The NFC East is shaping up to be an interesting fight, entering the second half of the season. The Giants are leading the division by a half game over the Redskins, followed by the Cowboys a game-and-a-half behind, with the Eagles bringing up the rear, two games behind the leader. All teams are above .500.
Without a doubt this is one of the toughest divisions in football. Just who will prevail as the division champion? Let’s take a look and breakdown the rest of the schedules for these teams.
Our first look will be at the defending Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants. The Giants have the tougher schedule remaining, with five division games still to play. The combined record of all the teams left is 41-26, with five tough road games against the division foes and also the Cardinals and Vikings. Home games left are Cowboys, Ravens, Eagles, and Panthers.
While losing a lot of key members from their Super Bowl run last year, the Giants are still one of the top defensive teams in the league. Being ranked third in total defense (fifth in passing, seventh in rushing) is a strong testament to the fine job Steve Spagnuolo has done in plugging in players in his scheme, with Justin Tuck leading the charge.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants offense also is ranked third in the league (13th in passing, first in rushing). Despite the tired antics of Plaxico Burress and a few brain farts from Eli Manning, the Giants are relying heavily on the running game to get them through.
But in order for them to win the division, Plax will have to rid himself of his "it’s all about me" attitude and get in tune with the team to win this year. Look for them to fall a little short, but good enough to get a wild-card spot.
Next we have the world’s favorites at the beginning of the year to win it all, the Dallas Cowboys. Teams remaining on their schedule include road games at all the division foes and a trip to Pittsburgh. Home games are 49ers, Seahawks, Giants, and the Ravens. Teams combined record is 35-23. Offense is ranked sixth in the league (eighth in passing, 10th in rushing).
The media darlings are in a bit of turmoil. Tony Romo is out for a couple more weeks. Jason Witten has an injury to his ribs, and Terrell Owens is not pleased with his team's play, to put it mildly. Injuries to the receiving crew forced Jerry Jones to trade for the other Roy Williams from the Lions.
The defense ranks 10th (14th in passing, 11th in rushing) and also has been hit with the injury bug. A rash of injuries and a suspension of Adam (Pacman) Jones have forced Head Coach Wade Phillips to play his young corners more than he would have liked to. DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Zach Thomas are leading the charge on the defense.
All eyes will be on this team to see how they cope with the different dilemmas that are in front of them. Wade Phillips has to find a way to get Marion Barber more touches and keep his star receiver T.O. happy. Don’t be surprised if you see this team in the basement at the end of the season.
Up next is the Philadelphia Eagles. On their docket they have five road games against the Giants, Redskins, Seahawks, Bengals, and Ravens. Home games against Giants, Cardinals, Browns, and Cowboys. Teams combined record is 36-30.
The Eagles' offense is ranked eighth in the league (fourth in passing, 23rd in rushing). Led by Donovan McNabb, the offense is high powered, with Brian Westbrook and rookie sensation DeSean Jackson motoring through the defenses.
The defense, ranked seventh in the NFL (12th in passing, ninth in rushing), is being led by Brian Dawkins, Asante Samuels, and Stewart Bradley. The defense has been playing solidly the first half of the season.
If they can keep McNabb and Westbrook healthy, the Eagles will put up a dog fight for the division title but will come up short.
Finally, we have the Washington Redskins, led by first-year coach Jim Zorn, with road games in Seattle, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and San Francisco. Home games are all division foes and Pittsburgh. Teams combined record remaining is 28-31.
The offense, ranked seventh in the league (18th in passing, second in rushing), is being lead by the NFL’s leading rusher, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, and Jason Campbell. The defense, ranked sixth in the league (11th in passing, fifth in rushing), is being lead by London Fletcher, Andre Carter, and Carlos Rogers.
If Campbell can continue to manage the offense like he has the first part of the season, and the defense continue to hold its own, the sky is the limit for these Redskins. The hardest part of the schedule is complete. They just need to stay focused one game at a time. And if that happens, we will be hearing more chants of “hip hip hooray" and “Hail to the Redskins” throughout the rest of the season.
Who will prevail in the stout NFC East? You better believe it will be the Burgundy and Gold, whom most people picked to finish last in the division, who will prevail in the East.
Hail to the Redskins!!