Updated: Sep 16, 2018
The NFC East is the most competitive division in all of football. Since 2011 each team has won the division at least once and in 2017 the Philadelphia Eagles were crowned Super Bowl champions.
A week one victory over Atlanta has Philadelphia on the path to a repeat but a retooled Giants and Redskin teams could throw their a wretch in their plans. Don't forget about the Dallas Cowboys either, who will have Ezekiel Elliot for an entire season.
The quarterbacks alone show the prestige of the NFC East and how difficult it will be to win the division. The Eagles will eventually have Carson Wentz healthy. The Giants have two time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning and Washington brought in the always consistent Alex Smith to replace Kirk Cousins. Dallas boasts a young talented QB of their own in the form of Dak Prescott.
The NFC East could go a number ways in 2018 but history and statistics show one way is more likely than others.
The Eagles enter 2018 as the defending Super Bowl champions after defeating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots last season. A playoff run capped off with a Nick Foles Super Bowl MVP ended the 2017 season with a feel good moment fans will be talking about for years to come.
An offseason later and the Eagles are already back in the win column to start the new year. A come from behind, down to the wire win against Atlanta was eerily similar to their match-up in the Divisional round of the last years playoffs.
Starting the season 1-0 with Nick Foles under center is good news for Philadelphia. While Carson Wentz continues to rehab from a torn ACL, Philly's goal is to rack up wins against weaker opponents.
Weeks 2-4 should result in the same outcome as week one, an Eagles victory. Playing the Buccaneers, Colts, and Titans in consecutive weeks will slowly ramp up the competition for when Wentz does return, possibly by week five.
Taking on Minnesota in week five at home will give the Eagles one of their toughest battles of the season. This along with games against the Panthers, Jaguars, Saints, and Rams will test the Super Bowl champs throughout the year and that is not including the six division games Philadelphia will play.
If Carson Wentz is back to full health by week 8, the Eagles could feasibly rattle off another double digit win season. If not, one must question how long Nick Foles can keep it up?
Foles' track record shows an inevitable break down is coming but when? It could already have started. Foles was downright bad in the Preseason completing only 55 percent of his passes while throwing two interception and no touchdowns. Preseason does not count so why should it matter?
Foles seems to be on a downward trend ever since the Super Bowl. He has been inaccurate and careless with the football with four turnovers in his last three games. He also has not reached the endzone yet.
Still don't believe? Week one was more proof Foles is falling apart. A 56 completion percentage and an average of 3.44 yards a pass show Foles' inability to move the football. Trust me, it gets more obvious when moving down the stat sheet. An average QBR is 50, Foles' was 26.2 against the Falcons and not to mention his 50.7 passer rating which is ten points below the listed minimum for a "bad" quarterback.
Nick Foles' took flight in 2017 but looks to be on a steep decline, one the Eagles cannot afford if Carson Wentz is to miss extended time.
The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the best rosters in the entire NFL but are lacking in the most important position, quarterback. Luckily, the next three weeks of the season are against opponents below average to average at best (Bucs, Colts, Titans). This alone should allow the Eagles to start the year 4-0 leading up to week five which should be the triumphant return of Carson Wentz. If not the Eagles will have to ride the sinking ship that is Nick Foles.
Under the assumption Wentz will return by week five, the Eagles will finish 2018 with a record of 11-5 and sit atop the NFC East for the second consecutive season.
The Dallas Cowboys were 9-7 last season and according to teamranking.com, Dallas is predicted to finish right at .500 in 2018.
An offseason which saw the departure of starters Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Orlando Scandrick depleting three key positions for Dallas.
Bryant is the Cowboy's all time record holder for touchdowns with 73 but was justifiably released after another season barely catching over 50 percent of his targets. It was not only his play on the field that got him cut. Bryant is said to have been a "distraction" in the locker room which was a factor in his release. To make matters worse, Bryant did not take the news very well.
Another Cowboy's record holder and future Hall of Fame tight end, Jason Witten, announced his retirement during the offseason. Witten caught 132 passes for 1,233 yards and eight touchdowns from Dak Prescott over the past two years proving to be a go-to target for the young QB.
A major part of the Cowboys offense since 2003, Witten will join the ESPN Monday Night Football broadcasting team for the upcoming season.
To replace Bryant and Witten, the Cowboys have turned to multiple offseason acquisitions. Former Jaguars and Rams receivers Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin will look to prove themselves as valuable assets to team desperately needing some.
Hurns has missed 11 games since 2016 and has yet to prove he is not a one hit wonder after a career year in 2015. Injuries have cost Hurns the majority of the past two season but a new system and new quarterback could prove fruitful.
Austin, drafted in 2013 primarily as a special teams players, has never found his footing as a receiver. A poor 2017 for Austin was the final straw as the Rams released the six year wideout.
2018 is a pivotal year for Hurns and Austin as both men must prove to be productive for Dallas' and their own career's sake.
The aforementioned Orlando Scandrick departed for Kansas City once Dallas released him. Scandrick had dawned a Cowboy jersey for the last decade but had his breakout season in 2013. Starting in 51 games since then, Scandrick found himself playing a major role on Dallas' defense prior to his release.
The offseason continued the changing of the guard for Dallas and an official end to the Tony Romo era of Cowboy football. Romo, Bryant, and Witten are all gone giving Dallas a young core of players still fighting to prove themselves.
2018 could see Dallas sneak into the playoffs but a strong NFC will give "America's Team" fits all year long.
Outside of division games, Dallas must play Saints, Falcons, Lions, and Seahawks. All of which could come down to the final quarter or be a tally in the loss column.
A non-suspended Ezekial Elliot will help ease the transition of a Bryant and Witten-less offense and take some pressure off of Dake Prescott. If Zeke plays all 16 games and the offensive line can fill the hole left by Travis Frederick, a big year could be in the horizon for the former Ohio State star.
A weak secondary and unproven receiving core (Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams not included) could lead to Dallas to making some moves during the season.
The rumored trade for All Pro safety Earl Thomas could still be in the works but as of today, Dallas still needs to improve the secondary if they want the ability to stop the elite stye of offenses in the NFC.
An 8-8 season seems about right for a team that is still unproven but has the potential of a "go big or go home" type of roster.
Alex Smith is one of the most consistent passers in the NFL but for some reason his career has been haunted by young quarterbacks replacing him as starter. First it was Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and then it was Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. Now in 2018 it will be Smith replacing a a younger quarterback.
The Redskins and Kirk Cousins went separate ways in the offseason prompting Washington to trade for Smith. The trade was highly questionable due the involvement of emerging star cornerback Kendall Fuller but the ultimate return should offset the loss.
Smith and Cousins are mirror images of each other. Both have a completion percentage in the mid 60's while their touchdown and interception percentages have a maximum .7 percent difference. The only thing setting Smith apart is his ability to win.
Smith has led his teams to the playoffs five times in his career including one trip the NFC Conference Championship game in 2011. Cousins has lost both Wild Card games he has appeared in.
The Redskins now have a proven winner at quarterback and Smith's veteran leadership will play dividends on the field . Wide Receivers Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder look ready to take the next step in their development while tight end Vernon Davis could have the biggest impact on the entire offense.
Smith and Davis were a lethal tandem in San Francisco combining for 30 touchdowns during six seasons together. Smith also owned a 115.2 passer rating when targeting Davis in San Francisco, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The two reunited could have a feel for nostalgia and form one of the better quarterback and tight end duos in 2018.
Second round pick Derrius Guice suffered a torn ACL during the preseason which led to the signing of Adrian Peterson. Peterson join Chris Thompson in hopes to prove he still has what it takes to be a feature back in the NFL.
Josh Norman is still the leader on defense and with a strong linebacker core could improve upon their 21st overall ranking according to ESPN.com. Joining Johnathan Allen on the defensive line is Alabama teammate and first-round pick Da'Ron Payne. The two will combine to add pressure to opposing quarterback and open up holes for sack leaders Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith.
Washington is one of, if not, the most underrated team in all of football. Quarterback Alex Smith will help add a veteran presence under center while Adrian Peterson will bring stability to a backfield that was riddled with injury last season.
A defense that should be right at average throughout the year and an offense that can put up point against anybody should allow the Redskins to play spoiler for hopeful playoff teams while making a push of their own.
A 7-9 record in 2018 may not be the prettiest finally but possibly keeping the Cowboys and other NFC teams out of the playoffs should bring Washington fans just as much joy.
NEW YORK GIANTS
An offense with little pass protection and a non-existent running game. A defense ruined by injuries and infighting. A roster stripped of its stars early which led to a Super Bowl MVP getting benched and a head coach fired.
That was the 2017 New York Giants in a nutshell.
The 2018 Giants improved their pass protection by adding left tackle Nate Solder to protect Eli Manning's blindside. New York also brought in veteran running back Johnathan Stewart and drafted Penn State star tailback SaQuon Barkley to add another element to the offense. Odell Beckham Jr. has returned and looks primed for a Comeback Player of the Year award. Eli Manning will be the starting quarterback throughout the season and Pat Shurmur has been named the new head coach.
2018 will be nothing like 2017.
Everything that could go wrong last season did for the Giants but a GM change has set the course for a hopeful turnaround. Dave Gettleman has taken over front office operations for New York as the new General Manager. He has reshaped the culture and made necessary changes for the betterment of the team for the immediate and distant future.
Drafting SaQuon Barkley was a no brainer for Gettleman. Eli Manning and the Giants have not had a 1,000 yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2010. Barkley could eclipse the 1,000 yard total for the next 10 years straight.
The defense who's secondary went through its own struggles, mainly those involving Eli Apple, is in for a bounce back years. Janoris Jenkins was once a top cornerback in the NFL . A more focused coaching staff will prove valuable for Jenkins and the rest of New York's defense.
Starting 2018 the Giants will look terrible and lose many many games. Four straight losses to begin the season will have fans questioning head coach Pat Shurmur but the teams turn around will begin in the second half.
A 2-6 record in the first half will seem daunting but a slew of games against weaker opponents will add some tallies to the win total. Playing the Buccaneers and Bears at home will give the Giants their best chance to surpass last seasons win total. Traveling to Indianapolis for their final win of the year will cap off a 5-11 debut season for Pat Shurmur's Giants.
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