Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NFL Preview: NFC East

With just about two weeks to go until the start of the 2013 season, we come to the halfway point in my preview of every division. Today, we move on to the NFC East. The Washington Redskins came out of nowhere last season to take the division crown, and with a healthy RG3 (Robert Griffin III) returning to the team, they are poised to repeat. But both the Cowboys and Giants seem to have better all-around teams and the Philadelphia Eagles have made large strides towards competing with the rest of the division. This division, much like the rest of the divisions in the NFC should be up for grabs and come down to the final weeks of the season. Let's take a look:

Dallas Cowboys: Against my better judgment, and contrary to things that I've said in the last couple weeks, I'm actually picking the Dallas Cowboys to win the division this year and end their playoff drought. Tony Romo, for all the bashing that he takes in the media, actually is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and with all the talent around him (Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, etc), there's no reason why this team can't be a double-digit win team. The moves that they made in the off-season with regards to their coaching staff should make a huge difference with this team. They brought in one of the best defensive coordinators in the history of the game with Monte Kiffin, probably the best defensive line coach today in Rod Marinelli, and, in possibly the most impactful move, have taken the play-calling responsibilities away from head coach Jason Garrett and given them to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. These moves should be a huge upgrade on the defensive side, and take some of the pressure off the offense to outscore opponents.

New York Giants: I want to pick the Giants to win this division. I'm honestly not really sure why I'm not, other than the fact that I've been talked into thinking that the coaching staff moves are going to drastically improve the Cowboys. The Giants missed the playoffs last year, but if history is any indication, that probably means that the Giants are poised to make another run at the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning gets all the publicity, but Eli makes a strong case for being the better Manning brother. He has all the statistical markers of an elite quarterback, and he has one more ring than his older brother. The biggest move for the Giants this off-season isn't a move at all, it's getting a healthy Hakeem Nicks back to the team. The tandem of Nicks and Cruz has the potential to be the best 1-2 punch in the entire NFL, and paired with possibly the best QB in the NFL, it's hard to picture the Giants missing the playoffs for a second straight year.

Washington Redskins: In spite of winning the division last year and having a healthy RG3 returning to the team, it's hard for me to envision the Redskins repeating the success of last year. From purely a talent standpoint, Griffin may have the least around him of any of the quarterbacks in this division. Pierre Garcon is their only wide receiver of note, and on most other teams he would be a second or third option. At running back they have one of the biggest surprises from last season in Alfred Morris, but it's hard for me to imagine him having another year like he had last year. This combined with the talent the other team possess make it impossible for me to see the Redskins finishing any better than third in the NFC East this year.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Philadelphia Eagles are my pick to finish last in this division, but make no mistake about it, they are going to be a much-improved team this season. The hiring of Chip Kelly means that the Eagles are going to have a much more frenetic pace on offense, and the players seem to have bought into his scheme completely. Michael Vick, named as the starter today after a heated camp battle with Nick Foles, seems to have a renewed passion for the game and Kelly's system seems to be ideally suited for a guy of Vick's athletic ability. The loss of Jeremy Maclin is big, but with LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson still in the fold, I don't think that it's going to impact them as much as you might think. Philly should finish the year around the .500 mark, but are still not in a position to challenge for the playoffs. Yet.

Come back tomorrow as I round out the NFC with my look at the NFC South.

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