The NFC East, dubbed by many as the NFC Least, has been the most unpredictable division in all of pro football for at least a decade. The New York Giants can go from winning the Super Bowl to missing the playoffs in the following four years. The Dallas Cowboys will win the NFC East, then precede to collapse in the playoffs and fade into irrelevancy the next season when Tony Romo breaks his collarbone. The Washington Redskins have the ability to resurrect themselves from the pits of the abyss and win the NFC East out of nowhere. Heck, even the only team in the division without a Super Bowl in their history (Philadelphia Eagles) have the potential to wreak havoc within the NFC East. I have copious notes on which team should, by all accounts, win the division this year, but one small injury can completely alter my prediction severely. That is why this entire article is based on the contingency that the star players on each roster will remain on the field for a majority of the season, and any possible prolonged absences by any of these athletes will not be taken into account. Let’s get started with the team that will finish dead last!
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a.k.a the NFC East.
4th. Philadelphia Eagles (6-10 overall; 2-4 in division)
Sam Bradford did not necessarily have the strongest season last year, and he may not last as the starting quarterback for all 16 games. (Photo courtesy of Philly.com)
The Philadelphia Eagles will be entering a transition year in the 2016-2017 season as they are trying to make amends for Chip Kelly’s atrocious acquisitions during his short-lived tenure as head coach. The signing of DeMarco Murray was deplorable due to the fact that his style of running would never mesh cohesively with the offense that Kelly was attempting to execute. After trading him to the Tennessee Titans to simply move up 13 picks in the fourth round, the Eagles then preceded to trade Kiki Alonso (who was swapped for LeSean Mccoy in a 2015 trade), Byron Maxwell (the $63 million cornerback), and the 13th overall pick in the first round in exchange for the 8th overall pick from the Miami Dolphins. All in all, the Eagles have spent the offseason cleansing themselves of the mad-scientist experiments that Chip Kelly conducted throughout his three years with the organization. Besides getting rid of notable Kelly-related acquisitions, Riley Cooper, who was inexplicably left on the roster after incessant average play and uttering the n-word, was released by the team and is currently a free agent. The Eagles also moved up to the 2nd overall spot in the 2016 Draft in order to select the quarterback out of North Dakota State, Carson Wentz. The Philadelphia Eagles definitely have talent for the upcoming year, but the question marks at the quarterback position and on the defensive side of the ball leads me to believe that this team will be heading toward a down-year next season. I will give them two wins in the division because no matter how a team may seem to be heading toward a down-year in the NFC East, they always seem to play their best games against their rivals. The Eagles may have a comeback year for the 2017-2018 season, but the organization will most likely settle for a year of Carson Wentz comprehending the system under Doug Pederson and receiving a top-ten pick.
3. Washington Redskins (9-7; 3-3 in division)
Kirk Cousins may not be liking the outcome of the 2016-2017 season. (Photo Courtesy of Matt Hazlett of Getty Images)
I am going to say this upfront and without hesitation: Kirk Cousins has not proven himself yet to me. I understand that he passed for over 4,100 yards last year after taking over for Robert Griffin III, and he posted 29 TD’s with a superb 101.6 passer rating. He carried the Washington Redskins to a 9-7 record and a postseason birth, which is astounding for a team that only won 7 games in the two seasons prior to last. As an investigative journalist for The Joe Show, however, I need to inform the audience of a few statistics that may somewhat diminish the accomplishments of the former Michigan State quarterback. In the seven losses suffered by the Redskins with Cousins under center last year, Kirk only posted a passer rating above 90 one time, which came against the egregious Dallas Cowboys. Cousins never beat a team that finished the season above .500 last year, he was inefficient in road games (started the year 0-5 away from home), and he did not show up in the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers. Mr. “You Like That” may want to evaluate the justifications for his poor play against superior football teams and how he can bolster his performances under such circumstances. That is why the Redskins will finish third in the NFC East this year. They may have signed Jordan Reed to a contract extension and kept together one of the best wide-receiving corps in the NFL, but they also lost running back Alfred Morris. They may have also signed cornerback Josh Norman from the Panthers and resigned Junior Galette, but they also lost defensive end Jason Hatcher (retirement) and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton to the Patriots. The holes at running back and at the defensive line positions, coupled with whether Kirk Cousins can take his game to a whole other level this year, makes me believe that the Redskins are poised for their third playoff miss in four years.
2. New York Giants (10-6; 4-2 in division)
Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. can be the catalysts that catilpult the Giants back to the playoffs. (Photo Courtesy of Elsa Garrison from Getty Images)
The New York Giants gave up the most yards (6,725) defensively last year, propelling general manager Jerry Reese to immediately make swift moves to renovate that side of the pigskin. In order to fix the worst defense from a year ago, Reese signed Olivier Vernon from the Dolphins, Janoris Jenkins from the Rams, Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the New York Jets, and they resigned the explosive Jason Pierre-Paul. The former three athletes never made the pro-bowl in their short careers, but the upside is tremendous for the Giants. Olivier Vernon has the potential to be one of the top pass rushers in the league, Janoris Jenkins can be an effective cornerback alongside Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie if he limits the amount of big plays that he gives up, and Damon Harrison was listed as the 3rd-best nose tackle in the entire league by Bleacher Report. The New York Giants now have a defense that makes it plausible to anticipate a much needed turnaround in the upcoming season. The offensive side of the ball for the Giants will be the determining factor for the 2016-2017 campaign because if they are as dynamic as they can be, it will drastically alter the results of the NFC East. If Victor Cruz returns back to Salsa Cruz like he was in 2011, all bets are off as the Big Blue will be legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the NFC. The high-powered tandem that Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. could potentially become is something that should scare the NFL in general. With Eli Manning’s phenomenal improvement under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo (who replaced Tom Coughlin as the head coach), there may need to be a Lethal Weapon 5 movie documenting the Giant’s offense this year. Unfortunately, since Victor Cuz hasn’t proven to be himself in three years, it will have to be a situation where we will evaluate his status and production as the season progresses. The New York Giants will finish second in the NFC East and will secure a wild card berth in the NFC playoffs, where they have proven to do the unimaginable since their stellar run in the 2008 playoffs.
- Dallas Cowboys (11-5; 5-1 in division)
We know what Tony Romo and Dez Bryant can do when healthy. Will Ezekiel Elliot have a DeMarco Murray type-effect on the Cowboys? (Photo Courtesy of Elliot’s Twitter Account)
The Dallas Cowboys are easily the most offensively talented squad in the NFC East. Tony Romo has proven to be one of the best quarterbacks in terms of statistical accomplishments in the entire NFL since he began starting in 2006. Dez Bryant is an elite wide receiver in this league, and the combination of Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Lucky Whitehead makes it impossible for teams to double Bryant without consequences. Jason Witten is Romo’s safety blanket when the pocket collapses, and the Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive line in the entire NFL. On top of all this proficiency, the Cowboys signed Alfred Morris from the Washington Redskins for a cheap deal, and they drafted the high-octane Ezekiel Elliot out of Ohio State. The return of cornerback Orlando Scandrick, the development of linebacker Anthony Hitchens, and the defensive coaching capabilities of Rod Marinelli are all positive signs for the Cowboys. There are an abundance of questions surrounding the Dallas Cowboys on the defensive end of the ball, however, as they have suffered numerous suspensions and constant injury concerns. Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence have been suspended for four games due to a violation in the substance abuse policy, and Rolando McClain may never see the field again based on his offseason addictions. The fortunate aspect of this situation is that America’s Team will be facing teams with a combined 26-38 record from last year to begin the first four games of the season. The Silver and Blue also face injury question marks with linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Morris Claiborne as the two have never played in 16 games throughout the course of their respected careers. The success of another NFL franchise may give some hope to the Cowboys for this upcoming season. The Dallas Cowboys were very similar defensively to the Pittsburgh Steelers two years ago in terms of points per game, yards per game, and total penalty yards, and actually scored two more points per game offensively during that season. The Steelers have made the playoffs over the last two years because of an incredibly-gifted offense with a marginal defense that keeps them afloat. If the Cowboys are efficient offensively as we know that they are capable of, their defense is stable enough to carry them to their second division title in three years.
All stats, information on team records, and 2016 schedule is courtesy of ESPN.com and NFL.com
Information about the Giants’ offseason signings can be found here: http://nypost.com/2016/03/09/giants-woo-olivier-vernon-to-cap-200m-spending-spree/
Photo of quarterbacks is courtesy of https://mybookie.net/news/nfl/2016-nfc-east-free-betting-picks/