Division Preview: NFC East

The NFC East is always one of the most competitive divisions in football. It also holds a large fan base with the teams in the division. Will the NFC hold a team in the division that hoists the Lombardi trophy again? Let us preview the NFC East from worst record to the reigning Super Bowl champions.

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1. New York Giants 3-13 (Last in the NFC)

Best/Worst Potential Record: 11-5 / 4-12
Playoff Prediction: Divisional Round
Team MVP: Odell Beckham Jr.

Best Free Agent Acquisition: OT Nate Solder
Biggest Loss: Jason Pierre Paul

Draft Grade: A
Best Draft Pick: Saquon Barkley

Summary: The Giants had an off year last year, but they are normally one of the top dogs in the NFC East. Riddled by the injury bug that ended up causing a lot of turmoil in production and with team morale, leading to an offseason of change. Top receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and newly signed WR Brandon Marshall were unable to see much of the field as both went down with different injuries, thus putting a lot on to the shoulders of Eli Manning, who had to deal with a sub-par wideout committee and no real running game to rely on. With not much help Eli Manning came under fire with the coaching staff. And to the displeasure of many fans and players around the league, he was benched. This problematic situation led to the firing of Head Coach Ben McAdoo, and to the hiring of hot head coach candidate Pat Shurmur. Shurmur brings an offensive mindedness to a stacked Giants offense that consists of Super Bowl MVP Quarterback Eli Manning, the electric Odell Beckham, the rising star at Tight End Evan Engram, and most notably their first-round draft pick Saquon Barkley. They also added plenty of help to an unstable offensive line with the additions of Nate Solder, and the second-round draft pick Guard Will Hernandez. All signs are pointing to this offense looking as if it will be one of the NFL’s best in 2018, considering it’s been retooled and looks balanced.

The defense for the Giants, however, is a different story. In twelve of thirteen losses in 2017, the Giants allowed twenty or more points, whereas, in 2016, the defense only allowed opponents to score twenty or more points in eight games. This offseason, star defensive end  Jason Pierre Paul was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Dominique Rodgers Cromartie was released. Additionally, while there was no marquee signing, the teams biggest additions on defense were linebacker Alec Ogletree and rookie linebacker Lorenzo Carter. With James Bettcher taking over as defensive coordinator, then perhaps the defense can become a strength of the team, leading the Giants back to dominance. This team will have the offensive firepower if they can remain healthy, but ultimately, this season will be determined by the play of the defense. With no true improvement on the defensive side of the ball, it will be tough for the Giants to return to the playoffs in the tough NFC.

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2. Washington Redskins 7-9 (12th in NFC)

Best/Worst Potential Record: 8-8/3-13
Playoff Prediction: Do not make playoffs
Team MVP: Josh Norman

Best Free Agent Acquisition: Orlando Scandrick
Biggest Loss: Kirk Cousins

Draft Grade: B+
Best Draft Pick: Derrius Guice

Summary: The Redskins come into the 2018 season with a different look on the offensive side of the ball. They acquired quarterback Alex Smith from the Chiefs, months before Kirk Cousins departed in free agency for the Minnesota Vikings.  With Smith, now the new man at the helm, the Redskins did their best to give him some help with the additions of free agent wide receiver Paul Richardson and second-round draft pick Derrius Guice. Due to his power running style, Guice will add balance to the offense, taking some pressure off of Smith shoulders, something they failed to do with Kirk Cousins.This offense will more then likely be slightly above average for this upcoming season if Alex Smith can play the way he did last season after having a career year. The Skins defense did not really lose too many players after they re-signed their two main free agents Zach Brown and Mason Foster. Brown and Foster were imperative to re-sign for their defense as they are tackling machines. The addition of cornerback Orlando Scandrick who will be playing alongside Josh Norman means that Washington will try and improve its pass defense which finished 9th against the pass last season. First-round draft pick Da’Ron Payne will fill a need on the Redskins defensive line that struggled to stop the run last season as they were worst in the NFL in that category. This is a team that will be tested all throughout the 2018 season due to the strength of schedule. The Redskins will more than likely finish under .500 and miss the playoffs again, with a shaky offense and inconsistent defense.

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys

3. Dallas Cowboys 9-7 (9th in NFC)

Best/Worst Potential Record: 9-7/5-11
Playoff Prediction: Miss the playoffs
Team MVP: Ezekiel Elliot

Best Free Agent Acquisition: Allen Hurns
Biggest Loss: Dez Bryant And Jason Witten

Draft Grade: B
Best Draft Pick: Leighton Vander Esch

Summary: After a disappointing 2017 campaign for the Dallas Cowboys, the Cowboys have their eyes set on returning to the playoffs in 2018. This offseason the Cowboys lost their two best pass-catchers in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, both of whom combined for half of Dak Prescott’s touchdowns and nearly half of his passing yards last season. They added wide receiver Allen Hurns and special teams ace Deonte Thompson to their receiving corps but failed to find a stand out tight end to replace Witten. That points to it being another year of classic smashmouth football in the Big D with Ezekiel Elliott being the focal point of the offense. Their top fifteen defense last year also improved with the addition of Kony Ealy who will add depth to a defensive line that features guys like Demarcus Lawrence and David Irving, while first-round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch will join Sean Lee in the middle of Dallas’ linebacking corps. The defense was stingy against the run, but at times had problems slowing down the opposing passing game. Look for second-year player Chidobe Awuzie to have a breakout 2018 season. For Dallas, it will come down to who is going to step up on the offense besides Ezekiel Elliot and if the passing defense can hold up in critical, late-game situations. Dallas does not have an easy road to the playoffs as the schedule features ten teams that have made it to the playoffs once at least over the past three seasons and also being in a tough division, it’s likely that this team misses the playoffs for the second straight season.

Sep 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) reacts after his 73 yard touchdown pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

4. Philadelphia Eagles 13-3 (First in NFC/ Super Bowl Champions)

Best/Worst Potential Record 13-3/8-8
Playoff Prediction: Super Bowl
Team MVP: Carson Wentz

Best Offseason Acquisition: Michael Bennett
Biggest Loss: Vinny Curry

Draft Grade: B-
Best Draft Pick: Dallas Goedert

Summary: In the offseason after a Super Bowl victory, you would imagine that getting better may be tough. The Eagles, however, thought otherwise and made significant moves to make their team better at positions of need. The Eagles held a top-ten offense last year that will see improvement with the return of Carson Wentz and the additions of speedster Mike Wallace and standout college tight end Dallas Goedert. Wallace and Goedert will ultimately be replacing Torrey Smith and Trey Burton, both of whom were either traded or left via free agency this offseason. Perhaps the biggest change for the Eagles on offense would be the departure of LeGarrette Blount who signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency meaning the Eagles will turn to a running back duo that features the big-bodied Jay Ajayi and the versatile Corey Clement. Last year, both proved that they would be able to handle the load effectively.

It’s clear that for Doug Pederson’s defense, everything starts up front with the defensive line. In what was already a top-ten unit last season, it’s fair to expect this unit to dominate even more in 2018  Derek Barnett, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Chris Long are all returning, while Howie Roseman somehow managed to add two proven pro bowl defensive linemen in Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata. Bennett and Ngata should put more pressure on quarterbacks as they were not overly stingy against the pass last season. If they can better themselves against the pass, this defense will be scary, because they were first in the league against the run. The offense and defense have both improved over the offseason which bodes well for the defending Super Bowl champions. This team will hold a top-ten offense and defense in 2018. With Carson Wentz leading the way, it would be fair to expect to see the Philadelphia Eagles return to the playoffs in 2018 and another run to the Super Bowl likely as well.

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