NFC East Breakdown
August 4, 2015
By Gary Bart
Editor’s Note: Gary Bart joins the VegasInsider.com pro football handicapping roster this season. Don’t miss out on his selections on VI. Click to win!
In my opinion the NFC East is the most interesting division in the NFL. I cannot wait to see how it unfolds.
The Philadelphia Eagles were 10-6 the past two seasons and made wholesale changes to their roster. It will be fascinating to see if Chip Kelly has success with this new look Eagles team or if they take a step backward.
The Cowboys are coming off a very good season and their fans have every right to be optimistic.
Add to the mix a Giants team that has missed the playoffs for the past three seasons and the Redskins with their quarterback issue and this division should provide a lot of excitement throughout the entire year.
Odds to win NFC East - per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Dallas Cowboys 11/10
Philadelphia Eagles 7/5
New York Giants 9/2
Washington Redskins 15/1
NFC East Win Totals - per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Dallas Cowboys - 9.5 (Over -115, Under -105)
Philadelphia Eagles - 9.5 (Over +120, Under -140)
New York Giants - 8 (Over -120, Under +100)
Washington Redskins - 6 (Over -135, Under +115)
Odds Subject to Change – Updated 8.4.15
Listed below are my notes on all four teams and predicted order of finish.
1) Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are coming off a very successful 12-4 season and a trip to the Divisional Playoffs, which ended with a tough loss to Green Bay. Tony Romo had his best season in 2014 and the highest quarterback rating in the league.
Dallas were forced to make some difficult off-season decisions including not resigning 2014 league rushing leader DeMarco Murray. They had to make that move in order to resign wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Dallas has an exceptional offensive line and feel they can plug in almost any running back to do the job. We are going to find out if the Cowboys are right. They will be going with disappointing seven-year veteran Darren McFadden as their featured back. Third-year pro Joseph Randle will also compete for the starting job.
I am sure Cowboys owner Jerry Jones realized that his team was not going to contend for the Super Bowl unless they improved last year’s 26th ranked passing defense. They addressed that need by selecting Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones with their first pick in this year’s draft and took a chance on highly regarded and troubled defensive end Randy Gregory in the second round. They also signed talented free agent defensive end Greg Hardy from Carolina who will miss the first four games of the season due to suspension.
Dallas did not draft a running back in this year’s draft despite the loss of Murray. It will be interesting to see if their arrogance about slotting in any running back behind their great offensive line will be a mistake. If the Cowboys are able to receive the same production from Romo as they did last season and if Gregory and Hardy can stay out of trouble this team could be playing in February.
We will find out how good the Cowboys are early in the season. They open at home against the Giants and then travel to Philadelphia for a Week 2 matchup against the Eagles.
2) Philadelphia Eagles
Head coach Chip Kelly made some wild moves in the off-season. Most teams coming off consecutive 10-6 seasons try to make improvements by adding pieces to the lower end of their roster. Not Kelly. He decided his team was not going to get to the next level with last year’s roster.
In a surprise move the Eagles traded starting quarterback Nick Foles to the Rams for quarterback Sam Bradford and also traded their number one running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills. The Eagles were unable to re-sign wide receiver Jeremy Maclin who was coming off a career best 85 receptions for 1,318 yards. They did not re-sign five-year safety Nate Allen.
Philadelphia may be taking a gamble going with Bradford as their starter. The first overall pick in 2010 missed all of last season with a torn ACL, played in only seven games in 2013 and 10 games in 2011. Philadelphia signed free agent running back DeMarco Murray to replace McCoy and drafted USC’s diminutive receiver Nelson Agholor in the first round to replace Maclin. The Eagles drafted defensive back Eric Rowe with their second pick and added a pair of former Seattle defensive backs Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond via free agency to help their 28th ranked defense.
It will be interesting to see if Kelly’s moves are enough to put the Eagles into Super Bowl contention. You never know what can happen when a team makes sweeping changes. Philadelphia has one important factor in their favor, which is the 10th easiest schedule in the league.
3) New York Giants
The New York Giants are coming off two consecutive losing seasons. They have not made the playoffs since their 2012 Super Bowl upset win against the New England Patriots. Their offense was respectable last season, but their 29th ranked defense cost them any chance of making the playoffs.
The Giants may have surprised a few people by waiting until the second round in this year’s draft to bolster their defense. Rather than spending their first draft choice on a defensive player they added 329 pound offensive tackle Ereck Flowers to solidify the offensive line. After drafting Flowers they traded up into the second round to grab Alabama safety Landon Collins. Collins was a projected first round pick that fell to New York in the second round. The Giants added two more defensive players with their next two picks. The only noteworthy free agent signing was former Patriots running back Shane Vereen.
New York have some question marks heading into this season. They are solid at wide receiver with offensive Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Junior and at QB with 11-year veteran Eli Manning running the show.
The Giants may have been dealt a big blow if defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul does not recover from the loss of his right index finger and broken right thumb suffered in a fireworks accident. There are rumors that Pierre-Paul may have lost more than one finger and that he may be lost for the season. New York also lost starting offensive tackle Will Beatty who suffered an injury to his chest while weight training.
Tom Coughlin is a very good coach, but needs talent in order to compete in the NFC East Division. It will be difficult for the Giants to contend for a playoff spot if Pierre-Paul and Beatty are not available for the entire season.
4) Washington Redskins
Washington are coming off a 4-12 season and have managed to win just seven games during the past two years. Jay Gruden starts his second year as head coach with a lot of question marks surrounding this team. The most concern has to involve 4th year quarterback Robert Griffin. RG3 is coming off two injury plagued seasons after he burst onto the scene in 2012. He was a dominant player in his rookie season until he injured his knee. Griffin played in only seven games last season and has not been able to match his 2012 success.
The Redskins were better statistically last season in some areas than their 4-12 record would suggest. They finished 13th in total offense and 20th in total defense, but were 30th in points allowed. Washington may be heading in the right direction in overall team talent after drafting 10 players in this year’s draft. They went big in the first two rounds selecting Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick and Mississippi State defensive end Preston Smith early in the second round. Rookie general manager Scot McCloughan added five free agents to their defense including three linemen.
It will be interesting to see if McCloughan’s moves pay off. Their biggest problem remains at quarterback. Griffin has great athletic ability, but lacks in other areas. His biggest deficiency is his inability to pick up secondary receivers when his primary receiver is covered. As a result, it did not take long for defensive coordinators to take advantage of a less mobile RG3. If Griffin is unable to improve this part of his game it will be his last season playing for the Redskins.
The Redskins have made a number of key roster changes. I can see them improving on last year’s record, but not enough to challenge for a playoff spot.
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