Has the hype gone too far?
It seems the NFC East has emerged from its down year — or should I say down regular season — of the century as the consensus Experts Love Us division of 2012. Last season marked the only time in history (minus strike year) that the NFC East winner won fewer than 10 regular season games, as the New York Giants emerged with the only positive record at 9-7.
Philadelphia and Dallas lurked just behind at 8-8 and were expected by most to finish 1 and 2, and those expectations have apparently rolled over to this fall.
This not without basis however, as the Cowboys possess the potential to feature both the NFC’s best starting unit at wide receiver and cornerback along with arguably the league’s most feared pass-rusher in Demarcus Ware. Combined with a quarterback who’s a near lock for 4k and 40, and that sounds like the core recipe for success in today’s NFL.
Philadelphia rolls into the season with a defensive line that on paper should challenge the Giants for best and deepest in the league, its own explosive 1-2 receiving combo and quarterback who’s nearly won MVP on two different occasions. Again, sounds like the core recipe for success in this millennium.
Meanwhile, reigning champ Big Blue checks off the WR and QB box but injuries to Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara really raise questions about their cornerback unit, though they do hold the clear advantage over Philly and Dallas at safety thanks to the incredibly underrated Kenny Phillips. Antrel Rolle provides some valuable contributions in the run game, but Phillips is the far superior safety.
And don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the Redskins….even though they have almost no chance of winning the division. Hard to bet against fourth place, but perhaps the best fourth-placed NFL team this year? I’d be willing to bet on that.
Washington could very well enter 2012 with one of the league’s best front sevens, but there are just so many questions elsewhere including offensive line, safety and depth in the secondary.
So the NFC East definitely qualifies as a decent argument for best division, but some major question marks leave me thinking it could also end up a middling quartet.
I don’t exactly trust Michael Vick, and not because of extremely illegal activities, but more so his penchant — more like heat-seeking missile — for injury. And there’s also the reality that, along with Tampa Bay, Philly was probably the league’s worst tackling team last year.
Then there’s the Cowboys, who boast two of the league’s best wide receivers that just can’t seem to stay healthy. Similar to the Giants, they also possess an atrocious offensive line save for one player (Smith/Snee).
This division will get after the passer as well as any. When it comes down to it, I’ll take the pass rush of JPP, Tuck, Osi and Co. slightly over the Babin-Cole-seemingly 50 other terrors the Eagles boast on D-line, just ahead of Dallas’ formidable crew led by Ware. Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and the ‘Skins guys up front won’t be too shabby either.
I could see these squads all beating up on each other, but the Eagles’ Andy Reid Era dominance of Dallas gives them the edge in my book as I see them both as 9-7 teams. Giants will need no tiebreaker, reclaiming the division at 10-6 in Eli Manning’s second year in the elite QB group that holds Tom Brady, Peyton Manning (?), Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. And RG3’s run with the ‘Skins begins from promisingly but yields a 6-10 mark.