoted Ben McAdoo, who has a really fun name to say.

On the offensive side of the ball, they have Odell Beckham Jr. That really helps any team, but he makes his receivers better by drawing attention. So if Eli Manning, as usual, can watch his turnovers, they can have a really solid year this year. Manning, whether you like to admit it or not, is a top-12-ish quarterback who is as capable as anyone at making plays to win. He has an excellent rapport with OBJ, especially since he basically just has to throw it in #13’s general vicinity. I don’t particularly love their other options. I think Larry Donnell sucks, Victor Cruz has been hurt since ‘Nam, and Dwayne Harris isn’t that great. Though Shane Vereen is a great pass-catching running back, I don’t love him actually rushing the ball. Other than him, they’ve basically got a next-man-up situation in their backfield. If they can just simply not mess up though, they’ll be fine.

Their defense improved greatly though. I don’t think Eli Apple was the right pick at #9 overall, especially since Vernon Hargreaves was still on the board. But, it’s the Giants’s team, and if they like him, then I can’t do anything about it. I think they’ll be frustrated with how many penalties he’ll take, as evidence by his time at Ohio State. But he’s going to mainly be working out of the slot this year unless things take a turn for the worse, which is a plus. They added Janoris Jenkins to go opposite of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and having Landon Collins over the top helps out. Adding Olivier Vernon will help out their pass rush, too. If they can get one more guy to help rush on the other side (because ‘Captain Hook’ ‘One-Hand Wonder’ Jason Pierre-Paul sucks), they’ll have a quality defense.

I’m not sure if the Giants are the best team in the NFC East. I’m sure that they’re the deepest though. I’m sure that they have a good coaching staff. And I’m sure this will be a bounce-back year for them.

Philadelphia Eagles 

It’s absolutely no secret that I despise Philadelphia athletics of all sorts. So watching them struggles through some quarterback turmoil before the season began, along with hiring a goon to coach them through their rebuilding phase, I have become a happy person. I think it’s going to be a long season at Century Link Stadium.

Offensively they traded up to go get North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. I wasn’t even sold on Jared Goff, and was less sold on Carson Wentz and his ability to perform at this level. Well, the Eagles do have the right idea, and they want him to sit and learn. So much so that they’re considering not even dressing his ass on gamedays. The keys to the car will instead go to Sam Bradford, who they resigned before basically saying “we don’t want you, oops, sorry” and shopped him around the league. So now they have a rookie signal-caller who won’t dress and an isolated starting quarterback who is a head case. All the while, their new head coach, Doug Pederson, is kind of a moron, and they don’t have any exceptional weapons offensively.

On defense, the Eagles aren’t that bad. They cut their dead weight, ushering Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso out the door. Connor Barwin, Fletcher Cox, and Malcolm Jenkins are all among the best of their positions in the NFC. Other than that, they’re kind of thin. Their secondary is really shoddy, and they tried to sure that up by bringing in Leodis McKelvin, who can’t do anything right.

I don’t see the Eagles being a good team this year, and I think that the Browns should be licking their chops, as they own Philly’s first round pick.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins proved to be a really solid team last year, especially whenever they played at home. They’ve got quality players on both sides of the ball, despite the fact that they don’t really have many superstars. They just win, though I do think that it’ll be an uphill battle to win the division again.

They like Kirk Cousins as their guy moving forward. Basically, he did last year what he did in college, which was simply win. It might not have been always pretty, and he may now be overpaid, but he took care of business. All the while, he did it without any drama, which they were happy to escape to begin the post-RGIII era, though his contract situation will be a looming factor this season. Washington’s weapons are full of guys that make you say, “they still play?”, with guys such as DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed and Pierre Garçon with most of the responsibility on the receiving end. They’re joined by rookie Josh Doctson out of TCU.

I really like the Redskins defense. Their secondary gained a boost by hauling in All-Pro corner Josh Norman on the free agency market. While I think his man coverage leaves a bit to be desired, Norman should fit in well with the ‘Skins’ defense by all accounts. It’ll help that they can get to the quarterback too, thanks to guys like Ziggy Hood and Ryan Kerrigan. I wouldn’t put them as a top-tiered defense, but they’re definitely capable of winning games and taking them into the playoffs.

I wasn’t that impressed with Washington’s roster last year. They benefitted from the rest of their division really sucking, but either way, their team was good enough for a showdown with the Packers. I think they got better, but so did almost every other team.

 

My NFC East Standings Prediction 

Giants (10-6), 4

Redskins (9-7)

Cowboys (7-9)

Eagles (5-11)

 

Italicized numbers indicate predicted playoff seeding.

Cover photo from

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