NFC East Preview

In this series, I will be breaking down each division in football, so expect 6 more articles just like this one being released every few days. In these breakdowns, I will talk about last season for each team, how they’ve changed since, and my expectations for them this year.

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Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Record (13-3), Predicted 2018 Record (11-5) {4 Seed}

“11-5??? FLY EAGLES FLY, WHAT IS THIS?” I can already hear it. Jokes aside. I see this as a fitting record. The Eagles just won the Super Bowl after starting QB Carson Wentz (MVP. Don’t @ me) went down in Week 14. They went into the playoffs behind backup Nick Foles and frankly embarrassed everyone they played in some way or another. They treated the 13-3 Vikings like they were the 1990 Buccaneers. That’s all that needs to be said for them here. 2018 Superbowl Champions. 

The Eagles didn’t get worse this offseason. You could argue they got better. They did lose Leggarette Blount, Mychal Kendricks, Torrey Smith, Vinny Curry, Nigel Bradham, and Trey Burton (RIP the 3rd best QB in the NFC East). However, they also added Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, and Mike Wallace. They made up for the TE losses with my favorite TE in the draft, Dallas Goedert. Josh Sweat #130th overall could also end up being a steal. They have a very good line with one of the best LTs in the game, the best RT, and one of the best centers. Chance Warmack and Taylor Hart also supply rather good quality depth in the trenches and that secondary is loaded. The Eagles lost some important guys from last year, but they seemed to replace them all with equally capable players with similar skillsets almost immediately.

They just won the Superbowl and have only gotten better. So how do they win two fewer games this year? Well, the division got better in some ways. Is that enough? Last season they won every single divisional game (Week 17 against Dallas does not count.) This year, I have them losing two divisional games (WAS and NY). The Giants kept both games last year strangely close despite having everything against them and Washington did basically the same. All of the games I have them losing could go either way. 11-5 is their floor to me, the ceiling could look like 15-1. Who cares anyway? 11-5 is good enough for the playoffs, and the way I predicted the games, they do make it in as the #4 seed. Now, whether or not I see them repeating back to back SB visits, let alone winning back to back is a different story. Let me say this though: I will not be surprised at all if they win the Superbowl again this season. Oh, by the way. Doug Pederson is the best coach in the NFL right now that’s not named Bill Belichick.

Wins: (Week 1 – Falcons, Week 2 – Buccaneers, Week 3 – Colts, Week 4 – Titans, Week 5 – Vikings, Week 8 – Jaguars, Week 10 – Cowboys, Week 12 – Giants, Week 14 – Cowboys, Week 16 – Texans, Week 17 – Redskins)

Losses: (Week 6 – Giants, Week 7 – Panthers, Week 11 – Saints, Week 13 – Redskins, Week 15- Rams)

Predicted Offensive Leaders: 

Carson Wentz, QB: 4,263 Yards, 62% Completions, 41 TDs, 9 INTs, 312 Rushing Yards, 3 TDs

Corey Clement, RB: 146 Attempts, 627 Yards, 5 TDs, 40 Receptions, 375 Yards, 3 TDs

Nelson Agholor, WR: 80 Receptions, 1,048 Yards, 8 TDs

Predicted Defensive Leaders:

Fletcher Cox, DT: 29 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 1 PDef, 1 FF

Malcolm Jenkins, S: 86 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks, 12 PDefs, 2 INTs

Brandon Graham, DE: 54 Tackles, 7.5 Sacks, 3 PDefs, 1 FF

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Washington Redskins: 2017 Record (7-9), Predicted 2018 Record (10-6) {7 Seed}

The first shocker in this series comes quickly with Washington being #2 in the NFC East in my book. Last season the Redskins went 7-9. That is sub .500. They also faced the injury bug more than almost any other team. The Redskins had the second most amount of contract money sitting on IR last season with $51.9M (Texans with $52M). That doesn’t even take into account the dozens of other starters who missed multiple games and/or played through injury. The Redskins had nearly a dozen offensive line combinations last season due to injury (not including in-game problems). They started their season dealing with a dramatic Sua Cravens who they had thought would be a starting safety until he decided not to play the season last second. They also started the season with five backups on IR and 2 starters on IR. By week 6, they had 3 more starters on IR, including Jonathan Allen who was dearly missed. The Redkins 82 Rushing YPG allowed with Allen would’ve been the second-best mark in the NFL. After the injury, they went into a landslide that landed them dead last in that category by years end. All in all, the Redskins had 30 players miss 3+ games last year, including 12 starters including Star LT Trent Williams, WR Terrell Pryor (who they received in a trade with Butterfingers), and 3DRB Chris Thompson.

Despite all the injuries, the Redskins somehow managed to tally 7 wins. The offseason has also treated Washington well for the most part. Fans are happy to hear the generic, “this is as healthy as I’ve been in a long time” from guys they want out there every Sunday (Hey, Jordan Reed). They also made some nice FA additions on top of having one of the best drafts this year. The Redskins lost Kirk. Some like that and some don’t, but what’s done is done. That beautiful Stallion named Kirk Cousins is grazing out in the plains of Minnesota now. To replace him, the Redskins brought in veteran signal caller Alex Smith, who once again got traded coming off of one of the best seasons of his career. The Redskins are crossing their fingers that FA WR addition Paul Richardson doesn’t turn out to be TP in a mask. They also went out and signed OLB Pernell McPhee for some depth and resigned some important guys like Mason Foster, Zach Brown, and Brian Quick. The draft treated Washington very well. They got a guy who can eat blocks like a guy that wears jewelry and low cut white t-shirts can eat sushi rolls with Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne in the first round. However, that wasn’t enough for them. Somehow, LSU RB Derrius Guice was still on the board when it came near time for Washington to pick in the second round. Even after trading down to land a 3rd round pick, he was STILL THERE at the end of the second and the Redskins happily stole him. They added raw athletic freaks like S Troy Apke and DT Tim Settle as well. The loss of Kendall Fuller, who I see as a future star CB in this league is something you simply can not overlook, sadly.

The fact that Washington went 7-9 in 2017 while being in the same division as the SB Champion Eagles and having absolutely nothing go their way health wise is something I can’t understand. Is Jay Gruden secretly a warlock? Whatever the reason may be, the simple fact that they did what they did with the people they did it with is really a special thing. I think the weapons in Washington for Alex Smith right now are definitely comparable to what he had in KC last season. They have a defensive line that could legitimately be Top 10 in rushing defense and a defense that is almost always Top 10 in sacks due to very consistent OLB Ryan Kerrigan. The secondary has potential as well. The notion that the Redskins are this very below average, 5-11 team, is just a grossly misinformed idea. This team makes that decimated middle of the season Redskins squad from last year look like a Pop Warner football team (at least on paper) and that’s reason enough to tack on three more wins in my mind.

Wins: (Week 1 – Cardinals, Week 2 – Colts, Week 6 – Panthers, Week 7 – Cowboys, Week 8 – Giants, Week 10 – Buccaneers, Week 11 – Texans, Week 13 – Eagles, Week 14 – Giants, Week 16 – Titans)

Losses: (Week 3 – Packers, Week 5 – Saints, Week 9 – Falcons, Week 12 – Cowboys, Week 15 – Jaguars, Week 17 – Eagles)

Predicted Offensive Leaders:

Alex Smith, QB: 3,867 Passing Yards, 65% Completions, 24 TDs, 5 INTs, 296 Rushing Yards, 3 TDs

Derrius Guice, RB: 235 Carries, 1,108 Yards, 9 TDs, 22 Receptions, 159 Yards, 1 TD

Josh Doctson, WR: 64 Receptions, 889 Yards, 9 TDs

Predicted Defensive Leaders:

Ryan Kerrigan, OLB: 44 Tackles, 12.5 Sacks, 2FFs

Josh Norman, CB: 70 Tackles, 15 PDefs, 2 INTs, 2 FFs

DJ Swearinger, S: 79 Tackles, 12 PDefs, 3 INTs

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New York Giants: 2017 Record (3-13), Predicted 2018 Record (8-8) {10 Seed}

Like the team we just went over, the New York Giants can owe a lot of their struggles from last season to a freak injury bug. The Giants didn’t really finish that good in many categories last year. The defense taking a huge step back sadly can’t be blamed on the injuries as much as the offensive struggles can. The Giants injuries lead to a total of 309 missed games from all the players combined. That mark was the most in the NFL by 16 (49ers). The Giants lost 3 starting wide receivers for what turned out to be the entire season in 1 game (week 5). Odell Beckham Jr, Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris all suffered leg injuries that would lead to them going on IR and Sterling Sheppard was also injured that game (played 11 total games). The Giants struggled all over last year. 27th in rush defense and 31st in pass defense (24 spots lower in rush defense from 2016). Offensively, they were 19th in the NFL in passing, 26th in rushing, and 31st in PPG.

The Giants offseason. A beautiful secret nobody is really talking about. They only talk about one this. The man with quads on his quads. Saquon Barkley. Barkley should immediately come and help that offense in big ways. He is a freak of nature. A man who is 6 ft tall and 230+ pounds should not be able to run a 4.4 flat and jump 41″ while also putting up 29 reps of 225. Watch his tape. He can cut as quick as LeSean McCoy but can also completely rock someone like Marshawn Lynch (although he tends not to). Barkley is about as sure to become elite as any rookie in the last 2 decades, but he’s not the only thing good that’s happening to you NY. Will Hernandez (G, UTEP), BJ Hill (DT, NC State), and Lorenzo Carter (OLB, Georgia) are all severely underrated draft picks. The Giants had a top 5 draft easily. Odell Beckham Jr is coming back. That offense is starting to look Top 15 at the very least if all goes right. Despite having the best run stuffing DT in the NFL with Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison (90.4 PFF grade) and a sure tackler in Landon Collins, the defense looks like it could once again struggle. They are under a new HC, and I don’t see that going really good or really bad. They did add depth and skill to their secondary and O-line which will help them overall greatly.

8-8. The Giants were one of the most disappointing stories of 2017. Most people expected them to be better than in 2016 and have an elite defense that would take them to double-digit wins and an NFC East crown. Injuries and internal drama stopped those hopes dead in their tracks. We are coming to the end of the Manning era. We said goodbye to the sheriff, but now it’s Eli’s turn to try to get to the promised land one more time. Since 1998, we have seen the last name “Manning” every single Sunday. At first, it was just Peyton, and then it was Peyton and Eli, and now only Eli. Soon we will no longer see that name on the field when we turn on our TVs. Whether or not you like Eli or think he was ever elite, we must respect the legacy. He has always taken criticism and hate with the utmost grace and composure. The Giants are building for now. They’re building for Eli to be able to win one more Superbowl. This team can make up for last seasons disappointment. I don’t see it happening this year, unfortunately. (Sorry for all that hype up!)

Wins: (Week 2 – Cowboys, Week 5 – Panthers, Week 6 – Eagles, Week 11 – Buccaneers, Week 13 – Bears, Week 15 – Titans, Week 16 – Colts, Week 17 – Cowboys)

Losses: (Week 1 – Jaguars, Week 3 – Texans, Week 4 – Saints, Week 7 – Falcons, Week 8 – Redskins, Week 10 – 49ers, Week 12 – Eagles, Week 14 – Redskins)

Predicted Offensive Leaders:

Eli Manning, QB: 3,794 Passing Yards, 62% Completions, 25 TDs, 13 INTs, 30 Rushing Yards

Saquon Barkley, RB: 290 Rushes, 1,450 Yards, 13 TDs, 45 Receptions, 486 Yards, 4 TDs

Odell Beckham Jr, WR: 94 Receptions, 1,287 Yards, 12 TDs

Predicted Defensive Leaders:

Damon Harrison, DT: 85 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 1 PDef

Landon Collins, S: 117 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks, 11 PDefs, 3 INTs

Alec Ogletree, LB: 101 Tackles, 1 Sack, 12 PDefs, 1 INT

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Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Record (9-7), Predicted 2018 Record (6-10) {14th Seed}

Zeke’s crop tops have finally come around to haunt Dallas. Last season for the Cowboys was a big regression from the 2016 campaign. The Zeke suspension ordeal, Dak’s dropoff, and the defenses dropoff (5th PPG in 2016 to 14th in 2017) all lead to a record with 4 fewer wins than in the year prior. Without Zeke in the lineup, Dak looks like he got exposed to really be nothing more than a 4th round QB. In those matchups, he posted just 5 TDs and 7 INTs. However, he did toss 5 TDs to 0 INTs in the two divisional games against NY and WAS (though they were both severely injured by this point). The Cowboys defense remained about average in almost every category and the offensive line remained elite.

Dallas lost Dez. He performed at a very good WR2 quality the past two seasons, but for some reason, that wasn’t enough reason for Dallas to want to keep him. They added two WRs (Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns) to help bolster up one of the biggest weak spots in their WR core. It should be noted, however, that it looks like Dallas is more interested in using Tavon Austin as an RB/gadget player than as a wide receiver. They kept breakout DE Demarcus Lawrence in the building on a one year deal with the franchise tag, released Orlando Scandrick (smart. smart.), and saw future HoF TE Jason Witten hang it up after 15 years. In the draft, they added to one of their few defensive strengths by giving Sean Lee some help named Leighton Vander Esch and in the second round, they made a strength even stronger by picking OT Connor Williams (50th overall).

I think Dak Prescott hit his ceiling in his rookie year. I also believe that Prescott’s new ceiling is about 10 feet lower. As long as they have their elite RB behind their elite O-Line, Dak should never do below average and the offense should never truly struggle. That comes with a but. No matter how good Elliott and that line play, the likely average QB play and below average WR core will not allow that offense to consistently steamroll teams like it did in 2016. Even so, you can probably expect a few games where they start to get hot offensively and embarrass opposing defenses. In some of those games though, you might see a loss at the end due to Dallas’ own shaky defense. Their defense has been consistently average for a few years now. That’s not a good thing. It’s also not at all a bad thing. I didn’t see them add enough to think the defense can make a jump and the offense can be as potent as in 2016. I often liken the Dallas defense to the Patriots defense in some ways. They won’t really jump out at you in many areas, but they consistently do their part and don’t allow many teams to walk all over them and they can bolster some fancy looking team stats by the end of the year. What I saw from Dallas last season and this offseason isn’t enough for me to give them a record leaning towards a plus win percentage. A lot of people once again have Dallas possibly going double-digit in wins or at least doing second best in the East. I see those double digit numbers being more likely to appear in the loss category. I won’t lie if I say I’ll be surprised if the Cowboys do anything better than 8-8, but you never know in this league and Zeke might be able to do it himself.

Wins: (Week 4 – Lions, Week 9 – Titans, Week 11 – Falcons, Week 12 – Redskins, Week 15 – Colts, Week 16 – Buccaneers)

Losses: (Week 1 – Panthers, Week 2 – Giants, Week 3 – Seahawks, Week 5 – Texans, Week 6 – Jaguars, Week 7 – Redskins, Week 10 – Eagles, Week 13 – Saints, Week 14 – Eagles, Week 17 – Giants)

Predicted Offensive Leaders: 

Dak Prescott, QB: 3,418 Yards, 64% Completions, 21 TDs, 10 INTs, 313 Rushing Yards, 5 TDs

Ezekiel Elliot, RB: 341 Rushes, 1,670 Yards, 14 TDs, 32 Receptions, 339 Yards, 2 TDs

Allen Hurns, WR: 71 Receptions, 908 Yards, 5 TDs

Predicted Defensive Leaders:

Sean Lee, ILB: 139 Tackles, 0.5 Sacks, 2 PDefs, 1 FF

Demarcus Lawrence, DE: 60 Tackles, 10.5 Sacks, 2 FFs

Chidobe Awuzie, CB: 51 Tackles, 12 PDefs, 2 INTs

If you had the NFC East predicted to go Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Dallas just two years ago, you’d be called crazy. This division is infamous in recent memory for always being a tossup for who’s number one every year. In 2016, these orders were reversed and each teams weakness has become their strength for the most part since then. It’s simple. The NFC East is always one of the most fun two watch and competitive divisions in the NFL. .It’s the first division ever to have all of its teams win a Superbowl. It is no secret that the league is simply more fun the more teams in the NFC East succeed. I would love to see all these teams somehow go 16-0, but for now, I just have to believe that at least 3 of three teams can sneak a winning record out of this season. I can definitely see that happening.

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