Philadelphia Eagles: Predicting How Their Divisional Opponents Will Do in 2012
After going 8-8 in 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles are desperate to bounce back. Winning the NFC East division won’t be enough, and an early playoff exit won’t mark the campaign as successful. The Eagles definitely want to make a run in the postseason—a run as deep as possible.
Andy Reid got a vote of confidence from the team owner, Marty Mornhinweg didn’t take a head coaching job, and Juan Castillo wasn’t fired, despite receiving the biggest share of criticism for last year’s slump. Minor changes were made in the training staff, and the players’ roster didn’t change significantly.
The “stars” that didn’t produce (Ronnie Brown, Vince Young and Steve Smith) departed, and the Eagles changed their offseason strategy: They relied heavily on the draft to improve rather than hunting high-profile free agents.
Every team is responsible for its own fate, especially at this stage. That said, it’s totally up to the Eagles to win the division. However, the performance of their opponents can make their life easier—or not.
This is what I predict for the rest of the NFC East teams, based on their current status, a couple of weeks before the training camps start.
New York Giants
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The Giants enter the 2012 NFL season as the league champions, and their goal should be to defend that title. They surprised almost everyone last year when they went all the way to lift the Lombardi. But this time they’ll be the team to beat, and the road will be rockier than before.
During the offseason, the G-men lost three important players: Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham and Aaron Ross. Good news is they replaced them all through the NFL draft, using their first three picks for each one. The bad news is the rookies’ impact can’t be predicted.
The Giants have one of the most brutal schedules in 2012. I guess that a hard set of games is the price you pay when you compete in the NFC East, but finishing first and the presence of AFC North teams make the schedule look like climbing a mountain.
Additionally, will Eli Manning be able to perform like he did last year? Can he carry his team on his shoulders again? In 2011, the Giants went under the radar for the biggest part of the season. This time, he’ll be in the spotlight and in the crosshair of every push-rusher.
On the other hand, New York has a solid squad, and it has shown that it has a tremendous will to win. The Giants can win every game, and they can win even if they have to do it the ugly way.
I don’t think the Giants have the number of quality players the Eagles do, but that doesn’t leave them out of contention. They will fight for a playoff spot, but I believe their schedule will bend them.
Prediction: 8-8, third place
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The ‘Boys will be the team that will challenge the Eagles the most for the division’s top spot in 2012. Tony Romo and his teammates have been left out of the playoffs the last couple of years, and a third consecutive campaign with the same outcome will probably trigger some crucial changes.
Dallas traded up to get cornerback Morris Claiborne in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft and chose three more defensive players with the next three picks. Add the signings of cornerback Brandon Carr and linebacker Dan Connor, and it’s crystal clear that the Cowboys had only one thing on their mind: Improve their defense.
Even though it’s easier said than done, a Cowboys fan couldn’t ask for much more. To Rob Ryan’s joy, this unit has the potential to be one of the top 10 defenses in 2012.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys have a lot of great players. Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and the sophomore pro running back DeMarco Murray assemble an offense capable of producing great numbers in most statistical categories.
Unfortunately for Dallas, there are some questions that need to be answered. Will the new defense gel early in the season? Has the offensive line improved since December? And last but not least, will Tony Romo avoid crunch-time turnovers?
Everyone expects to see a better Cowboys team in 2012. They’ll need to be a lot better, though, if they want to win the division and/or make the playoffs. Beating the Giants and the Eagles won’t be an easy task, but it’s not impossible either.
Prediction: 10-6, first or second place (depending on Eagles record)
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Robert Griffin III is the new face of Washington’s franchise and the first one in more than a decade. The rookie out of Baylor has the hopes and dreams of a large and hungry fanbase on his shoulders, and he’s called to carry them to a brighter future.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the Redskins mortgaged their future with their trade for RG3. Two future first-round picks (the ability to add top talent) is not a small price. However, one more year of Rex Grossman and John Beck would be pointless.
Mike Shanahan finally got his quarterback, and that leaves him with no excuses. Of course, nobody will ask him to get to the postseason straight away; however, fielding a competitive team with room for improvement is required.
Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan were brought in to provide Griffin with some reliable targets, alongside Santana Moss, Fred Davis and Chris Cooley. At running back, nothing changed significantly, with Tim Hightower coming back and Roy Helu ready to take the starting job.
The Redskins let safeties LaRon Landry and O.J. Atogwe walk, feeling that Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather, DeJon Gomes, Reed Doughty and Madieu Williams can patrol the backfield ably.
Overall, the Redskins have some talented players, but they’ll require a few more additions before they become competent. For one more season, they’ll have to settle with the last place in the division and focus on developing their quarterback and plan for the future.
Prediction: 5-11, fourth place