NFC EAST

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by jeff beyel

NFC East Preview (In Predicted Order of Finish) 

 

The Dallas Cowboys have never made it to a title game always seeming to be a Cinderella squad.  Coach Len Barnhart has, traditionally, fielded a solid team in Big D without getting to an elite level.  This year, however, might be Barnhart’s best chance and the Cowboys look to have enough firepower to truly make a run at the Super Bowl. QB Kirk Cousins is under-rated and he has plenty of weapons to choose from.  The running back duties will likely be split between Gus Edwards, Matt Breida, and J.D. McKissick.  None of those three are every down backs but, as a group, they can flat out get it done.  WRs Michael Thomas, Julian Edelman, and Alshon Jeffery is as good as it gets and veteran TE Jason Witten might surprise folks.  The Oline still has its staple of T Tyron Smith, G Zack Martin, and C Travis Frederick to work with. 

   On defense, the Pokes do have some injury concerns along their front 4 and that could grow to become a major obstacle as the season unfolds. Even the recent acquisition of DT Da’Quan Jones will not solve the dilemma.  The line-backing unit, as a whole, is average at best.  Fortunately, though, Dallas has, perhaps, its best secondary after years of this unit being a team weakness.

A team that could, easily, displace the Cowboys could be coach Rick Main and his Eagles.  Main took control of Philadelphia last season after guiding the Atlanta Falcons for several years. His trademark vertical passing attack was immediately felt in the City of Brotherly Love but not to the degree that it was in Atlanta. QB Carson Wentz is a capable thrower but he is not to the level Matt Ryan was back in the Falcon days. RBs Miles Sanders, Devin Singletary, and Nyheim Hines are a super trio with all 3 having the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. The wide receivers are very good paced by DJ Moore, super veteran Larry Fitzgerald, and the explosive downfield capabilities of Kenny Golladay. HB Kyle Juszczyk is a tremendous lead blocker.  As good as the weapons are, the offensive line is not really geared to run block and has some concerns in pass blocking but could be just good enough to get this team to an elite level.

   The defensive front 7 can really get after the quarterback.  DE’s Joey Bosa and Justin Houston can bring the heat while OLB TJ Watt leads a very good line-backing trio.  The secondary has talent but injury woes could plague this unit enough to keep the Eagles from getting to the top of the mountain.

If there is a team to keep an eye on in the NFC East, it might be these Panthers.  They definitely have enough to knock off both Dallas and Philadelphia and only time will tell for sure.  QB Jimmy Garoppolo might not be heralded but he can still get the job done.  RBs Chris Crason and Telvin Smith are an excellent duo and pass catching option Jalen Richard is sure to see action as well.  The acquisition of dynamo WR Tyreek Hill from Miami will provide a major weapon to coach Doug Crandall who will also have the services of Tyler Lockett, Sammy Watkins, and excellent TE Evan Ingram.  The offensive line might best be classified as slightly above average but not over-powering.

   The Panthers have always been rugged on D and this season is no exception.  The Dline does have injury problems but can rush the passer without the need for the blitz. The line-backing also has some health concerns but MLB Demario Davis is elite. The secondary, similar to the other two units, has injury woes as well while also having talent.  As a group, the defense is talented and can be very good on any given Sunday but Crandall will definitely be taxed trying to mix and match this group as the season unfolds.

The lack of depth at WR and a QB who remains inconsistent will likely hold the G-Men back this year.  Baker Mayfield continues to show some signs of growth but he is still not ready for prime time.  The receiving corps has Cooper Kupp and little else.  The backfield is crowded but it is probable that Phillip Lindsay will emerge as the top element there. The offensive line has a bit of talent but a ton of injury problems that will almost certainly rear its ugly head as the year evolves. 

   The defensive front 7 lacks pass rush unless OLB Khlail Mack is committed to the pressure.  If he has to be constantly sent on pressures, the Giants will become vulnerable.  DB Jonathan Jones leads a decent secondary that seems to lack depth to face the spread attacks typical in football today.

The Washington Football Team has a QB problem.  They either have to use Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins and neither seems likely to scare opposing defenses. Ancient RB Frank Gore, albeit one of the greatest backs in PAFL history, has long since seen his day and does not have breakaway skills.  Promising rookie Terry McLaurin is a deep ball threat and he should tandem with veteran Jamison Crowder but the club does not have a true TE option.  The offensive line is average at best although looks to be stable.

   DE Sam Hubbard and DL Nick Williams can supply some pass rush but the front 7’s overall ability to stop the run could be a major problem for the Washington bunch.  CB Sean Murphy-Bunting is the best player of an, otherwise, weaker unit.

 

Final Analysis:  Any one of three teams (Dallas, Philadelphia, or Carolina) could come out of the East.  There is a very good chance that 3 playoff teams come out of this division.