Giants Face Another Tough Road In Strong NFC East

John SuttonContributor IMay 29, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -  JANUARY 11:  Brandon Jacobs #27 of the New York Giants runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Eagles defeated the Giants 23 -11. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The New York Giants were not expected to be in the position they were at the end of the regular season in 2008. The NFC East was considered by many to be the best division in all of the National Football League, and the defending Super Bowl champions were not favored to rise above their Wild Card status from the 2007 season.

The Giants proved many of their critics wrong throughout the regular season as they ended the season with a 12-4 record, two and a half games in front of their closest follower, the Philadelphia Eagles. Those same Eagles came back to end the season for Big Blue in the Divisional Playoffs with a 23-11 defeat in Giants Stadium.

The NFC East will once again be one of the toughest divisions in the league as last year, no team finished the season under .500. There will be some key players missing from the race, but expect the division race in the East to be competitive again in 2009.

Two wide receivers whose antics off-the-field as just as well known as their on-the-field play will make the NFC a little quieter in the upcoming season. Plaxico Burress">Plaxico Burress and Terrell Owens were both released from the Giants and the Dallas Cowboys respectively in the offseason. Owens has landed with the Buffalo Bills, but Burress is still looking for a home before the start of the 2009 season.

The absence of these two players will not only make the season a little less interesting off-the-field, it will also add question marks at the wide receiver position for both the Giants and the Cowboys. Quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tony Romo will look to young receivers like Steve Smith and Patrick Crayton to step up in the absence of their primary targets at wide receiver.

The team who advanced farthest in the playoffs in the NFC East, the Eagles, will be strong again in 2009. Quarterback Donovan McNabb will look to have another strong season where he can stay on the field for all 16 games just as he did last season, outside of a mid-game benching by head coach Andy Reid. The addition of LeSean McCoy to the Philadelphia backfield will help Brian Westbrook get the break he needs and could lead to more production from the running back position.

The only weak link in the division might come from the Washington Redskins. After finishing in last place in 2008 with an 8-8 record, the Washington offense made little changes to improve on that lackluster season. Jason Campbell will be supported by Clinton Portis once again as the Redskins will look to Campbell to possibly be their quarterback of the future.

The Washington defense improved with the blockbuster signing on Albert Haynesworth during the offseason. Haynesworth will only improve a stellar Washington defense from last season that ranked sixth in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed per game in 2008.

The road to a division championship will be made more difficult in 2009 as each team will play every team in the NFC South, where two teams also advanced to the playoffs and no team finished under .500. The AFC West will also be on the schedule for each team in the NFC East. That should lead to some wins for the NFC East since the 2008 division winner, the San Diego Chargers, only finished 8-8 in a tie with the Denver Broncos.

Look for the Giants and every other team in the NFC East to put up strong season in 2009. It will not be an easy task for Big Blue to repeat as NFC East champions, but then again, anything less would be a disappointment for this team looking to win its second Super Bowl championship in three years.