While NFL regular season action won’t take place until early September, it’s never too early to get into a debate about the upcoming campaign. While one team will place in first, the question suddenly becomes which franchise will hold that division title. Some teams may have the edge over others, but here is the case for each NFC East team to represent their respective division in the 2018-19 season:
The Case For The Philadelphia Eagles
Based on a variety of rankings, the Philadelphia Eagles are coming into next season as one of the best overall teams. Against their own division, the Eagles finished the regular season 5-1, which was tied for the best in-division record, along with the Dallas Cowboys.
Keeping Nick Foles may be troublesome to a select few, but he should be viewed as a mere insurance policy. As Carson Wentz continues to rehab his way towards the starting position, Foles has shown potential as the Eagles starting quarterback as well.
Philadelphia has lost a few key pieces on the defensive side of the ball, including Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry. In result, the promising offense added Richard Rodgers, as the Eagles still contain one of the most well-balanced offenses in the NFL.
If Philadelphia goes on to win the division, it will be due to repeating as the highest-scoring offense in the league, as they scored 29.0 points per game last season. In addition, this was a defense that allowed the fourth-least points per game. With no real changes seemingly on the horizon, the fate of the Eagles season relies on Carson Wentz’s health, and Nick Foles’ dependability.
The Case For The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys ran into a lot of barriers last season, which was highlighted by the suspension of Ezekiel Elliot. On top of that, injuries to Sean Lee and Tyron Smith didn’t help by any means.
During the off-season, Dallas lost key pieces on the defensive side of the ball, which included Anthony Hitchens and Orlando Scandrick. On the offensive side of things, the Cowboys let go of Pro-Bowl receiver Dez Bryant, and are hoping that Allen Hurns is the answer for Dak Prescott and company.
If Dallas is going to have any chance of clinching the NFC East, it will be due to their young defense stepping up to the occasion. As Rod Marinelli is one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, he still needs to be met halfway.
With Ezekiell Elliot projected to play a full season of football, expect for Dallas to be a run-heavy offense per usual. While the NFC East is full of efficient defensive lines, the Cowboys hold the most promising offensive front in the NFL.
The Case For The Washington Redskins
Washington made a few changes on both sides of the ball, and it was highlighted by the addition of veteran quarterback Alex Smith. After previously leading Kansas City to four playoff appearances in five seasons, Smith could be viewed as an upgrade from former quarterback Kirk Cousins.
To bring some relief to Smith, the Chiefs also drafted running back Derrius Guice, who should be the featured back in his rookie campaign. Alongside Chris Thompson, this running game will also be one that is heavy in the pass-catching game.
In terms of the defense, the Redskins made less, but still much-needed changes. With defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, he could plug some gaping holes on the defensive front.
If the Washington Redskins clinch the NFC East, it will solely be due to the play of Alex Smith. Having not thrown for 10+ interceptions since his 2010 season, he should be able to have a field day with upcoming opponents in the division. This defense allowed the sixth-most points per game in 2017, so Smith will be forced to outscore his opponents in select weeks.
The Case For The New York Giants
The Giants went from emerging as an NFC contender in 2016, to a bust in the following season. As Odell Beckham Jr. was harboring injuries, Eli Manning simply could not utilize his other offensive weapons. As the offense continued to struggle, the defense followed suit.
Through the off-season, New York has had one of the best overall transition periods in the league. By drafting talents in Saquon Barkley and Will Hernandez, this offense has the potential to be borderline elite once again. The addition of Nate Solder should protect Manning to an even larger degree, which makes the New York Giants awfully dangerous.
If New York goes on to secure the NFC East, it’s due to the rookie impact in the “Big Apple”. Saquon Barkley is an absolute game-changer for the Giants, and the concept of keeping the defense off the field is the same ideology the Dallas Cowboys used when drafting Ezekiel Elliot.
Prediction: With the roster that Philadelphia contains at the moment, it’s difficult for anyone to predict that Dallas, Washington, or even New York will win the division title. At the same time, there has not been a repeat NFC East champion since the Eagles in 2004. This is the most competitive division in football, but it’s anyone’s game.
I have Philadelphia retaining the NFC East, but I also have Dallas securing an NFC Wild Card slot. The New York Giants will also be competitive for the Wild Card picture, as the Washington Redskins experiment with Alex Smith will be less than appealing.