Next up, the NFC East. Let’s take a closer look at this tough division.
First: New York Giants (10-6)
Last year, the Giants were a mess as they went 3-13 and had to fire head coach Ben McAdoo mid-season after numerous amounts of conflict. However, much has changed since for the better. New York hired former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, one of the best offensive minds in football, drafted running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick to finally give quarterback Eli Manning an actual running game, signed left tackle Nate Solder to help fix one of the worst offensive lines from a season ago, and will now get receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back after he missed most of the season with an ankle injury. Add in the fact that they have one of the game’s most promising tight ends in Evan Engram, and this offense should be a top-five unit. Their defense isn’t the strongest, but with a strong defensive line and the addition n of linebacker Alec Ogletree, the Giants should be much better against their run while their secondary is just good enough to get buy. Nonetheless, their offense is too strong for them to not make a serious playoff push this season and should give them the edge over the rest of the NFC East.
Second: Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
The defending champ Eagles are due to regress this season. They lost significant pieces (TE Trey Burton, LB Mychal Kendricks, CB Patrick Robinson) and have uncertainty at quarterback. Even though he was the Super Bowl MVP, quarterback Nick Foles was awful during the regular season last season and the preseason this year, so it’s unclear if he can replicate the success if quarterback Carson Wentz misses substantial time with an ACL injury he suffered last season. (Foles is starting Week 1). They also are weak at linebacker and wide receiver, especially with the loss of Kendricks and receiver Alshon Jefferey missing at least two weeks with an injury. Nonetheless, the Eagles should still make the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Philadelphia has one of the best pass rushing units in the NFL, one of the best tight ends in Zach Ertz, and a solid secondary. They actually will finish with the same record as the Giants, but New York should win the head to head as Philadelphia’s weak linebacking core is a concern when facing Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram. Still, though, the Eagles are a top ten team in the NFL and are definitely still good enough to make the playoffs.
Third: Dallas Cowboys (7-9)
Two years ago, the Cowboys went 12-4 and got the number one seed in the NFL due to the emergence of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekial Elliot. Last year, due to Prescott’s regression and Elliot missing six games with a suspension, Dallas finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. This year, they should continue to regress. Poor Prescott has no one to throw to with one of the worst receiving corps and no capable tight ends after receiver Dez Bryant was cut and tight end Jason Witten retired. Also, their offensive line that was once the best in the NFL is dealing with multiple issues, with right guard Zack Martin dealing with a knee injury and center Travis Frederick dealing with health issues. On defense, Dallas has a strong linebacking core and solid pass rush manned by defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, but their secondary is way too young and thin for them to compete against the Giants and Eagles. Overall, Dallas just has too many holes for them to compete and would be lucky to have a record above .500.
Fourth: Washington Redskins (4-12)
Similar to the Lions in the NFC North, this prediction is more about how hard the Redskins schedule is than a reflection on their overall talent. Their schedule after the bye has them playing 12 of their 13 final games against teams that either made the playoffs or are serious playoff contenders. That may be too much for a team that has such a poor running game that they signed Adrian Peterson, don’t have a true #1 receiver, and an extremely thin secondary. Quarterback Alex Smith is solid, but he needs more talent around him to win than what he’s been given in Washington. There also is some young talent with defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne, but that’s where it stops as this team has a strange blend of inconsistency and veterans past their prime. That leaves the Redskins both in trouble now, where they have no chances of contending, and in trouble in the future.