The NFC East has long held a reputation as one of the toughest divisions in football.
While other divisions around the NFL have gone up and down in strength over the years, the NFC East has consistently been one of the top divisions.
The East is almost always a four team heat. Sometimes only three, but that’s still one more than any other division. Every year it is the toughest division in which to call a winner.
The truth is, the Eagles have lost their edge going from Donovan McNabb down to Kevin Kolb. Kolb is good; he put up an 88.9 passer rating in two starts—five total appearances—but McNabb carried the team.
They do have some young wide receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and a young running back, LeSean McCoy, with rising stock. But, Philadelphia will not amount to a whole lot this season. Their defense is too average to make up for the loss of Donovan McNabb.
Philadelphia will not have an 11-5 encore in 2010.
Now the team that traded for McNabb, the Washington Redskins, have vastly improved with this addition, among others.
The Redskins have a new coach who can probably implement a successful system right away. They had a decent draft and did an overhaul on the offensive line which suddenly looks pretty good. But the O-line will need at least a year to mesh well.
And they picked up Larry Johnson and Willie Parker…
With Johnson, Parker, and Clinton Portis on the roster, the ‘Skins have three RBs who really make Hog fans wish this was the 2006 season. But since it’s 2010, the best thing Washington can say is no matter how injury-plagued Portis can be, there will always be a mediocre back to fill his shoes. What are the odds all three will be on the PUP list at the same time?
And don’t forget about a little headache named Albert Haynesworth.
The Redskins have gotten much better, but not good enough to call them division contenders. Look out for this team in the next couple years.
The Giants are the team that could make me eat my words. But I still think the aging defense won’t be enough to challenge for the Eastern title. The offense is steadily getting better, but we all saw the way that defense showed up for the second half last season. We’ll probably see more of the same this year—strong start, dismal finish.
The Giants finished eighth in points scored last season and still had a minus-25 point differential, finishing 30th in points allowed.
They may have one of the best defensive lines in football, but the secondary is less than average and watching the linebacker corps last year was painful because of how pathetic it was.
Their draft made the D-line even stronger and should help with the poor run defense but they barely addressed the issues with the rest of the defense. They will probably have their fourth round pick, Phillip Dillard, playing a lot, or even starting this season.
That brings us to the Cowboys.
Dallas has one of the best defensive units in the NFL.
In 2009, the Cowboys finished second only to the Jets in points allowed. The Jets get it done with their defensive backfield while the Cowboys take care of business up front with the near-perfect execution of the 3-4 defense.
Jay Ratliff is the best nose tackle in the game. Igor Olshansky and Marcus Spears proved they are excellent complements to the system, allowing the beast (DeMarcus Ware) and Anthony Spencer to come around and put pressure on the passer.
On offense, the Boys have a group of linemen who make or break almost every game they play. When the O-line plays well, you get a game like the 2009 Wild Card Game against the Eagles. When the O-line plays like they did against the Vikings in the Divisional Game, the team gets torched because the offense becomes anemic and the Cowboys' defense spends way too much time on the field.
In 2010, despite the loss of Flozell Adams, I believe the line will shore up and learn how to play every game the way they did to help win 12 games last season.
Then you have Tony Romo. He has proven to be one of the best regular season quarterbacks in the league. His playoff abilities may drive most fans and management crazy, but that is another story and has nothing to do with winning the NFC East.
Marion Barber is on his way out, but luckily the Boys have Teshard Choice and Felix Jones. Not that Barber is no-good, but Jones and Choice are better options at this point. Jones will emerge as the primary running back in a multi-back system and have a breakout season.
And finally: the receivers. Step aside, Roy Williams and welcome to Dallas, Dez Bryant! Bryant, the league’s first to sign a first-rounder contract this year, will come in and make Romo’s job a little easier, with Austin and tight end Jason Witten already making it look easy.
Compared to the rest of the NFC East, the Cowboys easily have the superior team, at least for 2010. The NFC East is one of the easiest calls in the NFL this season. And the way Jerry Jones is used to winning, the organization is so hungry for the playoffs to the point that winning the division will just be part of the routine this year.
Dallas is a shoo-in for first place in the NFC East.