My NFC East Predictions
Over the last decade, no division has been as competitive as the NFC East. In that time, every team has won the division at least once, and not one team has repeated as champion. Last season the Dallas Cowboys won the division, edging out the Philadelphia Eagles. I expect the division to be competitive again, with the same two teams vying for the top spot. I expect the streak of no repeat champions to continue at least one more year.
Division Winners – Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly has had a busy offseason. First, he went out and traded his starting QB Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for often injured QB Sam Bradford, whom Kelly says fits better in the offseason. Then, Kelly traded superstar HB LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for LB Keko Alonso. After failing to sign WR Jeremy Maclin, who had a breakout season last year, questions started swirling around Chip Kelly, his practices, and his ability to lead this team. In response, the Eagles stole last year’s rushing king, HB DeMarco Murray from their rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.
Kelly has answered his critics so far with a strong preseason. Bradford looks really good in this fast paced offense. Rookie first round pick (#20 overall) WR Nelson Agholor looks like he will be able to contribute right away. And with the addition of HB Darren Sproles, this offense has a bunch of reliable options for Bradford. If this offensive line can come together and get Murray even half the production he had a year ago, the Eagles should be in a good position this year.
Second Place – Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo had the best season of his career a year ago. Part of that was aided by the fact that they had the best rushing attack in the league, behind what is easily the best offensive line Romo has ever played with. But now the biggest contributor from a year ago, DeMarco Murray, is in Philly. They signed HB Darren McFadden to replace Murray, and McFadden is a completely capable back, but his issues have always come from the fact that he is made of peanut brittle, and will likely spend more time on the injury list than the field.
WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten will still make a bunch of plays for this offense, but the unit as a whole will take a step back. The defense, however, looks like it will be much better than a year ago. Even though they lost their best corner, CB Orlando Scandrick, to a torn ACL in the preseason they should still be better than they were. Their first round pick (#27 overall) CB Byron Jones should help fill some of the void left by Scandrick. And their second round pick (#60 overall) OLB Randy Gregory was a steal at that point after slipping out of his first round projection. This team will struggle this year, but they have too much talent, and could still make a playoff push.
Third Place – New York Giants (7-9)
The New York Giants have had a few down years in a row, and this season Tom Coughlin hopes to bounce back and return to the playoffs. Former Superbowl MVP QB Eli Manning will lead an offense that is short on talent and playmaking ability, with the exception of maybe two players. WR Odell Beckham Jr. made a name for himself a year ago with some big plays and one incredible one-handed catch along the sideline. WR Victor Cruz hopes to stay healthy and return to the form he was in during the Giants’ last championship run, but injury problems have already affected his progress.
The biggest free agent acquisition for the Giants might be former New England Patriots RB Shane Vereen, a versatile back who can excel in the passing game as well as carry the rock. They helped bolster their offensive line with their first round pick (#9 overall) OT Ereck Flowers from Miami. Then, in the second round (#33 overall) they grabbed perhaps the best safety in the draft, SS Landon Collins from Alabama. Though they have improved certain positions, this is still a team that lacks talent at skill positions, and I do not expect them in the playoffs this year.
Cellar Dwellers – Washington Redskins (2-14)
After a few tumultuous years in the nation’s capital the Washington Redskins have moved away from their franchise #2 overall selection in 2012, QB Robert Griffin III. They have named Kirk Cousins their starter moving forward. While RG3 has struggled to stay healthy he is the better quarterback, but neither can succeed, or likely even stay healthy, behind this porous offensive line. Griffin will find a home elsewhere and can still be productive, but this Redskins team will not be any good no matter who is throwing passes.
The Redskins have gotten tougher on defense, adding DT Terrence Knighton from Denver and SS DaShon Goldson from Tampa. With OLB Ryan Kerrigan returning from injury, if he can stay healthy this could be a fearsome defense. However, the offense will continue to struggle and if they play from behind, HB Alfred Morris will get less touches and it will fall squarely on Cousins’ shoulders. I just do not think there is enough around him to get the job done this season.