It’s that time of the year again. I’m going to briefly preview each division, starting with the always-entertaining NFC East.
- 9-7, no playoffs
- Offensive rankings: 14th in points scored, 14th in yards recorded
- Defensive rankings: 13th in points allowed, 8th in yards allowed
- Turnover differential: -1 (16th). 21 takeaways, 22 turnovers
- Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, Cameron Fleming, Kony Ealy
- Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Anthony Hitchens, Orlando Scandrick
- Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, Michael Gallup
- The Cowboys struggled without Ezekiel Elliott during his 6-game suspension, and maybe more notably, they really struggled with the lingering injuries to All-Pro Left Tackle Tyron Smith. Their offense was stagnant, the play-calling was predictable and they lost a lot of games primarily in the second halves of games. Despite being 2nd in the league in rushing yards, Dallas was 26th in passing. It’s no secret their success completely hinges on their running game; they’re 10-2 when Zeke runs for over 100 yards, which has happened a league-high 48% of his starts since entering the league. I think Dallas’ defense, albeit young, will be much improved, and a fresh Elliott should help put them back in playoff contention in 2019.
New York Giants
- 3-13, worst in division
- Offensive rankings: 31st in points scored, 21st in yards recorded
- Defensive rankings: 27th in points allowed, 31st in yards allowed
- Turnover differential: -3 (20th). 19 takeaways, 22 turnovers
- Jonathon Stewart, Alec Ogletree, Connor Barwin, Nate Solder
- Jason Pierre-Paul, Dwayne Harris, Brandon Marshall, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, Weston Richburg, Justin Pugh
- Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez
- The Giants’ 2017 season was certainly one to forget. The defense allowed a league-high 32 passing touchdowns and only recorded 27 sacks (29th in league). While those numbers are disgusting, the finger to point is at the offense; the Giants haven’t had a running back rush for over 1,000 yards since 2012 — they ranked 27th in yards-per-touch last season. More painful was the season-ending injury to Odell Beckham: The Giants score 20 points-per-game with him, but under 10 per without him. He’s simply a game-changing receiver. With him back, a new look up front, and a new weapon in #2 overall pick Saquon Barkley, 37-year-old Eli Manning will have a lot more help this season. It’ll be interesting to see if new Head Coach Pat Shurmer can turn things around with Manning before it’s too late (if it’s not already).
- Offensive ranking: 16th in points scored, 16th in yards recorded
- Defensive rankings: 27th in points allowed, 21st in yards allowed
- Turnover differential: -4 (23 in league). 23 takeaways 27 turnovers.
- Alex Smith, Paul Richardson, Orlando Scandrick, Pernell McPhee
- Kirk Cousins, Kendall Fuller, Terrelle Pryor, DeAngelo Hall, Su’a Cravens, Terrell McClain
- Da’Ron Payne, Derrius Guice
- The Redskins are the forgotten team in the NFC, but I think they actually upgraded at the most important position: Quarterback. Alex Smith had his best season by far last year. I’d be a lot more optimistic if Sean McVay was still around, but think their offense can be serviceable especially if 2nd-round-pick Derrius Guice lives up to the hype. More concerning is a defense that allowed the most rushing yards in the league. They’ve drafted an Alabama defensive tackle in consecutive years (Jonathon Allen and Payne) to help that cause. I don’t see playoffs, but I think the Skins’ will be a team that surprises on Sundays in 2019.
- 13-3, Super Bowl Champs
- Offensive rankings: 3rd in points scored, 7th in yards recorded
- Defensive rankings: 4th in points allowed, 4th in yards allowed
- Turnover differential: +11 (4th) 31 takeaways, 20 turnovers
- Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Mike Wallace
- Mychal Kendricks, LeGarrette Blount, Brent Celek, Torrey Smith, Vinny Curry
- Second-year Quarterback Carson Wentz was a legitimate MVP candidate before going down with an ACL tear, but the Eagles’ success thereafter was a true testament to how stacked their roster was/is beyond the quarterback position. They poise arguably the best OL/DL in the league; they simply dominate in the trenches. They were 3rd in rushing yards and 1st in rushing yards given up per game (79). They recorded a league-high 112 quarterback hits and added Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata to an already-dominant line. The lone concern to me is the losses of OC Frank Reich and QBs coach John DeFilippo, who unarguably helped the development of Wentz. They were flat out dominant last year on both sides of the ball, and that makes it tough to predict a Super Bowl slump from this team.