By: Cory Vest
The NFC East is one of the most exciting divisions in football. Any one of the four teams making up the NFC East could find themselves in first place at the end of the year. Not only can these teams take their respective division, but a deep playoff run isn’t far-fetched for any of the four either. Marquee names, big time talent, and exciting play come together to create the NFC East. The New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins all suit up and play in the NFC East.
1. New York Giants – Over/Under 9.0
Odell Beckham Jr. lines up wide for the G-men. Making circus catches is OBJ’s trademark. Beckham Jr. is a nightmare for opposing defenses. Odell elevates the Giants’ offense to impressive levels. Accompanying the talents of Beckham Jr. is last year’s WR2 Sterling Shepard. As a rookie Shepard played well, tallying 683 yards on 65 catches while finding the end-zone 8 times. Shepard’s play did not warrant a drop in the depth chart, but the addition of Brandon Marshall does. Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard create a three-headed monster that no defense wants to slay. Feeding the beast is Eli Manning. Manning has always been a solid quarterback and a trio of talent around him should have Eli playing at his best. The Giants’ backfield is a bit murky as unproven Paul Perkins will see opening snaps. Shane Vareen and Orleans Darkwa will get their chances as backups.
The Giants made it a point to improve their defense with acquisitions last year. The acquisitions paid off and the defense improved. One of the tougher defenses last year will be one of the best defenses again this year. A front line that can stop the rush is complimented by a blanketing secondary. A cornerback crew composed of Eli Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Janoris Jenkins makeup the defense’s three headed monster. Even the best offenses will be hard pressed for points when facing this ferocious defense.
An offense that can put up points and a defense that can prevent points; the Giants are Super Bowl bound finishing 11-5. The road to Super Bowl LII will sharpen and polish the Giants enough to take down the defending champs. Eli Manning and the Giants remain perfect in the Super Bowl against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
2. Dallas Cowboys – Over/Under 9.5
The buzz around Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension continues as the second appeal led to a window of hope. Elliot may still end up getting his suspension reduced or even cleared. Entering his second year, Elliot set himself up for high expectations as he took the league by storm his rookie season. Fellow backfield mate Dak Prescott fought for the spotlight as he strung together a rookie campaign worthy of the Rookie of the Year award. Whether Elliot gets suspended or not, the Dallas offensive line will open up holes for anyone playing running back. Alfred Morris would be the man stepping in for Elliot. Prescott’s main target will be Dez Bryant yet again. Bryant is capable of being a top receiver in the league. Cole Beasley offers a tough and reliable target in the slot. Tried and true Jason Witten continues to hold down the tight end position for the ‘boys.
The defense was great against the rush last year but faulty against the pass. This year will be no different for the Cowboys. The defense does its job during the regular season but meets its match in the first round of the playoffs. Requiring the offense to get into a shootout isn’t the end of the world, but the offense will fail to keep pace when it counts.
The Cowboys fail to simulate last year’s impressive record but a 9-7 record will be good enough to place them in the playoffs. Prescott and Elliot see a decline in production and bad breaks will lead to costly defeats. The Cowboys will be a better team than the 9-7 record reflects, but will not be good enough to make a deep playoff run.
3. Philadelphia Eagles – Over/Under 8.0
The Eagles were flying high after the first three games of last season. That all quickly faded as the Eagles posted a 7-9 record. Carson Wentz will begin his second year. Wentz welcomes Alshon Jeffery to the offense. The 6’3” target should improve a subpar receiving group. If Jeffery can stay healthy then Wentz will see his numbers improve. Torrey Smith is a new face to the receiving group as well. Smith’s speed on the outside offers Wentz a big play target. Another name to be learned in the locker room is LeGarrette Blount. The bruiser of a back hails from New England. Blount has the ability to rumble for big yardage, but is strength lies in goal line and short to go carries. Darren Sproles is the big play man in the backfield.
The Eagles defense is one to be reckoned with. Jim Schwartz takes over the Defensive Coordinator duties. Last year’s defense was above average but a lackluster offense resulted in defeats. The defense will see an improvement as will the offense.
Stuck in a blood bath of a division, the Eagles will fall on the wrong end of divisional matchups. Tough wins are matched with tough losses as the Eagles finish 8-8 on the season. Potential is ready to be tapped as the Eagles are on the fringe of a playoff appearance.
4. Washington Redskins – Over/Under 7.5
DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both parted ways with Washington this offseason. Stepping into their place will be former Cleveland Brown Terrelle Pryor Sr. Pryor will do a fine job taking the place of one missing receiver, but not both. Kirk Cousins will have old friends Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed receiving majority of the targets. Rob Kelley did well last year in his rookie season as he started 9 games and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Kelley will be an average running back who posts an explosive game or two. Overall this offense has potential to explode but will do so few and far between.
The defensive unit for Washington is underwhelming. Big plays and points are there for the taking for opposing offenses. With an offense not quite equipped to put up big points on a weekly basis, the team drops more games than they win and finish the season at 7-9.