NFC East Preview

By The Rex Factor

NFC East preview: Three at the top – and Washington – again

The differences between the teams at the top of the NFC East are few and far between. The two Super Bowls the Giants have won in the last eight years came on the heels of playing three straight road games in the NFC playoffs. They were winners in 2007 and 2011; should the cycle hold, 2015 bodes well for Eli Manning and Co. The division title would just be an afterthought.

The Giants are easy to slot in at third, behind higher-touted clubs in Philadelphia and Dallas, and well ahead of woeful Washington. A couple of the same baseline thoughts that existed before the two previous championship seasons exist:

Does anyone think that the G-Men are Super Bowl contenders? No.

Is Tom Coughlin on the hot seat again? Yes.

The problem for the G-Men is in the running game, on both sides of the ball. They only carried for 3.6 yard per carry last season while yielding a whopping 4.9 ypc. Teams ran for 10 or more yards SEVENTY times against New York, most in the league. But, if they get in the playoffs…

The San Francisco 49ers had perhaps the worst offseason in NFL history (see NFC West), but the Redskins weren’t far behind. It’s just that we’re used to the annual 3-ring circus in Washington. It would take multiple paragraphs just to explain what’s been going on in DC, and that’s just the headlines – with no explanations. Some of the headlines are hardly believable.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins supposedly fits the Jay Gruden offensive system better, so Gruden sent out Robert Griffin III to get beaten into a concussion in a preseason game and quickly handed the keys to his offense to Cousins, who has proven very little in his first three seasons outside a semi-hot stretch over a few games in 2013. Anything more than three wins would be a surprise.

It’s very difficult to separate the teams at the top. In the end, I give Dallas a slight edge because of a more experienced quarterback and a better (the best?) offensive line. The Cowboys won the division last season at 12-4 and took the Packers to the wire in Green Bay in the divisional playoff round. The defense will be pretty good, adding Greg Hardy and Sean Lee to last year’s better-than-expected unit. Hardy and his domestic violence issues were brought in because it’s clear that Jerry Jones wants to win NOW.

On offense, the Cowboys lost bell cow running back DeMarco Murray and replaced him with no one of substance. Quarterback Tony Romo had the best season of his career, but asking him to replicate it at age-35 might be difficult. Still, the pieces are in place for Dallas to win the division.

Standing in Dallas’s way is Philadelphia, and third-year mad scientist/coach Chip Kelly. The Eagles were as active as anyone in the offseason, despite having a decent 2014. They acquired oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford from St. Louis and linebacker Kiko Alonso from Buffalo. Bradford was largely disappointing in large part because he couldn’t stay healthy. It remains to be seen how effective he’ll be in running Kelly’s offense, but he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 so the talent was obviously there.

The Eagles have three strong running backs and it remains to be seen how Kelly will deploy them. The Eagles run more plays than anyone in the league by a lot, so subbing them in between plays seems a long shot. Philly’s defense has also had trouble stopping anyone the last two seasons, in large part because they’re on the field for large chunks of the game because of the warp speed of the offense. There are lots of questions here.

The Rex Factor NFC East predictions

1. Philadelphia

2. Dallas

3. NY Giants

4. Washington

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