Oh the NFC East, full of question marks, expectations and complete failures. Are the Cowboys bound for the playoffs again?
Last year the Dallas Cowboys finally broke through after a trio of 8-8 seasons to take the NFC East title with a 12-4 record. Dallas went 8-0 on the road and 8-4 within their division to leave the Philadelphia Eagles in their dust. Philly started strong before dropping three of its last four to finish at 10-6. The Giants lost seven straight at one point last year and Washington lost six in a row to round out the division.
The Cowboys open as +125 favorites to win the division and now is the time we’ll see how important DeMarco Murray was to the Cowboys’ attack. He was a big reason that Dallas finished second in rushing last year, but the Cowboys let him fly to Philly in free agency. That’s because many think anyone can run behind Dallas’ offensive line. We’ll soon find out as they lean on a combination of Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and newly-acquire vet Darren McFadden. The good news is Dez Bryant and a strong defence returns, but Dallas’ success will once again hinge on the running game. If the Cowboys can’t run, Tony Romo is a sitting duck in the backfield.
However this season plays out for the Philadelphia Eagles, head coach Chip Kelly is going to be in the spotlight. He sent, or at least allowed, big name stars LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson to skip town and brought in Sam Bradford, Ryan Mathews, DeMarco Murray – players who in theory should fit in well with Philly’s up-tempo system. However, that’s a lot of new pieces trying to grasp a convoluted offence. Plus, Byron Maxwell and rookie Eric Rowe are coming in fresh as the projected starting cornerbacks. If they can’t make a big difference, Philly will be chasing a lot of leads. If you’re betting Philly to be in the mix to win the division, you’re gambling the new Eagles mesh well and catch on to their systems quickly because they can’t afford a slow start.
The Giants could be the surprise of this division. With Eli Manning firing footballs to Odell Beckham Jr. and a healthy Victor Cruz, plus Rashad Jennings and newcomer Shane Vereen, the offensive outlook appears bright. Manning is coming off career highs in completion percentage and went on record that the team is aiming to score 31 points per game. That could be a little optimistic but the Giants should be a better team all-around this year and especially on defence. New York ranked 29th in total defence last year and will improve under Steve Spagnuolo. It may take a while, but he’ll make a difference on that side of the ball.
The Washington NFL team is searching for an identity – and that’s outside the controversy of its nickname. Washington is going back to the well at quarterback with Robert Griffin III but he’s in the hot seat to show the game-breaking ability he displayed in his rookie season. If not, the wheels may come off Washington’s season in a hurry. Washington averaged just 18.8 points per game last year and just lost wideout DeSean Jackson in training camp to a shoulder injury. This is a team that’s already lacking offensive playmakers so any injury will be tough. As for the defence, Washington allowed 27.4 points per game last year and have totally reconstructed that unit since then. Jay Gruden will make the defence nasty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be much better.