4. Washington Redskins: 9-7
The quarterback issue in D.C. isn't pretty.
The Redskins shopped around for other quarterbacks this offseason, but they have decided to stick with Jason Campbell for the last year of his contract.
I can't imagine that Campbell is too happy with the Redskins' Josh McDaniels-esque attempts this summer, and his poor preseason play has reflected that.
Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts will provide an above average running game for Washington, which should be the biggest factor in the Redskins' success this year. They finished eighth in rushing in 2008, and I'd expect similar numbers in 2009.
The Redskins went out at signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and drafted Brian Orakpo to add to an already strong defense. Washington finished fourth in the NFL in total defense last year, and after adding Haynesworth and Orakpo, it could be the best.
I'm not sure if Jim Zorn has everyone on board in Washington. Portis made that clear last season when he spoke out on the radio about how Zorn was a "genious." If Zorn can build a stronger relationship with his players, especially Campbell, the Redskins will be a winning football team this season.
Unfortunately, a winning record doesn't guarantee anything in the stacked NFC East.
3. Dallas Cowboys: 10-6
OK, so T.O. is gone, and I don't know if this is a good thing for the Cowboys.
Sure, he was a constant attention whore and always found his way into the news. But when you put all of that aside, Owens is one of the best receivers in the league.
Now, Dallas has to rely on Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton. Both Crayton and Williams are good receivers, but I don't consider them on the same tier as an Owens-type wideout.
Regardless, Tony Romo is a proven veteran, and I imagine he'll work with what he's given. We know that Romo can perform in the regular season, and we know that he is a leader.
The thing we're yet to see is playoff success from Romo's Cowboys—maybe that botched snap in 2007 will haunt him for the rest of his career.
The Cowboys' defense is full of big playmakers. With a defensive line featuring DeMarcus Ware, and a secondary with Ken Hamlin and Terrance Newman, Dallas should be scary.
Wade Phillips' job depends on this season, in my opinion. When Phillips inherited this Cowboys' team, there seemed to be no doubt that he'd have Dallas back on top for a while. Now, one might think that Dallas' 13-3 record in Phillips' first season could have been a product of Bill Parcells.
I think there is a possibility that the window of opportunity could be coming to a close for the Phillips era, because just getting a winning record is never enough for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: 11-5
After falling one game short of the Super Bowl in 2008, the Eagles will be gunning for a division title, a trip to the postseason, and the one thing this team hasn't accomplished with Andy Reid at the helm: A world championship.
Rookie receiver Jeremy Maclin could be a sleeper for Philly this year, and I look for him to contribute to this offense. Add DeSean Jackson, who now has a very successful first year under his belt, and you have a solid corps for potentially the next five or six years.
Keeping Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook healthy will likely determine the outcome of the Eagles' season. Both stars have struggled with injuries over the last few years, and if they can both just make it through a whole season, the Eagles will win a lot of games.
Westbrook is fresh off of surgery on his knee, which is something that fantasy owners and Eagles fans alike should watch out for.
Who knows what Michael Vick will bring to Philadelphia in 2009. Vick might play a little receiver, act as a decoy in the backfield, or just back up McNabb. But one thing is for sure—Philly won't be his last stop, but rather the first step in him becoming a starter again someday. As for now, he'll help sell tickets and he just might contribute to this Eagles team.
Cornerback is a position that the Eagles won't have a problem with this year, and that position could carry the defense. Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel are two corners who are always known as playmakers. Throw Quintin Mikell in there and you have yourself a secondary. ,
Don't count the Eagles out, because even as a Wild Card, they can be scary. Take last year for example.
1. New York Giants: 12-4
The Giants are going to be one of the most well-rounded teams in the NFL this year.
They have their quarterback. Overpaid or not, Eli Manning has gotten the job done in the past, and he's going to be keep doing it. With the departures of Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, the receivers won't have a whole lot of experience.
Look for Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, and rookie Hakeem Nicks to be the top receivers for New York this year. Smith and Hixon led the Giants in receptions and yards, respectively, and they should be OK without any real superstars on the roster at receiver.
They have their running game. The Giants' run blocking was the best in the game in 2008, and this shouldn't change this year.
Give a lot of this credit to Shaun O'Hara and Chris Snee, who both earned Pro Bowl honors last season. All five starters from the offensive line are returning for 2009.
Behind this offensive line is the 6'4", 260-pound Brandon Jacobs. The bottom line is that the dude can run, and he can be difficult to stop. His sidekick is Ahmad Bradshaw, and with the departure of Derrick Ward, look for Bradshaw to get some carries.
They have their defense. Where to begin? The Giants defense is absolutely stacked. The defensive line features Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and former Seahawk Rocky Bernard. And don't forget about linebackers Antonio Pierce and Michael Boley either.
They'll have an NFC East title. On both sides of the ball, the Giants look flat-out good. The Giants will win one of the most talented divisions this year.
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