5 Teams That Could Challenge the Eagles for NFC Supremacy in 2011
It really just doesn't seem fair, does it? Every single day, perusing my twitter feed, it seems like the Philadelphia Eagles are signing another impact player to a reasonable contract. First it was Nnamdi Asomugha; the biggest prize in NFL free agency. Then the team added Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins to shore up their defense along with trading for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Did I mention they already have Asante Samuel?
In case you're keeping score at home, they now have three corners that could be considered a number one guy in most NFL secondaries. Combined with an offense that was already explosive with the reemergence of Michael Vick last season and The Eagles are already being crowned as the class of the NFC. But I am in the short number of people who thinks there are five teams in the conference who will be saying "not so fast, my friend." And we're going to take a look at said teams now.
#5: Dallas Cowboys
It seems like every year the experts are predicting the Dallas Cowboys to return to NFL prominence. It also seems like every year that they receive this preseason praise, they fall flat on their collective faces. Well, this year no one is really talking about them. They had to make more cuts than splashes in free agency and there are a lot more questions this year than last. However, the team was a tale of two halves last year; One with Wade Phillips and another with Jason Garrett at the helm.
It was apparent after the teams quick turn around after his release that the team had completely quit on Wade Phillips. After Garrett took over, it was like a completely new team as they finished out the year by winning five of their last eight with Jon Kitna in place of the injured Tony Romo.
With a year of experience under Dez Bryant's belt I look for big things from him and the Cowboys in 2011. If for anything, because the NFC East is always a battle every single week. And they get to play Philly twice a year.
#4: New York Giants
Another NFC East rival should have something to say to everyone handing the Eagles the division and conference title already. If it wasn't for a late 4th quarter meltdown (now known as The Miracle at The New Meadowlands) in week 15 the Giants would have likely been in the playoffs in 2010 instead of the Eagles.
The Giants were likely the most talented team not to be in the playoffs in 2010 and it will go a long ways to them being hungry in 2011. The team won ten games last year and that feat shouldn't be too hard to duplicate this season with Eli Manning still being a top ten quarterback in the league that shows no signs of slowing down.
Again, nothing comes easy in the NFC East. And the New York football Giants will be looking for revenge for that week 15 loss to the Eagles last season.
#3: New Orleans Saints
The Saints are only a year removed from the being the Super Bowl champs and now that the target is off their backs, they are still a threat in the NFC. Any time you have Drew Brees behind center with the weapons that he has, said team is going to have to be taken seriously.
New Orleans was upset on the road in the 2010 playoffs against the upstart Seattle Seahawks in what became an instant classic. The Saints' defense was decimated by injuries, but their explosive offense almost won the game for them. And that offensive juggernaut of theirs only got better in the offseason with the departure of the overpriced Reggie Bush (who was little more than just a specialist) and replacing him with Mark Ingram out of Alabama. Ingram's game looks to translate to the NFL much better than Bush's did and will only make Brees' passing attack all the more formidable.
To have as good of a season as the Saints did last year with all their injuries and a Super Bowl hangover, they performed quite admirably and will be right back in the thick of it again in 2011.
#2: Atlanta Falcons
After a magical 13-3 season which saw them secure home field throughout the playoffs, they were embarrassed on a national stage by the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Several times in that game the Atlanta defense had the Packers in a 3rd and long situation but couldn't manage to get a consistent pass rush on Aaron Rodgers who picked their secondary apart every time. So the team went out and signed free agent Ray Edwards away from the Vikings to book end with John Abraham.
On the offensive side of the ball they got quarterback Matt Ryan another weapon to play with by making a huge draft day trade to get up to number six and select Julio Jones out of Alabama. With Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez on the other side and Michael Tucker pounding the rock between the tackles, opposing defenses will be forced to pick their poison in 2011.
By addressing some glaring holes in free agency and the draft as well as Matt Ryan getting better every season, I find no reason to believe that Atlanta will regress this season. I expect them to repeat as NFC South champs and challenge their former QB and the Eagles in a possible conference title game.
#1: Green Bay Packers
The Eagles have done something that I didn't think was possible; They've done the Packers a favor by getting the targets off their backs. With Vince Young continuing to be a moron in the NFL and calling the Eagles "The Dream Team" and Jason Babin proclaiming that they're "like the Miami Heat" but that they "win the final game," you just helped make yourselves the most hated team in the NFL. And don't think the Packers don't love that part.
What they don't love is that before we've even played a snap in the preseason, no one is taking the Pack into consideration as a repeat threat in 2011.
The champs have had no significant losses this offseason and there is zero reason to believe that Aaron Rodgers isn't going to continue to dominate and punish opposing NFL defenses. A young defense has another year of experience under their belts and should continue to be run well under the tutelage of defensive wiz Dom Capers. They did lose Cullen Jenkins, but he seemed to have problems staying on the field anyways due to nagging injuries.
Do I think The Bay could repeat in 2011? Sure. Do I think they will? Maybe. Do I think they can beat the Eagles? Absolutely.