Saturday, September 11, 2010

NFC East Preview and Predictions

1. Dallas Cowboys - 11-5
I really like the Cowboys offense, but their schedule is extremely difficult. We all know that QB Tony Romo can produce at a very high level, but his problem is performing under pressure. The past few seasons, Romo has choked on the biggest of stages. That being said, numbers don't lie, since becoming a starter in 2006, Romo has thrown for over 4,000 yards twice and 107 total TD's. I look for Romo to have another huge regular season in 2010. The running game in Dallas is definitely a strength, they have a nice combo of backs with Felix Jones and Marion Barber. Barber brings the traditional smash mouth running style, while Jones changes the pace and likes to break to the outside with his quickness. Miles Austin has emerged as a fantastic receiver that Romo loves to target, in 2009, Austin broke onto the scene with 1,320 receiving yards and 11 TD's. His counterpart, Roy Williams, hasn't lived up to the expectations he set for himself in Dallas, in fact, Williams has created nothing but problems since coming over from Detroit. I expect rookie receiver Dez Bryant to fill in where Williams doesn't, and have a nice year. Tight End Jason Witten is one of the best at the position, and every football fan knows he and Tony Romo have a great relationship.
The Cowboys have a really good front three with Igor Olshansky, Jay Ratliff, and Marcus Spears. Ratliff will be the anchor on the D-Line, he had a nice season last year with 6 sacks. Their linebacking core is very talented, and it consists of DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James, Keith Brooking and Anthony Spencer. DeMarcus Ware leads this defense, since coming into the league in 2005, Ware has accumulated 64.5 sacks. Don't sleep on then other three guys, though, because they are all savvy veterans and solid defensive players. The Cowboys secondary is led by CB Terrance Newman, but safeties Gerald Sensabaugh and Alan Ball can cause serious problems for opposing offenses. Third year CB Mike Jenkins had five interceptions last season, I'm looking for him to build on that performance.

2. Washington Redskins - 10-6
Not only have the Redskins bulked up on the field, they bolstered their coaching staff as well. They acquired veteran QB Donovan McNabb from division rival Philadelphia, and they signed veteran WR Joey Galloway to take some of the pressure off of fellow WR Santana Moss. Everyone knows the type of impact that McNabb can have on the field, but the impact off the field could be more important. McNabb brings the stability at the most important offensive position that the 'skins haven't had in quite some time. Maybe the most important signing the Redskins made in the off season was head coach Mike Shanahan. Shanahan is best known from his very successful tenure in Denver, and a lot of people are excited about what he can bring to Washington. Clinton Portis is the starting RB in Washington, and if he can stay healthy, we can all expect big things. If Portis does lose time due to injury, backup RB Larry Johnson will step in and see if he can recapture the success he had with Kansas City. McNabb will have three solid receivers to use at will, Santana Moss is a guy who can beat you both short and deep, Joey Galloway always has very productive seasons, and Chris Cooley is as sure handed as they come.
The front three may be the only question on this Redskins defense. We've all heard about the problems between Shanahan and Albert Haynesworth throughout the preseason, and if they can work through the disagreements, the 'skins defensive unit will be complete. I love the linebacking unit that Washington has put together, London Fletcher, Andre Carter, and Rocky McIntosh are all veterans who can teach rookie LB Brian Orakpo how to be a successful NFL linebacker. I think the biggest strength on this Washington defense is their secondary, LaRon Landry, DeAngelo Hall, Phillip Buchannon, and Carlos Rogers are all experienced veterans who can make big plays when needed.

3. NY Giants - 9-7
Eli Manning is back, and so are his extremely awkward interviews. Manning, since becoming a starter in 2005, has thrown for at least 21 TD's and 3,200 yards in each season, including his first 4,000 yard performance in 2009. Although Manning is a different cast of receivers this year, I don't expect any drop in his performance. The Giants receivers are an interesting cast of characters, someone has to step up to be the number one guy, and all the talk is about Steve Smith. Smith emerged as Eli Manning's favorite target in 2009, he caught 107 passes for 1,220 yards and 7 TD's, all being career highs. Smith may be the decided number one receiver, but WR Hakeem Nicks, a second year guy out of North Carolina, has the size and skill to be a great NFL wideout. Brandon Jacobs will again be the mainstay in the back field for the Giants. Last season, Jacobs production fell dramatically compared to the 2007 and 2008 seasons due in part to injury. As I watched Jacobs throughout the 2009 season, it doesn't look like he is running as hard as he did in the past. I doubt that Jacobs will have another 1,000 yard season in 2010. Look for Ahmad Bradshaw to have a much more productive season than Jacobs.
When healthy, the Giants defense is one of the best in the league. The front four of Justin Tuck, Barry Cofield, Chris Canty and Osi Umenyiora are very versatile and can cause huge problems to any offensive line. The linebacking group is young, Michael Boley is the only starter who has more than five years under his belt at the NFL level. The Giants signed veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck in the off season, look for him to steal some time from the youngsters. I really like the Giants secondary, CB's Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas combined for six interceptions in 2009. The Giants signed made a huge upgrade to their secondary by signing safety Antrel Rolle in the off season, look for Rolle to have a huge 2010 season.

4. Philadelphia Eagles - 6-10
The Eagles traded former franchise QB Donovan McNabb to division rival Washington, thus ushering in the Kevin Kolb era. The people in Philadelphia must know something about Kolb that we don't. I've watched Kolb throughout the preseason, but I have seen nothing to justify shipping out McNabb in favor of him. It should be very interesting watching how Kolb develops throughout the season. If I were Andy Reid, I'd take a long look at making Michael Vick the starting QB. The running back position is another question mark on the Eagles offense, second year guy LeSean McCoy will take the reign from Brian Westbrook who departed for San Francisco. In 2009, McCoy rushed the ball 155 times, for 637 yards and 4 TD's. I like the Eagles receivers, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek should all help make Kolb's transition to starting NFL QB much easier.
The Eagles defense is not as feared as it has been in the past. Trent Cole will lead the front four, while rookie Brandon Graham is looking to make a huge impact in his first NFL season. LInebacker Stewart Bradley will lead this unit, he had a big year in 2009 with 108 tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception. The secondary is the bright spot of this defense, Asante Samuels, Ellis Hobbs, Quintin Mikell and Nate Allen are all very experienced, and very good defensive players. This may be sort of a " rebuilding" year for the Eagles.

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