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2010 NFL Preview: NFC East Preview

Hardy EvansContributor IJune 26, 2016

2010 NFL Preview: NFC East Preview

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    The NFC East is the most competitive division in the NFL. Though the Cowboys are favorites to repeat as division champs, any one of the other three teams could easily dethrone them. Each team in the NFC East is a playoff contender, so expect these four teams to be fighting for their spots until the very end of the season.

Dallas Cowboys 2009 Overview

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    Dallas had its best season in years in 2009, finishing 11-5 and winning their first playoff game--34-14 over the Eagles--in 13 seasons. In December 2009, Tony Romo threw 6 TDs to only 2 interceptions, and finished the month with a 66.2 completion percentage. Compare this to his previous Decembers when he threw a cumulative 11 TDs and 22 interceptions.The Cowboy's hopes were brought to a harsh end with a 34-3 playoff loss to Minnesota. Romo and the Cowboys look to build on their rare late-season success, and they certainly have the tools to do so.

Dallas Cowboys Offense

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    2009 Offense: 399.4 YPG (2nd), 22.6 PPG (14th)
    Passing: 267.9 YPG (6th)
    Rushing: 131.4 YPG (7th )

    Significant losses:

    Player: OT Flozell Adams, G Cory Procter

    Staff: none

    Significant additions:

    Player: WR Dex Bryant, OT Sam Young

    Staff: none

    Preview and expectations:

    By far the biggest loss to this offense is the releasing of pro-bowl left tackle Flozell "The Hotel" Adams. Fourth year tackle Doug Free is Flozell's projected replacement. Free started part of last year at RT for the injured Marc Colombo, and showed some promise. However, he is still inexperienced and a definite step down from "The Hotel."

    Besides the loss of Adams, this offense should be just as good if not better than in 2009. Tony Romo had one of his best seasons last year and has a new playmaker this year in Dez Bryant. Miles Austin had a breakout season in 2009 and reportedly still looks like a star in training camp. Jason Witten is one of, if not the, best TE's in the game. Roy Williams was disappointing last year, posting 38 catches for 596 yard. However, he will probably remain the number two for at least the beginning of the 2010 season, as young star Dez Bryant is going to miss 4-6 weeks of valuable practice time with a high ankle sprain. WR Patrick Crayton is a solid receiver, though he may end up as a fourth-stringer once Bryant is healthy.

    The Cowboys have one of the best running back trios in the NFL. Felix Jones is projected to get the majority of carries in 2010, and his 6.5 career yards per carry may turn out some deadly production this year. Marion Barber's punishing running style is a perfect compliment to Jones's scat-back style. Tashard Choice is a very reliable number 3 back.

    Barring injury, expect this to be a top five offense this year.

Dallas Cowboys Defense

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    2009 Defense: 315.9 YPG (9th), 15.6 PPG (2nd)
    Passing: 225.4 YPG (20th)
    Rushing 90.5 YPG (4th)
    Sacks: 42 (7th)

    Significant losses:

    Player: S Ken Hamlin

    Staff: none

    Significant additions:

    Player: LB Sean Lee, S Akwasi Owusu-Ansah

    Staff: none

    Preview and expectations:

    The Cowboys' may have had the ninth ranked defense this year in terms of yards per game--which is pretty good in itself--but they ranked second in the most important stat--points allowed. Not much has changed with the defense this offseason, but that's probably for the best. The only significant loss is pro-bowl safety Ken Hamlin, whose spot will probably be occupied by former seventh round pick Alan Ball.

    The defensive line features one of the most unique linemen in the NFL. Jay Ratliff is a nose-tackle who is athletic enough to play safety. Ratliff registered a very impressive 13.5 sacks over the past two years. Igor Olshansky and Marcus Spears aren't stars, but they're certainly dependable.

    One can only imagine what will go through the minds of opposing QB's when they look at this Cowboy's linebacking core. OLB Demarcus Ware is possibly the best and most versatile pass rusher in the game, and Anthony Spencer is finally coming along on the other side of the defense. Keith Brooking and Bradie James line up on the inside, completing the group and making this unit one of the most feared in the league.

    Despite the talent in the secondary, and the 42 sacks the Cowboys' pass rushers register last year, the pass defense still allowed a very pedestrian 225.4 YPG. CB's Terrance Newman and Michael Jenkins are both capable of covering a team's number one receiver. The safety tandem of Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh is a slight weakness, but nothing that can't be covered up by good corner play and a dangerous pass rush. Dallas certainly hopes the talent of this secondary can be put to practice this season and improve on the pass defense.

    If healthy, there's no reason why this unit shouldn't repeat as a top ten defense.

Dallas Cowboys Special Teams

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    Significant losses:

    Player: K Nick Folk

    Staff: none

    Significant additions:

    Player:

    Staff: none

    Preview and expectations:

    The biggest question for the Cowboys' special teams unit is whether or not second year K David Buehler can be an adequate replacement for K Nick Folk, who struggled in 2009 and was released. Buehler has an incredibly powerful leg, but his accuracy is somewhat poor.

    Patrick Crayton should be the main punt returner, and Kevin Ogletree the kick returner. With Felix Jones seeing the majority of RB carries, it's doubtful he'll be back fielding kicks. Crayton took two kicks to the house last year, but he also fumbled a lot. His punt return average was 12.1 yards per return.

    Nothing special here, this unit probably won't be a strength or a weakness next year.

New York Giants 2009 Overview

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    Unfortunately, this photo--now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame--pretty much sums up the last 11 games of the Giants 2009 season. The G-Men started off a promising 5-0, with the number one ranked defense and Steve Smith leading the league in receiving yards, and then it tumbled to a 3-8 finish. All together, the Giants ended up 8-8 and missing the playoffs. The defense was shattered by injuries to numerous key players. The defensive line, touted as one of the best in the league before the season, played abysmally. The run game also struggled. On the bright side, Eli Manning and the Giants receivers enjoyed one of the best passing games in recent Giants memory. Unfortunately, Eli's impressive 93.1 QB rating and Steve Smith's 107 receptions were not enough to save this team.

New York Giants Offense

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    2009 Offense: 366 YPG (8th), 25.1 PPG (8th)
    Passing: 251.2 YPG (11th)
    Rushing: 114.8 YPG (17th)

    Significant losses:

    Player: QB David Carr, WR Domenik Hixon

    Staff: none

    Significant additions:

    Player: QB Jim Sorgi, Mitch Petrus

    Staff: none

    Preview and expectations:

    The one true weakness of this offense is the running back core. Brandon Jacobs used to be as deadly as any running back in the league. In 2009, however, Giants fans watched as the biggest halfback in the league tried juking and spinning around defensive backs, only to get brought down immediately. Scat-back Ahmad Bradshaw is one of the league's more underrated players, but he's delicate. If he were durable enough to carry the ball 20-30 times a game, he'd be a potential pro-bowler. Second year player Andre Brown was a steal in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, but he suffered a season ending injury to his Achilles tendon. If healthy, this running back trio can easily be one of the more dominant in the NFL. However, that "if" is very large.

    The Giants offensive line features two perennial all-pro players: Chris Snee and Shaun O'Hara. Though these two are still elite-caliber linemen, the rest of the line struggled in 2009. We will probably see RT Kareem Mckenzie's replacement come around before too long. David Diehl was a pro-bowler this year, but he is much more at home at LG instead LT. Expect tackle Will Beatty and even rookie guard Mitch Petrus to push for playing time this year.

    Now we get to Eli and the receiver's, a very promising group for 2010. Eli Manning posted the best number of his career this year, surpassing 4,000 yards for the first time in his career. The very young wide receiver unit was a initially a concern for the Giants, but in 2009 they were outstanding. Steve Smith broke out and led the NFC in receptions. Star rookie Hakeem Nicks--a legitimate 2010 breakout candidate--led the league in average yards after the catch. Mario Manningham led all receivers in eluded tackles this year, but he was also tied for first in dropped passes with 10. Ramses Barden has impressed so far in training camp and may turn into a dangerous red zone target for Manning. Derek Hagan and Sinorice Moss give good depth to this unit.

    There is no reason the Giants can't have a top ten offense again this year. The receivers are some of the youngest in the league, and Eli Manning is just entering the prime of his career. If the run game can get going, than it's not unrealistic to project the Giants as having even a top-five offense.

New York Giants Defense

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    2009 Defense: 324.9 YPG (13th), 26.7 PPG (30th)
    Passing: 214.1 YPG (15th)
    Rushing: 110.8 YPG (14th)
    Sacks: 32 (T-18th)

    Significant losses:

    Player: MLB Antonio Pierce, DT Fred Robbins, LB Danny Clark

    Staff: Bill Sheridan

    Significant additions:

    Player: S Antrel Rolle, LB Keith Bulluck, S Deon Grant, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Linval Joseph, MLB Phillip Dillard

    Staff: Perry Fewell

    Preview and expectations:

    Injuries happen to every football team, but the Giants defense suffered an ridiculous number on defense this year. Promising safety Kenny Phillips missed all but two games with an arthritic knee. Osi Umenyiora was fresh off ACL surgery. Justin Tuck played almost the whole season with a hurt shoulder. Jerry Reese's big free agency pickup, Chris Canty, missed half the season with an injured calf and played the remaining eight games through the injury. Starting DT Jay Alford missed the whole season with a torn ACL. Starting CB Aaron Ross only played 4 games. The list goes on.

    Expect a huge defensive turn around in 2010. Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan led the 2009 Giants to their worst defensive performance in decades, but he has been replaced with the energetic Perry Fewell. Fewell led the Bills to a second ranked pass defense which also logged the second most interceptions in the league. He will have much more talent to work with while coaching the Giants. Finding the new DC was the first, and most important step, in rebuilding this defense.

    The defensive line play should be strong. Justin Tuck has had the offseason to heal his shoulder, and will hopefully be back to his all-pro form. Osi Umenyiora has now had two years to get healthy from his ACL tear, and should certainly improve his play in 2010. Mathias Kiwanuka will challenge Umenyiora for the starting spot, and whoever loses will probably still be the best third-string DE in the NFL. Rookie Jason Pierre-Paul is an athletic freak, but he's raw. Regardless, Tom Coughlin and Perry Fewell reportedly plan on rotating all of their talented DE's into the game, and blocking a fresh "JPP" is a nightmare situation for an exhausted offensive lineman. Chris Canty is healthy now, and reports from training camp say he finally looks like the player Jerry Reese spent 42 million dollars on. This defensive line--knock on wood--may be the deepest in the NFL, and the talent is also impressive at the front end.

    The Linebackers are still a weakness for the Giants. Newly signed veteran Keith Bulluck is a stud, but he is a 33-year old stud coming off ACL surgery. Regardless, his value for the Giants lies not in his individual talent but his experience and fiery leadership. OLB Michael Boley is a young and serviceable player. Expect good, consistent play from him. OLB Clint Sintim is probably more raw than the Giants would like, seeing as though he just completed the transition from 3-4 OLB to 4-3 OLB. His ability to get to the quarterback cannot be denied, but his pass coverage and run stopping abilities have yet to be proven.

    The secondary looks promising this year. Terrell "T2" Thomas and a finally healthy Aaron Ross will duel it out for the number two corner spot. Thomas quietly had a strong year filling in for Ross, but Ross has also looked great in training camp. Number one corner Corey Webster will see a return to dominance in Perry Fewell's bump and run system. Webster had tremendous success under Steve Spagnuolo when asked to press receivers, so he should be right at home in Fewell's scheme. The safety position is probably the most reformed. C.C. Brown was immediately released after a terrible 2009 season, and the Giants signed pro-bowler Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant to fill the position with playmakers. If Kenny Phillips returns one-hundred percent, though it's unlikely, he and Rolle will form one of the better safety tandems in the league. Otherwise, Grant is also a very good option.

    The Giants went from a top-five defense in 2008 to a bottom three-defense in 2009. Expect a similar jump this year, though a positive one this time. The personnel is almost the exact same as in 2008, if not better, and Perry Fewell knows how to use talent.

New York Giants Special Teams

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    Significant losses:

    Player: Jeff Feagles, Domenik Hixon

    Staff: none

    Significant additions:

    Player: Matt Dodge

    Staff: none

    Preview and expectations:

    There are two looming questions for the Giants' special teams: who will replace Domenik Hixon and is Matt Dodge a good replacement for Jeff Feagles. Reports from training camp say that Sinorice Moss, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Antrel Rolle have been returning the majority of kicks. Matt Dodge is unproven as a starter, and has yet to show anything special. K Lawrence Tynes was very inconsistent in 2009, and the Giants did nothing to upgrade the kicker position.

    The Giants special teams aren't abysmal, but they aren't a strength either.

Philadelphia Eagles 2009 Overview

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    The 2009 Philadelphia Eagles had a strong regular season. They went 4-2 in the NFC East and finished 11-5 overall. WR Desean Jackson set a reputation as the most explosive receiver in the NFL, and Donovan Mcnabb had another good showing. However, they were one and done in the playoffs when they lost to the Cowboys for a third time in one season. The Eagles have the potential to have a big 2010 season, but Kevin Kolb needs to show up and prove he can be Donovan Mcnabb's heir.

Philadelphia Eagles Offense

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    2009 Offense: 357.9 YPG (11th), 26.8 PPG (5th)
    Passing 255.6 YPG (10th)
    Rushing 102.3 YPG (22nd)

    Significant losses:

    Player: Donovan Mcnabb, Brian Westbrook,

    Staff: none

    Significant additions:

    Player: RB Mike Bell, RB JJ Arrington, QB Mike Kafka, TE Clay Harbor, WR Riley Cooper

    Staff: none

    Preview and expectations:

    First off, let's address the elephant in the room. The Eagles traded the best offensive player in franchise history for a second round pick--used to select S Nate Allen--and a conditional third or fourth rounder in 2011. The Eagles hope Kevin Kolb is their own version of Aaron Rodgers. But let's not kid ourselves, this is a quarterback's league and if Kolb doesn't pan out he can potentially drag this team to the bottom of the NFC East. Kolb played well against the Saints and the Chiefs last year, throwing for a total of 718 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, Kolb did have 85 total attempts those two games, and the Chiefs and Saints had the 22nd and 26th ranked pass defenses in 2009, respectively. Still, Kolb has the potential to be a very good quarterback, but not before he goes through some growing pains in 2010.

    Last year, the Eagles' offensive line held this offense back. They simply couldn't keep players like Dallas's Demarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and Jay Ratliff out of the backfield this year. LG Todd Herremans and RT Winston Justice are the only trustworthy starters on this line.

    If Kolb is going to silence his critics he'll need his talented receivers to step it up even more in 2010. Desean Jackson is simply the scariest receiver in the league from a defensive coordinator's point of view. He can score on any given play from any given yard line. Jeremy Maclin showed promise as a rookie, and looks keep improving in 2010. Tight end Brent Celek looks like he is about to burst into a pro-bowl year. Expect Maclin and Celek to get the majority of the receptions, as Kolb is highly accurate but doesn't have a great arm. Jackson will probably see less deep balls coming his way, but he should still see a significant amount of yards.

    The backfield is probably more inexperienced than the Eagles would like. However, there is definitely talent there. Second year RB LeSean McCoy should improve on his 637 yards this year with more carries. Newly signed veteran Mike Bell is a competent backup, though he has only started 6 games in his career. FB Leonard Weaver is one of the best in the NFL and is a powerful runner with a football in his hands.

    This offense is hard to predict. This could be a boom or bust year for the Eagles, and it all depends on how Kevin Kolb performs. Expect a slight dip in stats as Kolb settles in, but they will still probably have a top-15 offense at least.

Philadelphia Eagles Defense

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    2009 Defense: 321.1 YPG (12th), 21.1 PPG (19th)
    Passing: 216.4 YPG (17th)
    Rushing: 104.7 YPG (9th)

    Significant losses:

    Player: CB Sheldon Brown, DE Darren Howard, DE Chris Clemons, OLB Chris Gocong, ILB Will Witherspoon, S Sean Jones

    Staff: none

    Significant additions:

    Player: DE Darryl Tapp, OLB Ernie Sims, FS Marlin Jackson, DE Brandon Graham, FS Nate Allen, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, CB Trevard Lindley, OLB Keenan Clayton, DE Ricky Sapp

    Staff: none

    Preview and expectations:

    The pass rushers are the strength on this defense. Last year, Philly registered 44 sacks, tied for third in the league. In the draft they brought in the high energy Brandon Graham to team up with Trent Cole. They also added DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Defensive tackles Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson are dependable run defenders, but their pass rushing talents don't demand much respect.

    Linebacker Stewart Bradley will return this year, but expect a drop in production due his ACL injury. Ernie Sims, when healthy, is a very good OLB. He does struggle with injuries. Moise Fokou, unless someone beats him out in training camp, will start at the other OLB position. Fokou is a weakness in this unit.

    The Eagles traded away Sheldon Brown, and now their corner depth leaves a lot to be desired. Asante Samuel is a perennial pro-bowler, but he may be the worst tackler in the NFL. He gets interceptions by gambling and jumping routes, and sometimes gives up receptions because of it. Ellis Hobbs is an okay, but not great, number two corner. Rookie Nate Allen is projected to start next to pro-bowl strong safety Quintin Mikell to form a strong safety tandem.

    For all its talent, this defense performed very average last year. If the Eagles are going to remain playoff contenders in 2010, they'll have to improve on their 21.1 points allowed per game. This defense should rank in about the top-15 this year, if not better.

Philadelphia Eagles Special Teams

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    Significant losses:

    Player: none

    Staff: Ted Daisher

    Significant additions:

    Player: Bobby April (special teams coordinator)

    Staff: none

    Preview and expectations:

    Desean Jackson is one of the deadliest return men in the league. He averaged 15.2 yards per punt return last year and took two punts back for touchdowns. All-pro David Akers is one of the best kickers in the league. Ellis Hobbs and Macho Harris are talented kick returners.

    There isn't much negative to say about this group. Expect them to stand out again in 2010.

Washington Redskins 2009 Overview

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    The 2009 Washington Redskins season just screamed, "rebuild me!" They finished 4-12 and fourth in the division for the third time in four years. They ended the Detroit Lions' 19 game losing streak and earned the fourth overall pick in the draft. However, this team may be the most improved in the league going into the 2010 season.

Washington Redskins Offense

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    2009 Offense: 312.5 YPG (22nd), 16.6 PPG (26th)
    Passing: 218.1 YPG (16th)
    Rushing: 94.4 YPG (27th)

    Significant losses:

    Player: QB Jason Campbell, RB Quinton Ganther, RB Rock Cartwright, WR Antwaan Randle El, OT Chris Samuels, G Randy Thomas

    Staff: HC Jim Zorn, OC Sherman Smith

    Significant additions:

    Player: QB Donovan Mcnabb, QB Rex Grossman, RB Larry Johnson, RB Willie Parker, WR Mike Furrey, OT Jamaal Brown, OT Artis Hicks, OT Trent Williams

    Staff: HC Mike Shanahan, OC Kyle Shanahan

    Preview and expectations:

    Donovan Mcnabb is a very capable quarterback who may be nearing the end of his career. He has the arm strength and deep accuracy to excel in Shanahan's system. Unfortunately for the Redskins, they are unable to provide a supporting class even close to the one Mcnabb had in Philly. WR Santana Moss and TE's Chris Cooley and Fred Davis are the only capable receivers he will have. WR's Malcom Kelly and Devin Thomas aren't very talented, and their work ethic is questionable. Kelly and Thomas will compete for the number two spot.

    The Redskins had a swiss cheese offensive line in 2009. Now they've added Saints OT Jamaal Brown, whose career has been defined by great play and crippling injuries. If he can stay healthy, Mcnabb will enjoy great blind spot protection. They also drafted OT Trent Williams, who is a right at home playing right tackle, as he will in 2010. Guard Artis Hicks is also an upgrade the Redskins brought in during the offseason. This offensive line play should improve in 2010.

    The running back unit of the Washington Redskins is full of old and banged up stars. Clinton Portis is on a sharp decline, and Willie Parker may not even make the team. Larry Johnson has also had his body abused, but he may offer good consistent play for the Redskins.

    The Redskins have their first good quarterback since 1992. Expect improvement in this offense, though anything better than a top-10 ranking would be surprising. They should rank within the top-15.

Washington Redskins Defense

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    2009 Defense: 319.7 YPG (10th), 21 PPG (18th)
    Passing: 207.2 YPG (8th)
    Rushing: 112.4 YPG (16th)

    Significant losses:

    Player: DT Anthony Montgomery, CB Fred Smoot

    Staff: DC Greg Blache

    Significant additions:

    Player: DE Aaron Carriker, NT Ma'ake Kemoeatu, NT Howard Green, CB Phillip Buchanon

    Staff: HC Mike Shanahan, DC Jim Haslett

    Preview and expectations:

    The switch to a 3-4 is the biggest difference here. Besides Albert Haynesworth, whose work ethic and reluctance to play NT may negatively affect his play, the Redskins defensive line is pretty untalented. DE Ma'ake Kemoeatu has potential, but is coming off an achilles tear. DE Adam Carriker played very poor with the Rams. The depth isn't great either.

    Fortunately the Redskins have a strong linebacker core. ILB London Fletcher may be the most consistent and underrated player in the NFL and Rocky McIntosh--the other ILB--is a solid player. OLB Brian Orakpo had a shockingly good rookie season, recording 11 sacks. OLB Andre Carter also registered 11 sacks, making this pass rush something to fear.

    The secondary is average at best. DeAngelo Hall is a trustworthy number one corner, but the depth below him lacks significant talent. Number two corner Carlos Rogers can be pretty inconsistent. SS Laron Landry often blows coverages. Reed Doughty is an average free safety.

    This unit, led by London Fletcher, played very well in 2009. The talent is still there, but the transition to a 3-4 isn't always smooth. Nose tackle is arguably the cornerstone of a good 3-4, and Haynesworth can't be trusted to put in maximum effort. This defense should be average to above average in 2010, ranking somewhere between 10th and 20th best in the league.

Washington Redskins Special Teams

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    Significant losses:

    Player: P Hunter Smith

    Staff:

    Significant additions:

    Player: P Josh Bidwell

    Staff:

    Preview and expectations:

    In 2009, the Redskins didn't allow or record a single special teams touchdown. Antwaan Randle El, Rock Cartwright, and Devin Thomas were poor return men. Devin Thomas should be the main kick returner this year, and Santana Moss the punt returner. Newly signed punter Josh Bidwell had his days, but his hip injury may limit his performance.

    Redskins fans should worry about K Graham Gano. He's extremely inexperienced--having only kicked 4 field goals and 6 extra points so far in his career.

    This special teams unit isn't exactly a strength. The return men are average at best. Neither Bidwell or Gano are dependable, and may become liabilities. 

Final Standings

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    1. Dallas Cowboys: 12-4
    2. New York Giants: 10-6
    3. Washington Redskins: 9-7
    4. Philadelphia Eagles: 8-8

    This division is extremely competitive, and keep in mind that the standings could realistically end in any given order. Every team in this division is a playoff contender.

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