The NFC East is possibly the most watched, dissected, scrutinized, and competitive division in the NFL. No matter the team that is at the heart of the public’s ire toward the division, no team is safe from being thoroughly pounded by analysts, writers, fans, and sports talk radio. While this may be the case for every team and every division in the NFL, no division seems to get it as hard as the NFC East. The division does have one thing going for it: there’s no one team or two teams that rule this division because each season will feature a team that wasn’t competitive the previous season making itself a legitimate contender.
All of the talk surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles this past off-season has had to do with Chip Kelly being brought in as the team’s new head coach, and the offense that Kelly is bringing with him to the NFL. That offense, a mostly running offense that is no-huddle and all about being up-tempo and lightning quick, brought Kelly major success while coach of the Oregon Ducks.
This is uncharted territory for the Eagles, for Kelly, and for the NFL. This kind of offense has never been seen as a whole in the league, though parts of it have been. This kind of offense does rely on a running quarterback, so the fact that Michael Vick even had to compete with Nick Foles for the starting spot was laughable. It also relies on quick-moving running backs with power running backs having little place in it other than blocking. LeSean McCoy is such a running back, so there’s at least a foundation in place in Philadelphia for this offense.
In reality, we’ll only know how good this offense is once we get to see it. That’s how new this offense is to the NFL. Monday night against the Washington Redskins will be the first test. Until then, it’s anyone’s guess how this offense will function. I choose to stay out of the discussion, though I will put out there that no matter how good this offense does function, the Eagles will not win the NFC East this season.
With the Dallas Cowboys, it’s all about Tony Romo. In a matter fitting with the team’s history, the Cowboys’ quarterback is the center of attention, the topic of all Cowboys-related conversations, and the subject of plenty of scorn from fans for and against the Cowboys.
With a big contract extension in the off-season, Romo is basically a Cowboy for the rest of his career if he and team owner Jerry Jones want it that way. Romo’s performance on the field has never been bad, but respect has been hard to come by. That is because Romo’s Achilles’ heel is the one thing that all great quarterbacks possess: wins in key regular season games and playoff games. Things like a division title and/or playoff spot on the line in the final game or two or three of the regular season isn’t something that gets to greats like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Aaron Rodgers, but they do get to Romo. There’s no other way to explain Romo’s poor performances in these types of games, performances that have not gotten better as Romo has gained experience.
The Cowboys’ defense is its usual solid self, so a more crucial factor to their success or lack of in 2013 is the health of DeMarco Murray. What better thing is there for a quarterback than a really good running back who not only is able to take the pressure off the quarterback, but alter offensive strategy at the same time? If Murray is healthy and able to run, it means that Romo won’t have to throw 50-60 times in a game, More than anything, not having to throw that many times could help Romo improve and actually come through for Big D in games where he’s needed to come through for them.
Be afraid of the New York Giants this season, be very afraid. Yeah, their defense isn’t what it used to be and they don’t have a running game, but don’t sleep on them. It seems that the Giants have fallen into a pattern where they’ll have an off year and then a year where they’ll get to the playoffs or make a Super Bowl run. They missed the playoffs last season, so the pattern indicates that they will this season. Considering the last two times I wanted to write the Giants off they won the Super Bowl, I refuse to sleep on them. Remember, Eli Manning still has his health and his receivers, and that could be all the Giants need late in the season when the division will once again be for the taking.
The biggest story surrounding the NFC East is Robert Griffin III‘s return to the field following an injury in last season’s playoffs.
In short, RG3 is looking to pull an Adrian Peterson and return to top form immediately from a brutal knee injury. I believe he’ll be able to pull it off, especially because I doubt he’ll be running as much this season. An injury like this is one that does make quarterbacks think twice about how often they run with the ball; RG3 would be smart to do so. He’s always been an accurate passer, so maybe it’s time that RG3 makes his name more for that than his running.
I know RG3 is fun to watch while running the ball, but we’ve also seen the worst case scenario for a running quarterback play itself out in that wild card game. It must have been a horror show for Redskins fans when RG3 wrongly refused to exit the game while coach Mike Shanahan and Dr. James Andrews seemed clueless about how to react while on the sidelines.
Besides, the Redskins have Alfred Morris in the backfield, so it’s not like they don’t have anyone for RG3 to give the ball to. For a guy who ran for around 1,600 yards in 2012, Morris didn’t get the attention that a season like that deserves. And besides, doesn’t Morris already feel like a perfect running back for a Shanahan-coached team?
I envision another somewhat convoluted scenario that settles this division. The NFC East will come down to the final day once again with everyone except the Eagles in the running. The Eagles will beat the Cowboys early on the final day and that will clinch the NFC East for RG3 and the Redskins before they take the field that day. Where it gets a bit convoluted is that the Redskins will lose to the Giants to end the season, and that will earn the Giants a wild card spot in the playoffs.
If it does go down like that, remember that you read it here first.
2013 NFC East Champion Prediction: Washington Redskins