It's a two-horse race in the NFC East, can a patched-up Philadelphia really take down the Cowboys, or will 'America's Team' flex their muscles?
Predicted NFC East finish
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Dallas Cowboys
- New York Giants
- Washington Football Team
Death, taxes, and Philadelphia Eagles injuries. Two key offensive linemen are out for the season, first round pick Jalen Reagor is set to miss several weeks, and an array of defensive starters will be missing. But enough of what the Eagles don’t have. Here’s what they do have – Carson Wentz.
Wentz became the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards with no wide receivers topping 500+ yards - a truly ridiculous stat. By the end of 2019 his top receiver was Greg Ward, formerly a quarterback in the AAF - no, really.
Injuries are always the worry with Wentz, but he did play all 16 games last year, and don’t forget just three years ago Wentz was seriously challenging for the MVP - make no mistake, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys, the perennial Super Bowl team in August & September, at home by February. But could this *finally* be the year for the Cowboys? During the off-season there have been major additions - a new Super Bowl calibre head coach, an electric rookie receiver, key defensive additions and now a quarterback with a point to prove.
Instead of a long-term deal, Dak Prescott received the franchise tag, making this a 'prove it' year for the quarterback. There is no logical reason why Jerry Jones didn’t pay Dak last summer, let alone this summer, and now he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. Last season Dak threw for a mouth-watering 4,900 yards whilst completing 65% of his throws. The addition of CeeDee Lamb makes for one of the best wide receiver trios in the league, rounding off a truly potent offence.
How Mike McCarthy will fare is anybody’s guess. The head coach has been out of the NFL for two years, and his final years in Green Bay were far from spectacular – however, it won’t take much to be an upgrade over Jason Garrett.
The Achilles’ heel? The defensive backs. Byron Jones was the lone star of the group, but the Cowboys decided to let him walk in free agency in favour of a long-term deal for Amari Cooper. Then, just one week before the season Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was released, leaving a lack of experience and talent in the backfield. They may be making room for Earl Thomas, but a tough start to the season may see their play-off hopes fade quickly.
New York Giants
New head coach Joe Judge brings a sense of old school football, which is great news for Saquon Barkley. Injuries slowed down the dynamic running back last year, but the prospect of a fully healthy Barkley as the focal point of their offense will give them hope. The downside? Their defence. The Giants ended the season with the 30th-ranked total defence in the league, and have shown little sign of improvement - especially in their pass rush.
With new signing Logan Ryan likely dropping back to safety, the Giants have arguably the worst cornerback group in the league, held together solely by James Bradberry. Tasked with the job of coaching the defence up is new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Graham spent the 2019 season as DC with the Miami Dolphins, where he assembled the 32nd ranked defence in the league – an interesting hire to say the least.
This offence will be fun, with Daniel Jones still progressing as a passer and Barkley dominating, but don’t expect much from the Giants, who will be likely competing for a top five pick in the 2021 draft.
Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team have the biggest mismatch in all of football when comparing their offence to their defence. Chase Young might be the best pure pass rusher to ever come out of college football, adding to an already stacked defensive line. This defence is fast, physical and will abuse offensive lines.
However, their offence is embarrassing. Dwayne Haskins is in the worst possible spot for any quarterback - a struggling offensive line, and a lack of any weapons. Sure, Terry McLaurin looks great, but that’s genuinely it – try naming their second & third wide receiver, or a tight end. And even then it will be a tough year for McLaurin, set to routinely go against double/triple teams. At running back Adrian Peterson has been cut, leaving rookie Antonio Gibson set for a plethora of snaps. This offence is young, and not experienced enough to compete.
The NFC East is purely a two-horse race, and there isn’t much at all splitting the Eagles & the Cowboys. Doug Pederson’s team is used to dealing with injuries, embodying the ‘next man up’ mantra with a deep & talented roster. It’s always the same story for the Cowboys, great on paper but lacklustre at crunch time – perhaps a new coach will cause a change in attitude, but there are still some real issues on their roster.
The division crown will come down to the crucial divisional match-ups, and for now the Eagles should be favoured. On the other end of the scale, both the Giants & Washington could seriously be in play for the number one overall pick in the 2021 draft. Expect Washington to replicate the Dolphins, with great coaching installed by the end of the season.