In this segment I am going to preview every team in the NFL, division by division, and predict their level of success throughout the season. Today, I will cover the NFC East and over the next several days work my way to the AFC East.
1. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
(Notable games: Week 1 – September 12th at Washington, Week 6 – October 17th at Minnesota, Week 7 – October 25th vs. New York Giants, Week 9 – November 7th at Green Bay, Week 10 – November 14th at New York Giants, Week 12 – November 25th vs. New Orleans, Week 13 – December 5th at Indianapolis, Week 17 – January 2nd at Philadelphia)
The Cowboys have a very tough schedule this season, coinciding with them being in arguably the toughest division in all of football, the regular season record may not be as good as many expect. Their only sure fire wins on the whole schedule seem to be week 8 vs. Jacksonville and week 16 at Arizona. But, as we all know, the NFL season never turns out as everyone expects it to. Tony Romo seems poised to have a big season. He certainly has enough weapons around him with Miles Austin, a motivated Roy Williams, and rookie wide out Dez Bryant; not to mention his best friend Jason Witten. Along with the passing game, Dallas presents a three-headed monster in the backfield. Felix Jones seems to be in line to get most of the carries this season, while Marion Barber is transforming into more of a goal-line back. As always, Tashard Choice will fill in wonderfully for an injured running back (or two) and exceed expectations. The Cowboys’ defense hasn’t changed much from last season…but did it really have to? I look for the Cowboys to finish first in the NFC East, but by a smaller margin than most expect. As for the Super Bowl, I don’t put you in that game until you prove that you can make it. A Cowboys’ loss in the NFC Championship game? Sounds good to me.
2. New York Giants (10-6)
(Notable games: Week 2 – September 19th at Indianapolis, Week 7 – October 25th at Dallas, Week 10 – November 14th vs. Dallas, Week 14 – December 12th at Minnesota, Week 16 – December 26th at Green Bay, Week 17 – January 2nd at Washington)
Similarly to the Cowboys, the G-Men have a very tough schedule this year as well. One game vs. Jacksonville looks like the only gimme on the schedule. Last season, the Giants’ offense, their passing attack in particular, exceeded expectations as Eli Manning turned Steve Smith (yes, the not as good Steve Smith) into a 1,200 yard receiver, while making Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks into 800 yard receivers. Nicks is one year more experienced and looks to take his game to the next level, while Smith will no longer surprise teams, so his play needs to rise to the occasion. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw will be a productive combination for the Giants in the backfield, but offensive inconsistencies will limit the potential success for the G-Men. At least on paper, the Giants’ pass rush is very intimidating. Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Osi Umenyiora will be a combined force to reckon with, while a healthy Chris Canty will hope to be a run stopper up the middle. Although their linebackers as a whole scare me, the pressure on the quarterback will help to alleviate a lot of pressure off of the back seven of that defense. I expect the Giants to sneak in as a wild card team, but making it anywhere past the divisional round is a bit ambitious.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
(Notable games: Week 1 – September 12th vs. Green Bay, Week 9 – November 7th vs. Indianapolis, Week 11 – November 21st vs. New York Giants, Week 14-17 – at Dallas, at New York Giants, vs. Minnesota, vs. Dallas)
As much excitement surrounds Kevin Kolb and the Eagles’ offense, I truly believe that the loss of Donovan McNabb hurts the team. Parting ways with a quarterback who has 11 years of experience, over 32,000 passing yards, 216 touchdowns, one NFC Championship, and five trips to the NFC Championship game certainly can not be beneficial to a team. But, Andy Reid parted ways with his buddy McNabb, and now it’s Kolb’s turn to run the show. He certainly is equipped with the best set of offensive weapons that have been in Philadelphia since McNabb’s tenure began. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek look to all have big seasons in the Eagles’ offensive system. Combine those targets with the pass catching ability to LeSean McCoy, and the Eagles’ offense should be pretty proficient. On the defensive side of the ball, they also looked to be ready for a big season. Their defensive line is stacked with talent, especially with rookie end Brandon Graham on the left side. Graham has made a seemless transition from college to the pros and looks to have a big rookie campaign. Ernie Sims adds some speed and playmaking ability to the Eagles’ linebacking corps but that is still an area of concern. Ellis Hobbs looks to be starting opposite of Asante Samuel this year, and as all of us Patriots’ fans know, that can be a scary thought. Inexperience and inconsistent play from Kolb costs the Eagles a few games, but 9-7 in the nest division in football isn’t that bad. Sadly, the Eagles miss out on a playoff spot, leading to questions about the McNabb move.
4. Washington Redskins (8-8)
(Notable Games: Week 1 – September 12th vs. Dallas, Week 5 – October 10th vs. Green Bay, Week 6 – October 17th vs. Indianapolis, Week 12 – November 28th vs. Minnesota, Week 13 – December 5th at New York Giants, Week 15 – December 19th at Dallas, Week 17 – January 2nd vs. New York Giants)
Mike Shanahan is an animal. He has changed this team dramatically since taking over earlier this year. From a new franchise quarterback, a remodeled offensive line, to a improved defensive unit, the Redskins’ fortunes are looking up from their lowly 2009 season. The one glaring weakness on this team is a playmaking wide receiver. Santana Moss really isn’t that guy anymore, and Joey Galloway isn’t looking like he can do the job either. Chris Cooley is looking to have a huge season because of his skill set and McNabb’s infatuation with checking down to tight ends, but that still doesn’t solve the problem at receiver. With a better offensive line, and run-happy Shanahan at the helm, Clinton Portis looks to revive his career, but again, that doesn’t solve the receiver problem. A new-look defensive line featuring a disease ridden Albert Haynesworth, combined with a good group of linebackers and one of the most underrated secondaries in the league have Redskins’ fans hopeful for a great 2010, but that still doesn’t solve the problem at receiver. Shanahan and McNabb will not let this team win less than eight games, but without a wide receiver to speak of, that’s all they get.