After winning the NFC East division last season, the Philadelphia Eagles are poised to repeat in their second season under head coach Chip Kelly. While the team should certainly be able to improve on its success from last season, it’s not going to be any easier. Teams in the NFC East have made notable changes, and Kelly’s offense won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season. Looking at the other three division rivals, the Eagles might be the favorites to win the division crown, but at least one team will look to give them more competition than the rest.
Dallas Cowboys: What else can be said about this franchise that hasn’t already been covered by the media at large? The defense is shaky at best, though Rod Marinelli should do wonders improving it. Dez Bryant is as much of a play-maker as he is emotional (that’s actually a compliment), and has surely turned into one of the best wide receivers in the game. DeMarco Murray finally solves the short-term running back issues Dallas has been going through for the last decade, and has proven his worth as a featured back. The wildcard on this team surprisingly isn’t Tony Romo, but in the play calling of the newly hired Scott Linehan. Contrary to popular belief, Romo is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, with only a handful that are hands down better than him. If Linehan can consistently provide a game plan that allows an even mix of Romo and Murray, Romo could have yet another stats- heavy year and take the Cowboys past an 8-8 record.
Washington Redskins: With a new coach and a completely healthy Robert Griffin III, Washington is an intriguing team to say the least. Many of their issues last season came from a horrid defense that couldn’t be saved by an inconsistent offense. The addition of Desean Jackson paired with a revived Pierre Garcon could cause serious issues for opposing teams. Alfred Morris provides them with a much-needed play maker as well. But ultimately, this team will only go as far as RGIII takes them. If he falters or shows signs of regression in his decision-making, then their chances of reclaiming the NFC East are slim to none. If he can prove that his rookie season wasn’t a fluke and returns to form, then that opens up mismatches that teams will be hard pressed to contain.
New York Giants: There wasn’t anything good about the Giants last season. That in itself isn’t anything new, but in the past we’ve seen this team do the unthinkable. On two notable occasions (2007 and 2011) the Giants struggled, and just when head coach Tom Coughlin appeared to be on the hot seat, they mustered up a run that resulted in Super Bowl wins. Unfortunately that was far from the case for them last season, and a bad supporting cast made it seem that Eli Manning’s best days may be in the rear-view. They still have Victor Cruz, but I’ve actually been disappointed with the early reports on first round pick Odell Beckham Jr. Their secondary will be one to watch as a combination of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, and Antrel Rolle will force teams to stick to the run playing against them.
After giving a look at the other three teams in the division, it’s safe to say that the biggest threat to the Eagles right now is Washington. Some people feel the Giants will bounce-back, but I don’t see that. While the Cowboys should be in contention, they’re more of a wait and see situation, that depend on improved play calling, Romo’s health, and Washington however has all of the tools on offense to cause damage, and while their defense will put them in plenty of bad spots, the Eagles aren’t exactly rock solid in that category. Again everything is dependent on health, but if RGIII hits the ground confident in his ability to make a play happen, it’s going to be a back and forth race in the division all season. Desean Jackson made a career out of embarrassing the Washington secondary, and he’ll certainly be looking to do the same to Philadelphia. The Eagles front seven need to be better. Their play has been a glaring weakness for sometime and teams with running backs only half as good will be trying to exploit that.
Forget the head to head division match ups, the NFC East as a whole has a more than manageable slate of games this season. Looking at the very favorable Eagles schedule, this team has a real chance of stealing a few wins that will keep them in the division conversation.
Ultimately the division on paper seems like it’s the Eagles to lose, but the team can not afford to get complacent. The gap between teams isn’t that far apart, and the other NFC East teams are well aware of that. Expect this division to come down to the final games in true rivalry fashion.