Perhaps the most fun division in the NFL to watch and predict, the NFC East is brimming with talent and storylines.
Can the Philadelphia Eagles, arguably the most talented team in the league, figure it out? Can the Dallas Cowboys finally get over the hump? Are the defending champion NY Giants contenders again? What can we expect out of Robert Griffin III?
Washington Redskins (Fourth in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 6-10)
The Redskins can certainly be excited for the future with RG3 in town, and I do believe he will be a stud. I don’t believe he will be what Cam Newton was last season, or what Michael Vick does on a seasonal basis, but I think his ceiling is sky-high.
I don’t know that the Redskins have what it takes around him, though. Mike Shanahan is known for making a great run game out of nothing, but there’s another backfield mess with Tim Hightower, Roy Helu, and Evan Royster.
I’m not so sure Pierre Garcon’s shaky hands are worth the $43 million contract he got. I’m not so sure Fred Davis can be consistent enough, and I’m not sold on their defense, either. This will be a building season for the rookie, and not much else.
New York Giants (First in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 8-8)
Am I nuts for predicting the defending champs not even making the playoffs? It’s not that crazy. They have a brutal schedule. Brutal actually doesn’t really begin to describe it.
They have the Eagles and Cowboys twice, as usual, but picked up the 49ers, Steelers, Bengals, Packers, Saints, Falcons, and Ravens too. Ouch. Even their “cupcake” games are the upstart Carolina Panthers, and potentially a much better Tampa Bay Buccaneers' team.
We also remember that the Redskins totally had their number last season, and they didn’t look like they had any chance of making the postseason until they beat the Patriots in Week 10, then the Cowboys in Week 17 to clinch it.
Eli Manning was up and down most of the season, and needed to use way too many fourth-quarter heroics to win games. They didn't really lose anyone other than Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, and picked up Reuben Randle and David Wilson via draft to replace them.
It’s not that the Giants lose a lot. It’s just that a lot went right for them last season, and I don’t see the cards falling the same way again in 2012.
Dallas Cowboys (Second in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 10-6)
I don’t think Tony Romo and the ‘Boys bring back any memories of Tom Landry's Cowboys or the Triplets with their 2012 season. But I do think they take a step forward with a wild-card spot, and at least one playoff win. Their main problem was their secondary. They addressed that by trading up for Morris Claiborne out of LSU, and signing Brandon Carr for $50 million.
They have talent all over the field on the front seven with DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and if Bruce Carter can ever figure it out, they would be truly fearsome. The offensive line is developing really well, too, with young tackles in Doug Free and former first-round pick Tyron Smith.
If Romo can avoid the brain fart interceptions down the stretch (a big if), the Cowboys could finally capitalize on their huge talent pool. But they seem to say that every season.
Philadelphia Eagles (Third in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 12-4)
They aren’t the “Dream Team” that Vince Young coined them to be in 2011, but they are in my eye, the league’s most talented team. With a full season for Juan Castillo to figure out how to use the bevy of Pro Bowl-talent he has on the defense, as long as Michael Vick takes care of the ball, the Eagles are a shoo-in for the playoffs.
Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, and Trent Cole are back to anchor the best defensive line in the division. Add in first-round pick Fletcher Cox in the mix, too.
They finally addressed the linebacker problem by getting former Pro Bowler, DeMeco Ryans, and second-round pick Mychal Kendricks. They hope that getting rid of Asante Samuel solves the cornerback mess. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can play man-to-man, which is their strength.
On offense, the Eagles have an embarrassment of riches. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are dangerous, and Brent Celek showed some bounce-back flashes last season. LeSean McCoy is one of the most dangerous backs in the league. If Vick stays healthy and takes care of the ball, the Eagles are a Super Bowl favorite.