By: Brandon Blake
I will start my preview of the upcoming NFL season by previewing the divisions and the first division I will preview is the much ballyhooed and talked about division in the league: The NFC East.
The talk of the NFC East last year was how mediocre the division was in 2015 as the Washington Professional Football Team won the division with a 9-7 record. The division was so down that at one point, the Cowboys still had a chance to win the division and they were 2-8.
Washington’s division title in 2015 was due to the solid play of quarterback Kirk Cousins and the question is, can he duplicate his performance from last year as they look to repeat as NFC East division champions?
The Cowboys were ravaged by injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant last season and as they return healthy this season, can the Cowboys return to the playoffs?
The Giants have moved on from long-time head coach Tom Coughlin and with Ben McAdoo at the helm, can Big Blue return to the playoffs for the first time since winning the Super Bowl in 2012?
Can new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson rebuild the Eagles into a playoff team in his first year as head coach or will the Eagles be grounded?
Here are predictions for the NFC East
*-Denotes who will win the division
#-Denotes who will earn a Wild Card birth
*Dallas (10-6)-With a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant returning to the fold to go along with Darren McFadden and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot, the Cowboys have the potential to be an explosive offense similar to what they were when they won the division in 2014. The offense should offset a bad defense that has been hit with suspensions to Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence and Rolando McClain.
Washington (8-8)– Washington got a lot of good mileage off of the hot play of Kirk Cousins and a soft schedule and that led to a division title last season. While Cousins and a lot of talented skills players return on offense to go along with the addition of big money free agent corner Josh Norman, the schedule is tougher this year (Washington plays Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Arizona, Carolina and Green Bay who were all playoff teams last season) and a defense that has not really improved its pass rush which will put a lot of pressure on Norman to produce. These signs point to Washington losing out on the division in 2016.
NY Giants (7-9)- New coach Ben McAdoo takes over for Tom Coughlin who guided the Giants to two Super Bowl victories during his tenure. I could see a scenario where the Giants could win the division with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., leading a talented offense and the defense adapting a bend-but-don’t-break system. But the Giants are hampered with a thin offensive line, no true second option other than OBJ and a defense made up of free agent castoffs who their previous teams were all too happy to get rid of. To me, these issues will cause the Giants to miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season.
Philadelphia-(3-13)- New head coach Doug Pederson has inherited a team that is in rebuild mode after the Chip Kelly regime. He does have a few talented players on the roster especially on the defensive side of the ball. But it is not enough for the Eagles to compete in the NFC East this season or perhaps the next season as well. The question that many will ask will be if Sam Bradford and/or Chase Daniel struggle, will we see the number two overall pick in the 2016 draft Carson Wentz step in and play?