A division steeped in tradition. The Dallas Cowboys. The Philadelphia Eagles. The Washington Redskins. The New York Giants. Between the lot of them, 11 Vince Lombardi Trophies have been lifted, with the Giants doing so much recently just two years ago in Super Bowl XLII. With an 12th be lifted this year in Dallas? Will it be the Cowboys themselves, or will an upstart and young Eagles re-take the lead? Can Eli lead the way? Will Donovan make them all pay? It's the NFC East. It's history in the making.
The NFC East
2009 Record: 11-5
It was if he was born to play there. From the number he wares, to whom he was mentored by (which unfortunately ended his collegiate career a tad bit early), Dez Bryant looked to be Cowboy material from the start. As such, it was no shock when the Cowboys drafted him in the 1st round of 2010's NFL Draft. As a shiny new toy for Tony Romo, will he be the missing piece of the Cowboys Super Bowl puzzle or will he just be another fancy piece of property for Jerry Jones to stare at?
The addition of Bryant will no doubt be the opposite of harm for the Dallas offense which ranked in the top 10 in rushing and passing in 2009. The 6th ranked passing offense will help Bryant ease in to NFL action, where his talent could make him a deadly third option behind Jason Witten and 2009 surprise star Miles Austen. Further, the run game retains all of the pieces of Felix Jones, Marian Barber, and Tashard Choice. Should the pieces of the offense continue to remain healthy, the Cowboys could put up video game numbers week in and week out.
The only weak link in the Cowboys for Super Bowl in Dallas campaign in 2010, wherein they'd possibly be the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, lies in the defense. The run defense was steady and strong in 2009, ranking 4th overall. The pass stoppers failed, however, getting torched for on average 225 yards per game. With some of the offenses the Cowboys would have to face en route to their final destination, if the pass defense doesn't lock itself down then the Cowboys will once again fall short.
2010 Prediction: 10-6
New York Giants
2009 Record: 8-8
It was the legs that failed them. Thunder and Lightning were separated as the Giants lost Derrik Ward to free agency. The running load fell to Brandon Jacobs... and he underwhelmed. Rushing for only 835 yards, dropping off from the over 1,000 in 2008, the 2009 season was a big disappointment for Jacobs and the Giants as the run attack which had ranked in the top 10 in the league for over five years dropped all the down to 17th, becoming a huge hamper to the offense and harming the team as a 5-0 start was all for naught.
Perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise of the 2009 season was none other than Eli Manning. Some considered him a game manager, who managed his team to a Super Bowl win in Super Bowl XLII. In 2009, he exploded proving more than that. 4,021 yards in the air and 27 TDs later, he entered the discussion of more than a game manager and into a franchise QB. While it was only 11th in the league in passing, it was still nearly a thousand yards more than his prior five season high. It was a solid aid to the floundering run game, but far from the prescription to solve a bad case of average.
As the Giants offense remained stable at average, with the run game at 17th over and the pass game at 11th, the defense did none better. Ranking 15th in passing and 14th in rushing defense, the Giants remained in neutral for most of the season. After their 5-0 start, they would go 3-5 the rest of way while alternating wins and losses in the final six weeks. Via the draft and free agency, not much was done to improve on either side of the ball. It's another average year for the Giants. In an above average division, it proves to be a problem.
2010 Prediction: 8-8
2009 Record: 11-5
He was the first quarterback to pass for over 300 yards in his first two starts. It seems that was enough to make the Eagles think he was ready to drive the car. As a result, come the 2010 the familiar Donovan McNabb will not be the starting quarterback, and featured QB, for the Eagles for the first time in a decade. Instead, Kevin Kolb starts his pro career in full force. Will his 2010 be like his first start, where he threw for just shy of 400 yards? Or will that prove to just be a blip on the radar?
Helping Kolb out is the presence of continued star receiver DeSean Jackson, looking for another season with over 1,000 yards from the air. Also, electric young running back LeSean "Shady" McCoy takes over the running back position as the Eagles have released long time franchise back Brian Westbrook. Add in tight end Brent Celek, who caught almost 1,000 yards last year, and Kolb has plenty of weapons at his disposal as he looks to make the Eagles forget about the man who lead them to a Super Bowl and five NFC Championship Games.
The Eagles defense has traditionally been a strength of the team. Unfortunately, the passing of Jim Johnson meant a new defensive coordinator for Philly in 2010. Add in the release of a few key veterans to make way for the young, in a rebuilding that seemed evident from the outset of the season, and you saw a defense that lacked the same snarl that the Eagles seemed to have in prior years. Was that a result of the youth? Was it the new coordinator? 2010 should be an answer to some of these questions as the Eagles move forward and re-brand themselves.
2010 Prediction: 9-7
2009 Record: 4-12
He may seem like a wolf in sheep's clothing. How many times had he looked across the field and hated that ugly red and mustard yellow that stared back at him from the Eagles sideline? However, after 10 years with the NFC East's Philadelphia Eagles, the relationship had to end. Things had turned sour. It just wasn't the same when the two were alone and it showed in public. Instead of going else where out of town, Donovan McNabb went after the ex's worst enemy... and the ex sent him there.
It was an odd choice for the Eagles to send Donovan to the Redskins, but here he is. He's slimmer, too, having lost 15-20 lbs in the off season. He's going to need the weight off of him. He was loaded with weapons in Philly. Looking at the line up in Washington... look beyond Santana Moss and Chris Cooley and what do you have? Not a whole hell of a lot. Some vets make up the running backs who will try to relieve McNabb but heading into the season, most of the offense for the Redskins will look to rely on not just the arm of McNabb, but the legs as well.
The drama on defense involves one very, very key cog of the line which could determine the outcome of the 2010 season for the Redskins. It all rests on Albert Haynesworth. When giving his all, he is a force to be reckoned with. Combine with him 2009 draft pick Brian Orakpo from the outside, the Redskins defense has the potential to be one of the better defenses in the league. Will the ingredients mix and gel enough to make this happen or will the dough fail to rise? A lot of questions that need answered on both sides of the ball for Washington. They're almost there, though.
2010 Prediction: 6-10
NFC East Final Projected Standings-
Dallas Cowboys- 10-6
Philadelphia Eagles- 9-7
New York Giants- 8-8
Washington Redskins- 6-10
Bold= Division Winner
Italics= Wild Card team
Coming Monday: NFC North