Jimmy Mc Ginty looks at the NFC East as part of his NFL season previews and he expects the Cowboys to be strong again this year and the Washington Redskins to be nothing short of terrible.
The Dallas Cowboys won this Division last season with a 12-4 record. They went on to defeat the Lions in the playoffs before narrowly (and controversially) going down to the Green Bay Packers. A good season, better than they’ve had in a while. The headline move for Dallas this off season was the League’s top rusher DeMarco Murray leaving for Philadelphia. However I don’t think this will impact the Cowboys to the extent many believe. Last season they had the best offensive line in the league. If the big guys do their job again an average running back like Joseph Randle (or Darren McFadden) will rush successfully enough to move the chains game after game. 2
014 first round pick Zack Martin is some of the reason the O-Line is so strong. He’s a serious talent and alongside him they’ve added La’el Collins as a good value undrafted rookie. The strongest O-Line in the NFL may be even stronger.
If the lack of a genuine top running back does tempt Dallas to throw the ball more often that’s no bad thing. Romo just had a career high completion percentage last year, so is showing no sign of regressing despite turning 35. Dez Bryant remains arguably the best receiver in the league. The Cowboys will have no problem scoring. They will however concede plenty of points.
Orlando Scandrick tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. He was the Cowboys top cornerback; they’ll miss him big time on defence. They are also missing suspended duo Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain for the opening 4 games. As a result the Cowboys may get off to a bad start, but with their offence in place, there is no reason they shouldn’t be very close to a 12-4 record again. They match up against the NFC South and AFC East which provides soft-ish games against the Panthers, Falcons, Bucs, Bills and Jets.
Throw in the double against the Redskins and the Cowboys should have no problem covering 9.5 games.
The Philadelphia Eagles finished 2 wins behind Dallas on 10-6 last season. They have had a super-busy off season. From last season they’ve seen change at QB, RB (and his backup), top WR and Guard. For me the QB move wasn’t much of an upgrade. Bradford for Foles. Ok Bradford is more talented, but he’s also very fragile (two serious knee operations already). At RB I’m not sure DeMarco Murray will do any better than LeSean McCoy did last year? Murray was awesome in Dallas, but as I’ve mentioned that was behind a better O-Line. The Eagles line has in fact got considerably weaker since they let Evan Mathis go. Murray also had his share of injuries prior to last season so there’s no guarantee the Eagles will get the best from him.
Jeremy Maclin has also left Philly which promotes Jordan Mathews to no.1 WR with rookie Nelson Agholor next in line. They’ll need to step up drastically on what we’ve seen so far. Maclin had his issues, but he was supremely talented, whilst Mathews didn’t set the world alight last term. Their defence too will need to step up hugely on their showing last season. The Eagles secondary was a weak point last season and with Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham to play twice it doesn’t bode well. If they don’t improve, this new look offence won’t have the chance to win games.
In the Eagles favour is a decent schedule, especially if they beat depleted Cowboys in Week 2. They then face Jets, Redskins and Panthers on the road, with home games against Giants and Saints. Something like a 5-2 start is possible, but I just don’t think this team has the talent to finish with more than 10 wins. The stretch from wk7 onwards includes Panthers (road), Cowboys (road), Dolphins, Lions (road), Patriots (road) over 6 games. That won’t see too many Eagles wins. They’ve had an impressive preseason but I wouldn’t read too much into it. I think they’re a 9-7 team at best.
The New York Giants finished last season with a 6-10 record. They sat at 3-9 entering December before finishing strong. The key was Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham didn’t see proper playing time until week 7, yet still amassed 1,300 yds. That is scary stuff and if he had 16 games at that, level he’d have broken all sorts of records, as a rookie! NYG have very little else however. Victor Cruz is coming back from a serious injury, Larry Donnell at TE and their RB committee (Jennings, Vereen and Williams) are average at best. Eli can be erratic, to put it politely.
On defence they spent a lot of money on JT Thomas as a line backer, but he looked nothing special in Jacksonville. Their secondary in particular was very poor last season and I see nothing to suggest improvement is on the way.
Like The Eagles, The Giants do however have an easy looking schedule. The suspension hit Cowboys up first (where the Giants look a bet) followed by winnable games against Falcons, Redskins and SF at home and a trip to Buffalo. The second half of the season show’s games against Tampa, Washington, Jets and Panthers which all adds up to a soft schedule.
If Beckham (and Eli) can pick up where they left off I think The Giants can certainly win more games than last year, but are unlikely to defeat the Cowboys for the division. They just don’t have the overall quality, especially in their running game.
The Washington Redskins were the whipping boys of this division last season (4-12) after going (3-13) the previous year. Nothing is going to change, especially as the Giants look a stronger outfit, whilst the Eagles and Cowboys should do the double over Washington easily.
They’ve added very little on offense. RG3 has been benched for Kirk Cousins. It was almost certainly a good move, but will it make the Redskins any better? Unlikely. Pierre Garcon looks in decline and DeSean Jackson has always been injury prone. Tight-end Niles Paul is out for the season. Roy Helu leaving will hurt also. The Raiders could have a captured a decent backup RB there. The Redskins signed Junior Galette, but then lost him to season long injury. That certainly won’t help their already ultra-weak defence.
As I’ve mentioned, the Redskins won 4 games last term. However 2 came against the ultra-poor Jags and Titans at home. There’s nothing that soft this year. The easiest opposition comes on the road when the Redskins travel to Chicago, Carolina and the Jets. They’re worth a small play at double-figure odds to be the worst team in the league.
1 point win Washington Redskins to have the worst record at 10/1 with Paddy Power
1 point win Philidelphia Eagles too finish 3rd in NFC East at 7/2 with 888sport
2 points win Dallas Cowboys to win over 9.5 games at 11/10 with BetVictor
They are 13/8 to win the Division but this is a safer play as the Eagles and Giants do have relatively easy schedules if they get hot.
Backing the Giants against the Cowboys in week 1 wouldn’t be a bad idea either.