The NFC East has been one of the most unpredictable divisions in the NFL of late, as no team has repeated as division champions since the Philadelphia Eagles won four straight from 2000-03.
That might all change this season, though.
Fresh off their first Super Bowl title in franchise history, the Eagles appear stacked to own the East for the next handful of seasons. Standing in their way will be a New York Giants team looking for one last run at glory before an impending rebuild, a Dallas Cowboys team that is bereft of weapons outside of Ezekiel Elliott and the always dull Washington Redskins.
Here’s our NFC East preview:
Philadelphia Eagles -175
Dallas Cowboys +333
New York Giants +700
Washington Redskins +700
Philadelphia Eagles — What more can you say about the Eagles? The defending Super Bowl champions bring back a loaded roster that is set up to contend for the foreseeable future. Philadelphia will await the return of quarterback Carson Wentz, who was on track to win MVP before tearing his ACL in Week 14, but until then they will hand the offense over to Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles. The Birds’ offensive line still should be one of the best in football, especially once Jason Peters returns from injury. Tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey will anchor a solid stable of skill players that includes running back Jay Ajayi and former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace.
Jim Schwartz’s “wide nine” defense is built on pressuring the quarterback, and the Eagles certainly have the personnel to do that. Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Brandon Graham and Chris Long all will return and will be joined by Haloti Ngata in the middle and Michael Bennett on the edge.
Expect the Eagles to be one of the NFC’s best teams once again.
New York Giants — After going 3-13 a season ago, the Giants elected not to rebuild, but rather to try and squeeze whatever is left of Eli Manning’s career into one final push for Super Bowl ring No. 3 of the era. New York drafted Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and paid wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. the top-dollar contract he coveted, ensuring Manning is surrounded by explosive weapons. Beckham and Barkley will be joined by wide receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram to form one of the most electric offenses in the league. The Giants also bolstered their offensive line, which was abysmal in 2017, by signing Nate Solder away from the New England Patriots and drafting Will Hernandez from UTEP in the fifth round. The Giants are betting that with a better line, Manning will be able to have a better year under center.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants moved away from their 4-3 scheme in favor of a more aggressive 3-4. They traded away Jason Pierre-Paul and added linebacker Alec Ogletree. New York’s defense was one of the NFL’s best in 2016 and was downright atrocious last season, but with playmakers Olivier Vernon and Landon Collins still leading the unit, and a new aggressive scheme in place, the G-Men should be much better in 2018.
Redskins quarterback Alex Smith — Out goes Kirk Cousins, in comes Smith. The Redskins traded for the veteran quarterback and signed him to a lucrative extension in hopes that he can take them to new heights. Smith hasn’t been apart of a sub-.500 season since 2010, and could be the missing ingredient to give the ‘Skins their first playoff win in 13 years.
Giants running back Saquon Barkley — The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was the most dynamic player in college football last season (apologies to Baker Mayfield) and should be able to give the Giants their first semblance of a running game since 2011.
Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones — Jones was a second-round pick in 2017 and spent the year rehabbing an Achilles tear, but he the Washington product is expected to be an important member of the defending champs’ secondary.
Was the Eagles’ Super Bowl run a fluke or a harbinger of sustained NFC dominance? Many wrote Philadelphia off after Wentz’s injury, expecting them to flame out in the playoffs before making another leap this season. Doug Pederson’s club defied expectations by knocking off the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, but can they do it again?
Thumbnail photo via Kirt Dozier/USA TODAY Sports Images
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