Philadelphia won a shootout of a Super Bowl against the Patriots last season to claim their first Lombardi trophy in franchise history. The rest of the division was rather mediocre in 2017, Dallas was the only other team to finish better than .500. Over the last decade, each of the teams in the NFC East has won the division at least twice and no team has more than three division titles.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
With a healthy Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Sidney Jones, the Eagles may field a more talented team than last season’s championship group. Howie Roseman has built a deep roster for head coach Doug Peterson to work with. A rock solid offensive line led by Peters, Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce provide the quarterback with ample time to find top targets Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz. Former Raven Mike Wallace was also brought in to serve a complementary role. Philadelphia’s defensive line is stout across the board with Derek Barnett, Tim Jernigan, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, while Malcolm Jenkins quarterbacks a fast, young secondary. Overall, the Eagles are well positioned to repeat.
2. New York Giants
The G-Men had a nightmare 2017 season that ended with 13 losses, they are hoping to rebound to their 11-win 2016 form under new head coach Pat Shurmur. The key, of course, will be the health of game breaking receiver Odell Beckham. New York has rebuilt the left side of their offensive line and surrounded Eli Manning with a wealth of playmakers, including rookie running back Saquon Barkley, tight end Evan Engram and slot receiver Sterling Shepard. On defense, nose tackle Damon Harrison shuts down the run. Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins spearhead an opportunistic secondary. If Shurmur’s offensive system leads to an efficient Manning, expect the Giants to be in wild card contention.
3. Dallas Cowboys
Head coach Jason Garrett returns to lead America’s team for another season, the strength of the Cowboys is clearly their outstanding offensive line. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zach Martin and rookie Connor Williams should pave the way for another highly productive season for Ezekiel Elliott. However, the utter lack of proven pass catchers could put too much pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott. After slapping the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas still fields a below average defensive lines as well as one of the least talented secondaries in the league. They will need healthy seasons from linebackers Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to salvage a respectable defense, and keep the team in wildcard contention.
4. Washington Redskins
After completely mismanaging Kirk Cousins’ contract situation, this franchise appears to be spinning in circles. Alex Smith was brought in to quarterback a Jay Gruden offense that also added vertical threat Paul Richardson and rookie back Derrius Guice. If Trent Williams and company return to health, the offensive line should also be a strength. Their defensive depth chart lacks playmakers beyond shutdown corner Josh Norman and Pro Bowl edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan. Ultimately, Washington will be hard pressed to keep pace with pass first teams in a loaded NFC.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz will look to produce an encore to his second year success that was cut short by an ACL and LCL injury in Week 14. Unlike some other past Super Bowl winners, the Eagles have been able to add pieces to their championship roster this offseason. Philadelphia acquired defensive end Michael Bennett from the Seahawks, signed former Ravens Haloti Ngata and Mike Wallace and also exercised their fifth-year option on wide receiver Nelson Agholor. With the rest of the division being led by quarterbacks with something to prove, the Eagles have the luxury of both depth and success at the game’s most important position.
2. Dallas Cowboys
With the Ezekiel Elliott suspension drama no longer holding the Cowboys offense captive, Dak Prescott will have the opportunity to try to bounce back from his sophomore slump with the support of his elite offensive line and production from Elliott for the entire year. After cutting polarizing figure Dez Bryant in the offseason, the Cowboys will have to lean on veteran Cole Beasley to fill the void and mentor rookies like Michael Gallup out of Colorado State. As always, Dallas will be hoping to have a fully healthy Sean Lee to anchor their defense. However, in his eight seasons in the NFL, the linebacker has yet to play in all 16 games in a season. With the spotlight perpetually shining bright on “America’s team” it is either feast or famine in Dallas. Look for a talented young core to emerge and compete for a wildcard berth in the NFC this season.
3. New York Giants
After recording the second-worst QBR of his career in 2017, the Giants are left to wonder if there is anything left in the tank for Eli Manning as he enters his 15th NFL season. Thankfully, New York drafted arguably the most explosive athlete in the class when they selected Penn State’s Saquon Barkley with the second pick. Barkley will be an immediate threat to Elliott’s reign as the top running back in the division and will hopefully relieve some pressure off of Manning by providing a formidable ground game. The Giants will look to a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. to capitalize on a more balanced offensive attack to get the franchise out of the basement and into playoff contention once more. Otherwise, the Giants will likely be in full rebuild mode come winter.
4. Washington Redskins
Will the Redskins Kirk Cousins gamble pay off? Or will Daniel Synder’s notorious reputation for alienating his organization’s talent prove to continue to cripple the Redskins? While new quarterback Alex Smith threw for over 4,000 yards for the first time in his career in 2017 and a career-high 26 touchdowns, Kansas City decided to part ways with Smith after five seasons largely due to his playoff woes. Though the Redskins will certainly benefit for Smith’s veteran experience and productivity, Washington will likely struggle to compete as the only squad with a new face under center. The Redskins will hope that former Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee can return to his 2015 production in Chicago where he recorded six sacks and 53 combined tackles on the year.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Philly was far and away the best team in the NFL heading into the third quarter of their late season tilt against the Rams when their MVP favorite quarterback tore up his knee on a called back scoring play. Since then? They won the Super Bowl over New England, upgraded their pass rush and receiving corps, and facilitated that aforementioned MVP candidate getting back to full health. I don’t necessarily expect the Eagles to be the dominant outfit they were in 2017; Wentz will need time to get back into the swing of things and they suffered a lot of brain drain in the coaching department. None of that should keep them from winning a division that struggled last season though, and that’s exactly what I’m expecting will happen.
2. Dallas Cowboys
It seems like every other year the Cowboys are due for a Murphy’s law induced collapse which then in turn has people lower on them than they should be the following year. While it’s not especially scientific, I expect them to level out in a positive direction with Ezekiel Elliott’s off the field drama in the rearview mirror and the offensive line hopefully regaining some consistency. Dak Prescott will need to learn how to manage expectations that he didn’t initially face as an under the radar fourth round pick, and I expect him to be up to the challenge as Dallas challenges for a wild-card spot in 2018.
3. Washington Redskins
While I have them sitting at number three, I fully expect the Redskins to be in the mix for the playoffs at the end of the year. As much as Kirk Cousins was worthy of the contract he got, I’m not sure there’s much of a drop off between him and Alex Smith. On the flip side of that, Derrius Guice is clearly an upgrade on whatever it was they had going on at running back for the past few years. I expect for him to gun for rookie of the year while Washington’s always stout front seven anchors their defense en route for a fringe playoff run.
4. New York Giants
As much as I like a lot of the individual players that Big Blue brought in this offseason, I really wasn’t a fan of what they did in the grand scheme of things. That is, banking on Eli Manning to be an even above average starter for the next few years. He’s done a lot for the franchise and certainly deserves all the respect he’s engendered, but at this point I’d be a lot more optimistic about the Giants if they had made a more forward thinking pick in Sam Darnold. Like I said, there’s a lot to like in a unique talent like Saquon Barkley, but I’m not sure selecting him was the key to going from the dregs of the league to a Super Bowl contender. As a result, I project them to have another rough season and finally accept the reality that it may be time to move on from the guy who won them two championships.
Who will win the NFC East?
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New York Giants