Tuesday, August 6, 2013

NFC East Preview

To begin our series of NFL division previews, NFC East correspondent Addison Hunsicker of Sports Talk All Day will lead us off. 
The teams in the NFC East have had an interesting off season thus far, making big headlines at times. Chip Kelly was hired as the new head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles after they fired 14-year head coach Andy Reid, and Kelly was looking to head into training camp and transform this Eagles team through the rebuilding process. These past two weeks have put a halt to that rebuilding process, as wide receiver Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL and Riley Cooper made headlines for using a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert.
The Dallas Cowboys signed quarterback Tony Romo to a six-year, 108 million dollar contract extension, with 55 million dollars guaranteed. Along with signing Romo to an extension, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said that head coach Jason Garrett's job is not in jeopardy. These two moves put a lot of unnecessary attention on the Dallas Cowboys, attention that they were looking to avoid heading into the season.
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III tore his ACL at the end of a divisional round playoff game last year against the Seattle Seahawks. RGIII will not play in any preseason games in hopes to be ready for the season opener on Monday, September 9th.
The New York football Giants have been the only team in the NFC East that has flied under the radar this off season. They did sign wide receiver Victor Cruz to a five-year, 43 million dollar contract extension, but other than that, we have not heard that much from the Giants.
This division disappointed last year in the minds of many people (unless you are a Redskins fan), but will it disappoint this year? Here is how I think the teams in the NFC East will do during this upcoming NFL Season.
The Washington Redskins:
2012 record: 10-6
2013 predicted record: 9-7
2013 predicted team MVP: Alfred Morris
This division is wide open this year, any team could win it. That is why I am predicting that the Washington Redskins will repeat as NFC East division champions in 2013. When a division is wide open, I always give the edge to the team that won it the previous season. Robert Griffin III, when healthy, is the best quarterback in the division, no question. He is the best play maker in the division, as he can create big plays with his legs, and certainly his arm. RGIII can scramble 10 yards to pick up a first down, and he can step up in the pocket and launch the ball 50 yards down-field to Pierre Garcon. Bottom line is, Robert Griffin III can do it all. The thing about this Redskins team is, they do not have to rely on RGIII to make all the plays, because they have Alfred Morris who can run the rock. This sixth-round pick exploded last year in his rookie season, rushing for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. These two men combined could be the most dynamic QB/RB duo in the NFL if they stay healthy. The Redskins defense will be the key to this team's success. If they can get key stops and get the football back into the hands of RGIII and Alfred Morris, there is no doubt that this team will win football games. Led by the linebacker core of Ryan Kerrigan, London Fletcher, Perry Riley, and Brian Orakpo, this Redskins defense certainly has the middle of the field on lock-down. The combination of RGIII and Alfred Morris will ultimately be the reason why the Washington Redskins repeat as champions of the NFC East in 2013.
The New York Giants:
2012 record: 9-7
2013 record: 8-8
2013 predicted team MVP: Victor Cruz
This Giants team is very intriguing entering the 2013 season, as they failed to make the playoffs last year after winning the Super Bowl in 2011. Eli Manning struggled last season, and I think that struggle will carry into this season. He is and always has been a turnover machine throughout his career (Eli had 15 interceptions and four fumbles last year). The Giants have struggled with the running game, and lost starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw in free agency. With the loss of Bradshaw, the turnover struggle of Eli Manning, and the injuries to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, I do not expect this Giants offense to produce like it has in the past this season. The key for the Giants success, like the Redskins, will be the defense. Last year, defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck completely disappeared, along with the entire Giants defense. Tuck and Pierre-Paul combined for just 10.5 sacks last season, compared to the combined 21.5 sacks the two had in 2011. If this defense can be anything like it was back in 2011, the year the Giants won the Super Bowl, then the Giants should do better than the 8-8 record that I have predicted.
The Philadelphia Eagles:
2012 record: 4-12
2013 predicted record: 7-9
2013 predicted team MVP: DeSean Jackson
There are many words that can be used to describe the Eagles season last year, and none of those words would be positive, unless you like losing. Nothing went right for the Eagles after a 2-0 start to the 2012 season. Both defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, and defensive line coach Jim Washburn were fired during the season, followed by head coach Andy Reid at the season's conclusion. This is the first year in two decades that Andy Reid is not the head coach of the Eagles, as Chip Kelly was hired to succeed him. No one can really predict what this Eagles team is going to be, mainly because no one knows how Chip Kelly's offensive scheme will work in the NFL. The Eagles have All-Pro offensive linemen Jason Peters and Todd Herremans returning from injuries, along with center Jason Kelce. With the third overall pick, the Eagles selected tackle Lane Johnson, so the offensive line should not be a problem this year for the Eagles. Quarterback is a huge question mark about this Eagles team. All four quarterbacks on the roster right now (Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley, and Dennis Dixon) could see playing time throughout the season, and that could be a problem. Jeremy Maclin's injury and the whole Riley Cooper situation will definitely hurt the Eagles offensively, but they still have LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson to carry the load. Defense is still the question with this team, as the defense has been horrible the past two seasons. I don't expect the defense to be any better than it has been, but it should be improved with the Wide-9 scheme no longer in affect. Bottom line for the Eagles this year, limit the turnovers and get key stops, and this could be a miracle first season for Chip Kelly as the head coach. 
The Dallas Cowboys:
2012 record: 8-8
2013 predicted record: 6-10
2013 predicted team MVP: Dez Bryant
The Dallas Cowboys never fail to entertain the NFL world each season, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones loves to put the attention on his team. Attention seems to hurt the Cowboys more than attention likes to help them; and that is what I see happening this year with this football team. Tony Romo will continue to come up short when it matters, which will cause the Cowboys to lose more games like it has in the past. The shining star of this Cowboys team this year will be wide receiver Dez Bryant. This dude is a flat out stud. Anything Tony Romo throws in that man's general direction will be caught, Dez Bryant is that good. If Bryant stays out of trouble off the field, he could outperform Calvin Johnson this year, but I don't expect him to outperform Megatron this year, not because I think he will get into off the field trouble, but because Tony Romo is his quarterback. I do expect the defense to be the side of the ball that holds this team back. DeMarcus Ware is a great pass rusher and Morris Claiborne will have an impact in his second season, but that will not be enough as this Cowboys will struggle to make key stops. I am not saying that the offense will be great either, I just think that the defense will be worse than the offense. In my opinion, if Jerry Jones honestly cared about football, Tony Romo would not have received that contract extension, and Jason Garrett would not be the head coach right now.
I see the Washington Redskins winning the division, repeating as NFC East champions, followed by the New York Giants in second, the Philadelphia Eagles in third, and the Dallas Cowboys in last. The Washington Redskins will be the only team representing the NFC East in the playoffs, as I do not see the remaining teams in the division finishing with good enough records to snag a Wild Card spot.
Division Awards
NFC East MVP: Dez Bryant NFC East Offensive Player of the Year: Alfred Morris
NFC East Defensive Player of the Year: Prince Amukamara
NFC East Rookie of the Year: Zach Ertz

*I think that Alfred Morris will have better stats offensively than Dez Bryant, but I think that Bryant will have more of an impact to his team, making him the Most Valuable Player.
Bold Prediction: Jason Garrett will be fired before the Dallas Cowboys bye week, which is in week 11. I think Jerry Jones will have no choice but to fire Garrett by that point in the season, but then again, Jerry Jones does not like to admit when he is wrong.
The NFC East will certainly be an interesting division to watch this year, that is a fact. What is not known is how each team will do, and I tried to predict that in this preview. This division is up for grabs, and any team can win it, possibly with an 8-8 record, who knows. All I know is, you can look for the NFC East to be in the headlines throughout the 2013 NFL season.
- Addison Hunsicker
Image Source(sportsquotient.com, yahoo sports, thefootballgirl.com)

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