With the 2008 NFL season now drawn to a close, some due congratulations are in order to the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. All controversy from the big game aside, the Steelers played a great season and came through in the clutch to win their organization a record setting sixth Super Bowl title. But now that the season is over, we as fans can start looking at the outlook for next season. I'll be highlighting one division each day, starting today with the NFC East.
The NFC East should retain its prominence as arguably the best division in the NFL next year, although the AFC East and South may have something to say about that when it's all said and done. Top to bottom, every team in this division is capable of making the playoffs. To start off with, we look at the defending NFC East Champs, the New York Giants.
You know what to expect from the Giants. Solid, dominant play on both lines, run the ball and play defense. Then let Eli be a game manager and make throws when he has to, and the Giants should continue their success of the last two years.
I expect Eli to feel even more comfortable in the offense this year, but he'll have to continue to adjust to the absence of his former number one target, Plaxico Burress, who likely won't be back in a Giants uniform next year. Brandon Jacobs' health will also be an issue, but after an off-season to rest, he should be alright, and the Giants have enough depth at running back to take care of any concerns. They should get at least 10 wins, I'm guessing they'll either go 11-5 or 12-4, and they'll definitely be a threat to go deep in the playoffs.
The Eagles are an enigma. They are great at times (see beginning and ending of the regular season and the playoffs) and downright bad at times (see middle of the regular season). They're a real wild card to me for next year. The defense is consistently good, they haven't had a bad season in this millennium.
The offense will tell the story of Philadelphia's season. The key will be Brian Westbrook. If he can stay healthy and involved in the offense, Philadelphia will make a playoffs. This is a big if though, as he's been banged up with varying injuries for the past few years. To me they could easily go anywhere from 6-10 to 11-5.
Dallas is another flip of the coin. They've got the talent, if they can put it together they can win the division. But there are a ton of unknowns involved. First there's the question of Wade Phillips' ability to win as a head coach. He had success in his first year, but perhaps now the lack of discipline and accountability that he holds his players to is showing.
And then there's TO. Can he bounce back from a very sub-par 2008 season and be a prolific number one wide receiver again? He is after all 35. Their second option Roy Williams has yet to prove himself in Dallas, and Patrick Crayton proved ineffective all year. Add all that together with a meddling owner and anything can happen. The Cowboys certainly have the ability, but they could just as easily go 7-9 or 13-3.
The Redskins to me don't have what it takes at this point to make it to the next level, especially with the toughness of their division. Their defense is their greatest strength, they had the league's fifth best scoring defense, and they played consistently all year long.
Jason Campbell showed signs of maturing, and the offense looked great at times early on in the season. However inconsistency showed in the later weeks, as Santana Moss became the one focal point for Campbell, and Antoine Randle El started to become less and less used. Portis was the one shining star who played the role of stud all year long, even through minor injury near the end of the year. I expect Washington to finish right around .500 next year, with Portis towing the majority of the load for their offense again.