The NFC East is always a stud division. It is without a doubt one of the toughest divisions in football year in and year out. Let's take a look at who stands out amongst the teams this year in the division.
The Cowboys are probably the most underachieving team year after year in this league. They come into every season as the perennial favorites to win the division and yet they very rarely come through. This year expectations aren’t as high as fans are starting to believe in the Eagles and they know how potent the Giants can be. Dallas returns a bevy of starters on offense and that group will be led by Tony Romo. Romo is coming off a spectacular season but still he can’t get the Cowboys over the hump and into the post season with consistency. Even when he gets them there, he doesn’t do much once he arrives.
Pressure will be on Romo to make it happen in Big D. In fact with the supporting cast and draft picks, the Cowboys ownership has to be claiming a sense of urgency on this Cowboys roster. The backfield will still be dynamic as the Cowboys will feature DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. This duo will be amongst the most potent of duos in the league and I suspect you can bet on big things from Jones as he goes to the specialist and clean up back that he played in college. The biggest issue for both of these guys is that they are injury prone.
The offense will also feature a dynamic duo in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Both of these guys have had problems staying on the field at the same time and if they can both stay healthy and consistent, Romo’s stats will improve tremendously.
Defensively the Cowboys are a microcosm of inconsistency. The front seven is as good as anyone in the game but the secondary has been as generous as a seven dollar hooker. The Cowboys hope to have rectified this problem moving up in the draft to get Morris Claiborne. They also finally gave up on Terrance Newman who could never stay healthy and was getting burned more than a perm that has stayed in too long.
Projection – 2nd Place
New York Giants
After a stellar 2011 campaign that ended with their fourth Super Bowl title, the New York Giants are ready for another run. They had a solid draft, selecting five offensive players, including Virginia Tech RB David Wilson and Cincinnati TE Adrien Robinson to fill the voids left by Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham.
New York also did well in free agency, solidifying the linebacker, tight end and special teams positions.
The biggest concern for the Giants has to be the health of Hakeem Nicks and complacency after winning another Super Bowl title. Typically after winning a Super Bowl, teams have a slight let down and they don’t perform as well as they would in normal situations. The Giants hope to be the exception as Eli will lead his troops into the war that is the NFC East.
One thing is for sure, the Giants can start slow and still win a championship as they have proven a couple of times now.
Projection – 3rd Place
The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles season will be the franchise's upcoming 80th season in the National Football league, as well as the 10th playing their home games at Lincoln Financial Field. The team hopes to return to the playoffs and contend for a Super Bowl, following a disappointing 8–8 finish to the 2011 season. The Eagles traded the 15th selection in the 2012 NFL Draft to the Seattle Seahawks along with a 4th round pick and a 6th round pick in exchange for the 12th pick. They selected defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a plethora of talent on offense and defense, which makes them an annual NFC East favorite. Expectations were high last season, but look for a better start out of the gate from Michael Vick and company.
From a passing perspective, Vick recorded career highs in passing attempts and passing yards. As long as he is playing under Andy Reid, Vick will be airing the ball out often to his speedy receivers. Injuries and an overall down year have placed a hit on Vick's stock, but he is still a solid option once the elite signal-callers are gone; just be sure to have a backup plan in place.
LeSean McCoy has emerged as a top back in the NFL. After recording 1,624 total yards and scoring 20 total touchdowns, McCoy demonstrated that he can be counted on to be a dependable, all-around back. Because he's so effective as a runner and receiver, McCoy will always be in line to produce on a consistent basis. He may not score 20 touchdowns in 2012, but do not expect too much of a dropoff.
DeSean Jackson finally got his newly-desired contract and can now turn his full attention to his play on the field. Jackson is a threat to go off on any given week for big numbers. His counterpart Jeremy Maclin is the better overall receiver because he runs more diverse routes. Maclin has the size to catch passes across the middle, but is also fast enough to stretch the field.
Defensively the Eagles defense severely underperformed after bringing in a host of big-name free agents. For much of the season the defense struggled in stopping the run and getting key stops, but they were tied for first in sacks with the Minnesota Vikings. Jason Babin and Trent Cole are elite pass rushers as they combined for 30 of the team's 50 sacks.
The defense also closed out the season on a positive note, as they surrendered an average of 11.5 points per game in their final four contests. During the offseason, the Eagles drafted defensive tackle Fletcher Cox in the first round of April's draft and traded for DeMeco Ryans, who should improve the overall play of their front-seven.
Prediction – 1st Place
The Redskins will have to play this season as a tune up for the future. They start the season with a brand new quarterback and a fairly young football team. Robert Griffin III will be a bolster to the club as he takes over behind center. Griffin has the looks of a quarterback who can put up big numbers with his passing and running ability, but he's just a rookie surrounded with average offensive talent.
Roy Helu will be Washington's feature running back to start the season. Helu played sparingly behind Tim Hightower in the first half of 2011, but took on a heavier workload as the season progressed. From Weeks 12 to 15, he received at least 23 carries and in three of those games, totaled at least 100 rushing yards. Not only is Helu a strong, decisive runner, but he is also a capable receiving option out of the backfield.
Wide receiver is another wild card for this team. Leonard Hankerson, Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan figure to be Griffin's primary receiving targets. They complement Griffin's strong arm as each receiver can stretch the field with their speed. In Week 10, Hankerson showed his potential, recording eight receptions for 106 yards. Unfortunately in the same game, he suffered a season-ending hip injury.
Defensively the Redskins have skilled pass rushers in place with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, but the rest of the unit is shaky. Washington had difficulty stopping the run and pass last year, so further struggles are expected since they did not make any significant upgrades in the offseason.
Prediction – Last Place