New York Giants: Super Bowl Champs Will Have a Hard Time Holding Down NFC East
Only 12 teams make the playoffs, and about half of them miss it the following year.
Since 2004, a different team has won the NFC East division title each year. The New York Giants were barely able to sneak into the playoffs last year, winning the last two games, including a win-and-get-in game against the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale.
Last year was the first full year in NFL history where the NFC East champion had less than 10 wins. Don't expect that to happen again this year. With the obstacles that the Giants will face, it will be difficult for them to win the division.
Here are some of those obstacles.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
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We all know about Vince Young's "Dream Team" proclamation last year, the rough start that the Eagles had and the criticism of Juan Castillo as the Defensive Coordinator.
However, a lot of people overlook the big finish they had.
The Eagles won their last four games, and five of their last seven. The two games they lost were without starter Michael Vick. One of those wins was a 17-10 win in New York against the Giants with backup Young starting.
The Eagles finished 8-8, and would have won a tie breaker with the Giants if they had one more win. Philly finished with the best record in the division at 5-1, and the Eagles look to have everything figured out going into this season. They also had what many consider to be the best draft this offseason, with Fletcher Cox highlighting the class.
If the Eagles can pick up where they left off, look for them to really give the Giants a rough time.
2. Dallas Cowboys
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The Cowboys were in command in the division at 7-4 last season before the wagon wheels fell off and they went 1-4 down the stretch, including two losses to the Giants.
Yet, it is hard to ignore the talent that Dallas has.
The Cowboys have a good core of players, and with the addition of Morris Claiborne to the secondary they have greatly improved last year's weakest position.Their defensive line led by DeMarcus Ware is still considered by many to be the best in football. Another year with a full offseason for the defensive unit to work on Rob Ryan's complex schemes will make them a really difficult defense for the Giants to face.
With wideout Dez Bryant fully coming into his own, and a solid sense of where the running game is going to come from in DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys are yet again going to be a favorite to come out of the division.
Now it is just going to be up to Tony Romo to lead this team, and if he does, the Giants could be in trouble.
3. Washington Redskins
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The Washington Redskins finished with a weak 5-11 record and just a 2-4 record in the division. What makes them a threat? The fact that their two wins were against the Giants. And they weren't that close. Washington won by 14 in the first week of the season, and by 13 in Week 15.
Coach Mike Shanahan has figured out how to play the Giants, and he now has the talent to work toward the top of the division. With the arrival of No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III, Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, the Redskins will now have some offensive playmakers.
In addition, they will be expecting more from second-year running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster, both of which played very well as rookies.
The Redskins have the talent to give the teams in the division a hard time, and they already seem to have the Giants number. With their reinvented team, look for the Giants to have a hard time beating them.
4. Strength of Schedule
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When a team wins the Super Bowl, things just naturally seem to be tougher the next year. That team has a target on its back, and teams want to give the reigning champ their best shot.
It looks like the NFL isn't going to help out at all, either.
The Giants have the toughest strength of schedule in all of football this year. They will be playing teams that had an overall record of 140-116. Some of the teams include the San Fransisco 49ers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Ravens.
It is not going to be an easy test for New York.
In addition to the toughness of their strength of schedule, it seems that the rest of the division got off easy. The Eagles have the sixth toughest schedule, the Cowboys have the 13th hardest schedule and the Redskins have the 25th toughest schedule. This means that the Giants will have to overcome all of that in order to win the division, which is definitely not going to be easy.
5. Players, Coming and Going
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The Giants didn't really seem to help themselves too much in the offseason as far as personnel goes. They let arguably their best wide receiver in Mario Manningham go. Brandon Jacobs has also left, although there is some debate as to whether that is a good thing rather than a bad thing.
In addition to the players leaving, the Giants didn't draft as well as the rest of the division.
That is how it is supposed to go, since they won the Super Bowl and therefore had the latest first-round pick. However, the Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins all had great draft classes, leaving the Giants behind.
Granted, young talent doesn't always result in the way you expect it to, but the Giants didn't do as much player moving as they could have this offseason. Hopefully it doesn't come back to hurt them, but you never know.
It is clear that the other teams in the division have gained on the Giants—the question now is exactly how much, and how will the Giants handle it.