“Logjam” would probably be the word most NFL betting experts used to describe the NFC East over the last decade. Aside from the disappointing Redskins, the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles have flip-flopped in the battle for supremacy from year to year. Will it be another tight race this season, or has one team finally separated itself from the pack? And will Washington finally gain some respect?
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NFL futures odds: EVEN
The Cowboys have been on the cusp of Super Bowl contention for several years during the Tony Romo era; I think 2010 could well be the year Dallas goes from bridesmaid to bride. Considering the weapons at his disposal, Romo looks primed for an MVP-caliber season. He has Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and rookie Dez Bryant downfield, Felix Jones and Marion Barber in the backfield, and Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten as his check-down option.
Dallas struggled against the pass at times last year but clamped down later in the season when its ferocious pass rush got back on track. It also has an elite run defense. This year, the Cowboys look head and shoulders above the rest in the NFC East if you ask me.
NEW YORK GIANTS
NFL futures odds: +275
The Giants are a poor man’s version of the Baltimore Ravens to me in that their defense is aging and their team personality is gradually transitioning to an offensive one. Eli Manning has some reliable targets now, with Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham catching passes. However, if one of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs doesn’t step up and show a bit more toughness running the ball, defenses will key on the passing game.
I definitely worry about the Giants’ “D” this year. Aging Keith Bulluck starting at middle linebacker? Eek. I think the high-flying Cowboys and Eagles could put some big points on the board against them this season.
NFL futures odds: +350
If sports betting players had a better sense of Kevin Kolb’s future, the Eagles would probably leapfrog the Giants in odds. Kolb did top 300 passing yards in both his starts last year but he also threw three picks in one of those outings.
I do think Kolb will flourish; he has the tools, he has plenty of talented pass catchers around him and he plays in the most pass-heavy offensive scheme football has ever seen (literally). The Eagles will win plenty of games on the strength of their offense but will their “D” keep pace? It’s been a ballhawk unit for years but it wasn’t the same without Brian Dawkins last season. Philly did well addressing defensive needs at the draft, but Brandon Graham and Nate Allen may not make a big enough impact until 2011.
NFL futures odds: +500
The Redskins are easily the toughest team to predict this season. They’re a perennial disappointment but they’ve overhauled their offense; Mike Shanahan’s system is now in place, and Donovan McNabb and Larry Johnson have joined the fray.
I wouldn’t get too excited; all Washington’s key pieces are past their primes and injury-prone. Their solid pass “D” won’t be so solid if the offense sputters and forces the defense to stay on the field all the time. While they won’t be a total disaster, I think they’ll flop again.
The pick: As always, the NFC East should be one of football’s most competitive divisions. Even the Redskins would be a contender in a weaker division like the NFC or AFC West. But I think it’s the Cowboys’ turn. They’re stacked not just with talented players, but with talented players at the peak of their careers. Dallas has a legit chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this season.