As the gurus around the NFL debated and predicted the 2012 NFL season, one thing remained true. The New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles ruled the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys were in mediocrity and the Washington Redskins were still the Washington Redskins.
One week later, have things changed? I argue, absolutely yes. This is definitely not a battle cry to crown the Dallas Cowboys champions. Maybe that will happen if there is a solid outing on a weekly basis, or if Dallas is able to handle Philly, or if Dallas can navigate through a grueling schedule come December.
All dramatics aside, the Dallas Cowboys looked very promising against the New York Giants. The Giants’ primary strength, their pass rush, was lackluster, and their secondary strength, their receiving core, was still hungover from an incredible playoff run last season. Philadelphia looked pathetic, and Vick looked especially vulnerable in the pocket, all against questionably the least talented team in the NFL.
This brings us to the lovable losers, the Washington Redskins. They played lights out in arguably the most difficult stadium in the NFL, and RGIII was ridiculous.
One week later, where do we stand? Philly raised a lot of questions but still remains the team to beat. Washington still remains the team that will finish last in the division. But the big change is the Cowboys and Giants. One game does not dictate this change, but this one game highlighted a handful of key differences between last season and this season.
First and foremost, Tony Romo got the protection he needed from his offensive line. In order to beat the Giants, their defensive line must be neutralized. Objective one was accomplished. Romo was able to find his receivers, complete passes and facilitate the running game with DeMarco Murray.
Objective two is to contain Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (or Philly’s Jackson and Maclin). Jerry Jones and Co. were traumatized last season by fourth-quarter comebacks that saw the Dallas secondary collapse and allow big play after big play. This offseason was clearly a gut reaction to the repeated assaults. In came Maurice Claiborne and Brandon Carr, and out went the opposing team’s passing game and late game collapses.
Dallas plays in the toughest division in football. There is little question about the talent that each team has. In addition to these foes, each team will be playing strong talent in Baltimore, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and New Orleans. Like all other seasons, playoff positioning this season will ultimately come down to wins and losses amongst the NFC East.
With one game in, the talent speaks for itself. The Eagles raised questions, but still lead the way in this division. Next comes Dallas, then the Giants and Redskins. A few weeks from now, after a handful of more division battles, these rankings could change.
My predictions today are the same as they were on July 3rd (2012 Dallas Cowboys Predictions). Dallas will ultimately win 10 games and garner a wild card berth for the playoffs this year.