by Ryan Meehan
In recent years, the NFC East has been highly regarded as one of the hardest divisions in professional sports. This is largely due to the fact that these four teams are well known for beating the living hell out of each other until they are virtually unrecognizable.
Last year was a bit of a freak on the control chart. The Giants underachieved which is not uncommon for them to do following a Super Bowl victory. The Cowboys were not nearly as good as their .500 record showed. And the Philadelphia Eagles had a season in which they lost eight in a row and 11 out of their last 12. To put things into perspective, here are everyone’s records from 2012:
Washington Redskins (10-6) (Lost to Seattle in first round of playoffs)
New York Giants (9-7) (Did not qualify)
Dallas Cowboys (8-8) (Did not qualify)
Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) (Did not qualify or compete)
The Washington Redskins surprised everybody with the idea that they might be a legitimate threat for once, which hasn’t happened since the Mark Rypien era. Robert Griffin the Third stole the show with his positive attitude and led the Redskins to a playoff berth, as opposed to superstars Tony Romo and Eli Manning. Michael Vick is probably still not responding to plenty of emails from ASPCA members, partially because he’s a prick but mostly because he spends all of his time either running for his life or on his back.
But the NFC East is about more than just the quarterbacks. The division has a lot of young offensive talent such as Alfred Morris and Dez Bryant, and still features the defensive talent of guys like DeMarcus Ware and Jason Pierre-Paul. It’s no surprise that four of the oldest and well-funded franchises in the NFL will give us plenty to watch.
The NFC East plays the NFC North in conference play this season, and they play the AFC West in interconference play. This is much harder than it looks because at any given moment, the North could be the best division in all of football, and all of the AFC West matchups that don’t feature the Denver Broncos are the very definition of a trap game. Trust me, it will not be easy for any of the teams in this eighth of the NFL.
So let’s take a gander at all four teams separately, so we can see what is going on at the franchise level.
Losses: LB Lorenzo Alexander
Pickups: CB E.J. Biggers, OT Jeremy Trueblood, OT Tony Pashos, LB Phillip Merling, DE Darryl Tapp
I have to be honest here – although resting Robert Griffin III until the first week of the regular season is probably the best decision, if I were a Redskins fan it would make me nervous as hell. Especially following a year where they did much better than expected.
I like Alfred Morris a lot. I think the dude is way underrated and because he plays behind a guy who has been a megastar since the middle of his college playing career, we seem to forget that he amassed over 1600 yards last year. That’s nothing to sneer at. With Morris (and eventually Griffin) leading a hearty rushing attack, it doesn’t seem like it’s so apocalyptic that their two best receivers are Pierre Garcon and an aging Santana Moss.
But that doesn’t change the fact that they were completely torched in the secondary last year. For a team that had that much buzz and excitement surrounding their stadium, they were a dismal 30th in the league against the pass.
Prediction: (10-6), once again out the first round of the playoffs
The reality here is that although the Redskins look tough and poised, they may get off to a slow start and nobody from this division is going to end up playing in the Super Bowl. And when they do get in, I have a feeling that they might end up running into a wrecking ball like the Saints IN New Orleans and won’t be able to compete with them. Sure they won there last year, but I already addressed that in the Bryan Bulaga piece.
Losses: DE Marcus Spears, DE Kenyon Coleman, LB Dan Connor, S Gerald Sensabaugh, LB Victor Butler
Pickups: LB Justin Durant and resigned LB Ernie Sims.
During the Cowboys – Dolphins preseason game (which I am ashamed to say that I watched the fourth quarter of), while they were doing a sideline interview with Tony Romo they switched to their trademark shot of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in his skybox. While they usually are able to time these shots well so that you don’t see how much Jerry actually drinks during the game, this time somebody dropped the ball and zoned in on Jerryworld when he was taking a swat out of what couldn’t have been anything other than white wine out of a wine glass. I’d just like to stress here how totally goon squad that is – You’re the General Lee of the hillbilly sports world, you’re supposed to be drinking whiskey or scotch on the rocks until your undergarments can blow at least a .225. There’s nothing that should drop you to “sissy” status faster than a box of Franzia. And I don’t care how expensive a bottle that wine probably came from, be a man. Tired of that shit – anyway…
The one thing that Jones did get right was he made sure that Romo got his money to the tune of $104 million over the next six years, which is quickly becoming the new measuring stick when it comes to the length that NFL quarterbacks get their biggest paycheck. So if for no other reason, the Dallas Cowboys will win this year because they really have no choice. And Romo certainly has the offensive weapons to succeed, so it’s definitely doable. Between Miles Austin, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant it’s not too far fetched to think that Romo could have an MVP caliber type season providing Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers all get abducted by aliens at the same time.
Much like the Giants, the Cowboys are a little thin at running back to say the very least. DeMarco Murray is the biggest tank they have to load, and as it stands the other guys in their backfield are Joseph Randle, Phillip Tanner, and Lance Dunbar. So as you can see, it’s a good thing they aren’t operating off of an extremely run-heavy gameplan because they’d likely end up in the dust. I suppose they could always throw backup QB Kyle Orton in every once in a while for a dirtbag hippie option. (Wait, Kyle Orton plays for the Cowboys? So that’s where Jerryworld’s whiskey went…)
The Cowboys’ defense is always hard to quantify because DeMarcus Ware after all IS only one guy. To that note, he’s incredibly talented and one of the best in the game today, but other than Jay Ratliff once you can get past the front line and the middle the Cowboys can be ripe for the torchin’.
Prediction: (10-6), will make playoffs and lose in the divisional round
Earlier I mentioned how the Redskins are likely to run into a buzzsaw like the Saints when they reach the postseason. That team could also very easily be the Dallas Cowboys, and if the Redskins are playing with a high level of vulnerability at that particular time the Cowboys could blow them off of the field come wild card weekend. But I have a hard time believing that will carry over to the following week, as this is probably the year where the Cowboys will be teetering somewhere between being a really good team to being an elite team. I’d like to see a really solid season out of Dez Bryant with no off the field issues to match it. (Editor’s note: Only in the NFL will you see a guy get charged for misdemeanor charges for hitting his biological mother, only to have the charges dropped and speak at an event entitled “Dallas Men Against Abuse” just nine months later. Perhaps she sold him a bunk rock. It looks like we’ll never know for sure…)
But seriously this is the year where I can see the Dallas Cowboys taking the next step. Unfortunately for a fanbase that is notorious for unrealistic expectations and disappointed in anything short of a Super Bowl victory. The next step for the Cowboys is to win a playoff game, and then they will cross that bridge when they come to it. I hate it how the sports media seemed to make out the Baltimore Ravens out to be an overnight success that won the Super Bowl so unexpectedly. The Ravens have had one of the best playoff records in recent years up until last year, and I still think the Cowboys have a couple years to go before they become the 2012-13 Baltimore Ravens. But I do believe that they can become that team.
New York Giants
Losses: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, DE Chris Canty, LB Michael Boley, S Kenny Phillips, TE Martellus Bennett, DE Osi Umenyiora, LB Chase Blackburn
Pickups: DT Cullen Jenkins, TE Brandon Myers, CB Aaron Ross, LB Dan Connor, S Ryan Mundy, K Josh Brown, WR Louis Murphy
The biggest news about the Giants was the five-year, $43 million deal that Victor Cruz signed this offseason. It was something that there should never have been any doubt about happening, and Cruz had the franchise by the balls as well he should have.
The Giants still have a lot of question marks, one of which being their inability to stop offenses on third down. Even in the Super Bowl 42 and Super Bowl 46 seasons, Big Blue really struggled to make the key defensive stops when they needed to.
But that’s just the defense. On the offensive side of the ball, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on David Wilson to lead the running attack and quite honestly I’m still not sure that he can handle it just yet. The following year he’ll probably be ready, but when your other backfield guys are Andre Brown, Da’Rel Scott, and Ryan Torian. And while we’ve had decent fullbacks in the past, for some reason Henry Hynoski doesn’t strike me as being the next Tom Rathman or John Riggins. It’s enough to make you want to exhume the football spirit of Ron Dayne, and I’m not really sure what their plan is if David Wilson gets hurt. My point here is other than him we have a very limited ground game.
Prediction: (8-8), will miss playoffs
As much as I hate to say since I’m a fan, I view the 2013 Giants much in the same way as I viewed the 2012 Dallas Cowboys. And in case you missed it, that would be as a drastically underachieving team that gets a lot of media attention but doesn’t always play a full 60 minutes. The over/under thing on Coughlin is hard to gauge…I think if he finishes .500 he might be safe even though that would be two season of missing the playoffs, the latter being in the first cold weather location to host a Super Bowl. He does have two rings, but I’m not sure that will be enough to save his ass if they finish 6-10 and one of those losses is to the Eagles which have the same record.
Losses: LB Cullen Jenkins, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DE Daryl Tapp
Pickups: TE James Casey, NT Isaac Sopoaga, CB Cary Williams, CB Bradley Fletcher, S Kenny Phillips, S Patrick Chung, LB Connor Barwin, P Donnie Jones, FB James Casey
It’s going to take a lot more than just Chip Kelly showing up and running the show. The Eagles went from bad to worse to “this doesn’t even seem real” really fast. They actually didn’t look bad at the beginning of the year. Keep in mind, they did beat the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens before the shit hit the fan and the fan exploded, sending a spray of shitwaves all across the East Coast.
We’ve already addressed that wide receiver Riley Cooper’s saga has been blown way out of proportion. That’s not the real problem here. The problem is, they have a new head coach and a very difficult schedule to deal with. And it’s highly unlikely that the combination of that and plenty of other variables is going to result in an above .500 record, which isn’t going to sit well with the fans in Philly who are notorious for their heavy criticism of their coaches and having a high blood-alcohol content.
Sure, the Eagles will be better…but by how much? It’ll be marginal at best, because their offensive line is either too young or beaten to death from getting stepped on a half second after the ball is snapped.
Prediction: (6-10), will miss playoffs and be a non factor
The Eagles are still not very good. Regardless of the fact that they finished in the top half of the league in both offensive categories and in the top ten in pass defense, that only translated to winning a quarter of their games and at times during that losing streak their play was almost comical. And by “comical” I mean “really fucking depressing”.
The best way that I can describe what is about to happen in the NFC East this coming season would be to say that very little of what we saw last year can be applied to this one. Sure, we now know that the Redskins are going to be a force to be reckoned with and that the Eagles probably belong in a museum. But the Giants are probably headed into this season a little overrated being just a year removed from winning it all, and Dallas will be better because there’s really no other option for them at this point. We will still see the intense divisional play due to the many years of rivalries renewed, but it will look much different. How will we know for sure? Stay tuned to Sports Blog Movement for all your NFL news, complete with profanity and everything else you need to survive the season.