Today is the second preview of eight leading up to the kickoff of football season, and this time we’re tackling the NFL’s media darling – the NFC East. You’ve got America’s Team, the City of Brotherly Love, the nation’s capital, and the New York Football Giants. The storylines and rivalry in this division is rich year in and year out, and 2019 should be no different. Because of the media bias, a lot of times expectations surrounding these four teams are blown way out of proportion, but this season there’s a significant chance the division slips two teams into the playoffs again – because the other two teams are so bad. The Cowboys and Eagles are chasing rings, while the Giants and Redskins each drafted a rookie QB with their first-round picks, polarizing the division to the maximum.
Philadelphia Eagles (Over/Under 10)
The Eagles showed undoubtedly the most toughness of any team in the league last year. From an injury-plagued secondary, to their starting QB going down for a second year in a row, Philly was basically counted out midway through the season. Then along came Nick Foles to rally the troops and the team came back to win a wild-card spot and a road playoff game in Chicago before falling to the Saints. After one of the more incredible two-year runs we’ve seen, where do the Eagles go in 2019? With Foles now in Jacksonville, the fate of the Eagles appears to rest squarely on the health of its young franchise QB Carson Wentz. If Wentz can’t stay on the field, they’ll be in trouble. But even when he was on the field in 2018, it didn’t quite look the same as his breakout campaign from the year prior. The defense should get back to form with everyone returning from injury, the offensive line is as good as any in the league, and they have a stable of running backs now with the addition of Jordan Howard from the Bears. However, the real question with this team again comes down to the health and performance of Wentz.
Dallas Cowboys (Over/Under 9)
Like the Eagles, it seemed as though the Cowboys did a complete 180 in the middle of the season as well. Remember when they got embarrassed on Monday Night Football at home against the Titans to fall to 3-5 on the year? That all changed with the addition of Amari Cooper before the trade deadline. The defense finally came together and played lights out, most notably shutting down the New Orleans Saints – also in primetime. It felt like the ‘Boys had an underwhelming season partially due to their rough start but when you total the numbers, they ended up division champs and one game away from the NFC Championship. Combine that with another year of growth for this young corps, a full preseason to implement schemes with Cooper, and this could be the year for Dallas – oh wait, what’s that? Ezekiel Elliott won’t play unless he gets an extension? Classic Dallas. While the Zeke situation is certainly cause for concern, keep in mind Darren McFadden and DeMarco Murray also had fantastic seasons behind that line, which will be returning Travis Frederick from injury. So long as Jerry Jones can avoid a repeat of the Le’Veon Bell saga in Pittsburgh, America’s Team is in good shape to take a run at one last Lombardi in the Jerry Jones era.
Washington Redskins (Over/Under 6.5)
At this point, it’s safe to say the Redskins have a management problem. Since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999 the Redskins own a record of 138-180-1 (proud TV viewer of the tie in London in 2016). They’ve had 8 different coaches in that span and all signs point towards number nine coming to a FedEx Field near you if Washington doesn’t make the postseason, which is a near certainty given the status of the roster. Jay Gruden, who made the comment, “If we miss the playoffs again, I probably won’t be here anyway,” hasn’t been given much to work with, despite management’s expectations. The team’s QB situation is Case Keenum, who is playing for his third team in as many years, and rookie first-rounder Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State. The situation around them isn’t much better, and although the roster isn’t completely devoid of talent – they will surely miss the presence of Alex Smith under center. The ‘Skins will be excited to see what RB Derrius Guice can do in his second pro season after hardly playing at all his rookie year, and similarly with LB Reuben Foster, but the overall the construction of the team has been head-scratching and it doesn’t help they’ve missed on a lot of draft choices over the years. Unless Haskins pulls them from the fire, it looks like another long season ahead up in D.C.
New York Giants (Over/Under 6)
Man, how the mighty have fallen. It doesn’t seem like very long ago the Giants were in a pretty good spot with the NFL’s biggest superstar in OBJ and all sorts of talent on the roster. Then practically overnight the management became one of the most incompetent groups in the league. If you track it back far enough with the evidence we have now, it’s likely Tom Coughlin was the glue holding the franchise together. Since his departure, GM David Gettleman has made one bad decision after another. The Ben McAdoo hire was a complete disaster beginning with the Odell Yacht Club and ending with the whole benching Eli Manning episode. Pat Shurmer hasn’t looked much better, and although New York was able to nab Saquon Barkley, many have been critical of the choices made by the front office. First for passing on a QB for Barkley last year and then drafting Daniel Jones with their premium selection this spring – who many didn’t even view as a first-round player. This season they shake out as one of the worst teams on paper and I’d imagine many will smash the under for their win total. They’ll almost certainly bench Manning for Jones at some point and outside of Barkley, the offense doesn’t produce much, and the defense is even worse. Who knows, maybe Jones proves everyone wrong and has a stellar rookie year, but I’d bet against it. Even if he does have a little talent, he’ll have quite the hill to climb with the hole the organization has dug itself.
Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Washington Redskins (4-12)
New York Giants (3-13)