The NFC East, also known as the most interesting division in all of football. Okay, I am biased, being from Dallas and all. Even still, it's a division totally up for grabs, and 3 of the 4 teams should look completely different this time around. For a division that turned in 3 losing records in the 2015 season, I see that totally flip flopping for the 2016-17 season.
Here's a quick breakdown of each team, with predictions and thoughts on each.
Let's start with the weakest NFC East team.
I don't think the Eagles will really be all that much different this season. Their under-performing offense might get more interesting, if and when Carson Wentz gets a chance at the starting job. But that won't happen for at least the first, say, 4-6 weeks of the season, as he injured his ribs already. Out indefinitely.
Bradford and company aren't bringing enough 'new' to the table this season vs last, so I think it will once again be an underwhelming offense, and a defense that's solid, but not good enough on its own to win enough games to make them relevant. Perhaps the new head coach will right the ship, and maybe Jordan Matthews will materialize this year.. but I think not.
2015 Season: 7-9
2016 Prediction: 6-10
This is likely the most improved team in the NFC East, from last season to current.
Mainly it's the single addition of Josh Norman as their new CB. But that's a HUGE addition. He can completely shut down top wide-outs for entire games, as he showed us in Carolina. So when Dez or Odell comes to play (and they both will twice this year a piece) it will be a showdown worth watching.
RB Matt Jones looks to be the bell cow this season; that consistency for him should lead to an improved running game, with more confidence for both him and Cousins. Also with Cousins playing for a new contract with a solid receiving crew of Garcon, Jackson, TE Reed, and newcomers Crowder and Doctson, I wouldn't be surprised if they turn in a 10+ win season.
2015 Season: 9-7
2016 Prediction: 10-6
New York Giants
Their 2 biggest problems last year: the running game and giving up leads in the 4th (porous defense).
I believe they invested the necessary attention into their defense with the draft to make it considerably better. Apple as their first round pick should really help at CB. As well as Thompson as their safety, even if he isn't a bonafide starter to begin with.
For their running game, their O-line is improved with BJ Goodson involved now. And they did draft a new running back, with the potential to be a bell cow. If they are smart, they will pick one guy, and roll with him alone. Last year, the 4 back committee was a completely embarrassing disaster. It's possible rookie Perkins could be the main guy for them, with Vereen catching passes still, as a great compliment. Much room for improvement here.
For receiving, adding Shepard to compliment Beckham.. that could prove lethal with Eli at the helm, especially if (and it's a big if), Victor Cruz returns. If he does, the Giants' passing offense will very likely be in the top 3-5 in the league, and be able to match touchdowns with any team out there. They could go 4-12. Or 12-4. They are a weird one to predict. But given all the improvements they made from the draft, and their ability to ride winning streaks throughout the season, I see them being much closer to the 12-4 record than not.
2015 Season: 6-10
2016 Prediction: 11-5 (pains me to say, but I think the Giants win the division, via tiebreaker)
One word will define their season, to no one's surprise-- Romo.
And finally, we get to Dallas. Will Romo stay healthy? If the answer is yes, we are in for a potentially great season. If not, more of the same from last year. UNLESS.. Dax Prescott can man the helm competently, like he showed potential with in the preseason opener vs the Rams. With potential rookie of the year (already, I know, I know) RB Elliott behind the offensive line they have, with Romo and Dez, Witten, Dunbar catching passes from the backfield, and a few underrated slot receivers, Dallas' offense will undoubtedly be potent. And very capable of scoring at will.
The other big question mark will be the defense. In 2014, Dallas was supposed to have an historically bad defense, by all projections. But they went on to turn in a 12-4 season, and made it all the way to the 2nd round of the playoffs. We are looking at a potential repeat of that 2014 winning season. Coaches are already saying they are aiming for the same game template of running the ball at will, and having the offense grind the clock, to keep the defense fresh. Could work. As usual with the 'Boys, lots of defensive injuries will make this a very much so patch-work season to get through.
2015 Season: 4-12
2016 Prediction: 11-5
Strength of Schedule and Final Thoughts
Of course strength of schedule plays a heavy hand in determining how each team will fair throughout. Though I don't give pre-season rankings that much credence (it's really hard to rank every team before you even see Week 1 play out). But for what it's worth , here is how the NFC East ranks for strength of schedule:
17th - Redskins
26th - Eagles
27th - Cowboys
30th - Giants
NFL critics don't give any team a decidedly easy schedule ranking for these teams. I suppose the Redskins being ranked higher than the other 3 should weigh on my predictions. And while I think they will have the most solid defense in the NFC East, I think both the Giants and Cowboys will outrank that D with a higher powered offense.
Should come down to the last 1-2 games of the season, to determine the NFC East victor. And if my prediction holds true, every single division game will count. First up, the Giants face the Cowboys in Jerry World. Imagine it'll be a high scoring game.