Tuesday, May 16, 2006

NFC East

Interesting article here trying to predict the order of finish in the NFC East this year. It's sort of a glamour division to begin with, so I think perhaps it is being overrated as far as just how strong it is, but it is no doubt a strong division. And it is really hard to call how the teams will finish. Here's my thinking:

1. Washington Redskins. Okay, note that as a Redskins fan, I feel almost obliged to feel optimistic about the upcoming season, so take this prediction with a grain of salt. But also note that I am not unrealistic about my teams, and I tend not to expect more out of them than they deliver. A lot of focus has been on the Redskins' offseason moves, with the common thinking being that they didn't add much given the amount of money they spent. I agree with that, but it is ultimately inconsequential to how they are going to do this year. The biggest acquisition in the offseason was easily Al Saunders, a top of the line offensive coordinator. The problem in recent seasons has been the offensive philosophies of the team. Steve Spurrier's system didn't work in the NFL, and Joe Gibbs' system hasn't caught up with the new NFL fast enough. Saunders will rectify that, and the talent level is high on the offensive side of the ball. They have a bunch of threats at receiver, an emerging tight end/H-Back in Chris Cooley, a strong offensive line anchored by Thomas, Samuels and Jansen, and a quality running back in Clinton Portis. Then on the other side of the ball you've got a great defensive system under Gregg Williams that keeps offenses off-balance and plays tough. The Redskins have a small window given their method of building a team, but this should be a very good year for them.

2. Dallas Cowboys. This is a team nobody is going to want to play, because they are going to have a nasty, nasty defense. They are deep with talent, from cover corners (Terence Newman) to pass rushers (DeMarcus Ware) to hard hitters (Roy Williams). I think under Parcells they are going to be one of the best defenses in the NFL this year. The problem is that this team is best suited to be a power running/defense oriented team. Their optimum formula for success is to pound the ball with Julius Jones and play defense. But they undermined that whole philosophy with the acquisition of Terrell Owens, who will cause more problems for the team than their opponents. I don't expect any major blow-up like in previous seasons, but I do expect grumbling and internal dissention when Owens doesn't get the ball as much as he wants. I don't think the Cowboys' best chance for success is going to the air with Drew Bledsoe, and I really think a Keyshawn Johnson type is a better fit for the system than Owens. The key to me is the beginning of the season. If they start strong, it will soothe potential tensions and make people buy into the team. If they start off poorly, things could deteriorate quickly, but I think they have too much talent to not at least be in most every game.

3. Philadelphia Eagles. Everything that could have gone wrong for the Eagles last year did. It was a nightmare of a season, and it has made a lot of people forget that they are a very well run organization that will likely not be down for long. That said, I think this season will prove to be a midway point between the awful year they had last year and a strong year in 2007. They build through the draft, but they have become a little arrogant in their willingness to let key players go in recent years. It's as if they can replace anybody, when the constant departures do hurt. The losses of Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and Michael Westbrook last year hurt the team greatly, but so did the offseason losses of Corey Simon and Derrick Burgess. This year Hollis Thomas is also gone, and there has been a real talent drain on both sides of the ball. Because the Eagles draft well they can make up for that, but I anticipate it's going to take another year for the Mike Pattersons, Reggie Browns, Brodrick Bunkleys and Winston Justices to develop. The Eagles will likely have a stronger second half than first half.

4. New York Giants. I can understand why people would pick the Giants high, because they probably have the most upside of any team in the division. The problem is they also have the biggest downside, and I just don't see all their key players making it through the season. I like Michael Strahan a lot, and he has always been durable, but he is getting up there in age and his production is down. Given he has been the strength of the defense for a long time now, having him perform under expectations or get hurt will really affect the team, like it did in 2004. I love LaVar Arrington, but I have no idea if he is going to be able to make it through 16 games and be the player he once was. Tiki Barber is a small, older running back who has been carrying the ball a ton in recent years. That spells disaster, if not this year then next year. And then you've got Eli Manning at quarterback, a very young kid who seemed to regress as last season went on. If Strahan and Barber and Arrington are able to stay healthy and productive, and Eli takes the next step, they will be very good. But those are too many pivotal question marks for me.


Anonymous Phil said...

My concern wih the Skins is that their success last year was contingent upon getting Pro Bowl type production from Mark Brunell. The combination of track record, aging and injury history makes that unlikely to happen again. Patrick Ramsey, a perfectly capable number two, is gone. They also drafted poorly, again. Santana Moss is likely to regress from his career highs last year; he could get the Steve Smith treatment frequently unless a second WR emerges. My early thoughts, though I'm pretty much in a wrestling and baseball only mindset at this point, are:
Dallas (10-6), Phila (10-6), Wash(8-8), and Giants (7-9).

1:08 PM  

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