Friday, August 17, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - NFC East

I'm not going to lie to you - I'll be glad when we're done with the NFC today, it's definitely the ugly step-sister of the two NFL Conferences. Troubling too was the fact that the Leader-Post ran a headline today calling the Indianapolis Colts the Baltimore Colts - go see for yourself. I'm also crushed that Jenna Bush is off the market - so that might affect today's analysis.

Dallas Cowboys

Somehow Dallas managed a 9-7 record last year with a coach who phoned in the entire year, Terrell Owens having a broken finger and Drew Bledsoe killing the team for a third of the year. They were also a botched field goal away from going to the second round of the playoffs. This year it's a clean slate with a new coach (Wade Phillips), new offensive co-ordinator (Jason Garrett) and a healthy T.O. The Cowboys should be strong on the ground again with Julius Jones doing most of the work and Marion Barber III coming in to score touchdowns - driving Fantasy owners insane again. Quarterback Tony Romo should have a great year, with a full training camp as the designated number one quarterback under his belt. He seems to have a great rapport with his offensive co-ordinator and as good of a relationship as a quarterback can have with Terrell Owens. If T.O's broken finger is fully healed he shouldn't drop near as many passes as he did last year - it was pretty appalling actually. Terry Glenn is a nice option as the #2 wide receiver and although tight end Jason Witten seems to have regressed, or at least not lived up to expectations, he is still a decent player. Dallas has some serious strength on defence though and the addition of the defensive-minded Wade Phillips is only going to make them stronger. Expect them to be in the top 5 or 6 defenses this year - if only their safeties didn't give up the long pass quite so often. Dallas does have to play 6 of their games in the bruising NFC East but other than that their schedule isn't too bad - they have one tough home game against New England and one tough game on the road in Chicago.

2007 Prediction: 11-5. I don't think that's too much of a stretch when you consider they went 9-7 last year with Bledsoe killing them in a couple early games. I have a really good feeling about the Romo-Owens combination for some reason - which probably means they're going to be a bust. But as of right now I'm optimistic.

New York Giants

There's trouble brewing for the New York Football Giants this year. No Tiki Barber, no Michael Strahan (at least not yet), no healthy Plaxico Burress (at least not yet) and no left tackle. Oh and did I mention that they have a starting quarterback who's first name is Elisha Manning? Seriously, did you know that Eli was short for Elisha?? I just assumed it was Elija or something. Because they lost Tiki Barber to retirement in the off season, the Giants have decided that Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns (yes he apparently still plays football) are going to be their running backs this season. Jacobs had 96 carries last year, most of them short yardage, and now as the feature back he might be asked to carry the ball close to 300 times. Don't expect this adjustment to be a smooth one. The Giants have a quarterback named Elisha - I think that speaks for itself. Although it also doesn't bode well that the Giants really wanted Manning to work on his bad attitude and on-field demeanor. Here's a great line from DJ Gallo of, "Giants coaches say they are encouraged that Eli Manning is now wearing Pampers Cruisers, designed for the active baby," (you can read all of Gallo's article here). And the receivers that Manning is supposed to throw to are Plaxico Burress - who has been hampered by an ankle injury and probably won't be 100% by the start of the season, Amani Toomer - who was great, like 7 years ago, and Jeremey Shockey - who has to be one of the most overrated players in the NFL today. On defence the Giants lost their leader, Michael Strahan, at least it looks like he's retired right now anyway, and there doesn't seem to be anybody to replace him. The first half of the Giants schedule is pretty soft including their game in London against Miami - but their last 6 games are against Minnesota, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Buffalo and New England.

2007 Prediction: 6-10. The Giants might get lucky and get to 7-9 but I wouldn't bet on it. Relying on a quarterback with shaky leadership to be your offensive leader might not have been the best course of action for New York.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles' season is going to come down to one thing - Donovan McNabb's health. If McNabb is 100% healthy, which he probably isn't after tearing his ACL las year, and can stay healthy the Eagles have a reasonable shot at winning the division. But that's a big if, probably too big as McNabb hasn't finished either of the last two season and conventional wisdom is that it takes two years to fully recover from ACL surgery - unless you're Daunte Culpepper, and then you never do. However, the Eagles do still have Brian Westbrook in the backfield and he's always a threat to do some damage but I don't think a year goes by that he doesn't slightly injure his ankles. Westbrook is also a threat as a receiver, which is good because Philly doesn't have much depth there. Reggie Brown is primed for a breakout year and tight end L.J Smith is solid - but beyond that there isn't much of anything. And it remains to be seen who is throwing to the receivers anyway. If McNabb had stayed healthy last year he may have been the MVP of the league but injuries might be starting to take their toll. If he goes down again, the Eagles are in big trouble. The Philly defence does have the potential to be scary this year - if they can stay healthy, a recurring theme for the Eagles it seems. There aren't too many spring chickens on the Eagles D, as Jevon Kearse, Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter and Takeo Spikes are getting up there in age. This defence is designed to apply some serious pressure and cause turnovers - if they can do those things, the Eagles defence can keep them in - or even win some games for the team. Philadelphia's schedule is maybe a little above average in difficulty but they definitely have some winnable games.

2007 Prediction: 9-7. This prediction is totally based on Donovan McNabb staying healthy and playing at about 75%. If he can't play at that level or gets hurt again and A.J Feely or Kevin Kolb take over that offence, expect those wins to go way down. But, if McNabb is fully recovered and gets back to where he was last season and stays there all year, the Eagles could easily win 10 or 11 games.

Washington Redskins

To say that head coach Joe Gibbs' return to the Redskins has been less than successful might be this year's winner for the Most Obvious NFL Insight Award. The once-iconic coach has had disappointing results so far in his second stint with Washington. And this year might not be any different. Clinton Portis should be one of the premier running backs in the league but I can't remember a season in recent years when he wasn't out with an injury. And now this year he already has knee tendinitis and a swollen knee. His back-up, Ladell Betts had over 1,000 yards last year but isn't the game breaker that Portis is. At quarterback the Redskins are putting their hopes in second year player Jason Campbell. While he may be young and inexperienced, he is a sizable upgrade over Mark Brunell, who I think is 70. Speedster Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley provide great receiving options for Campbell - and if Antwaan Randle El can get back to where he was in Pittsburgh, he makes for a solid third option as well. The problems for Washington might come on defence, which you might not expect. If I had to pick two words to describe Washington's defensive line, they would be "garden variety" - ok, I admit it, that's a Family Guy joke. The Redskins do have two monster hitters at safety though. Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry might be responsible for the first on-field death in the modern era - less likely if Taylor leaves his guns at home. Like everyone else in the NFC East, the Redskins have to play the East 6 times, which can be punishing - other than that their schedule does look difficult at times, but not overly so.

2007 Prediction: 7-9. Originally this was 6-10 but the more I thought about their team, the more wins I gave them. Washington probably doesn't have enough to win the division or make the playoffs but they could potentially win as many as 9 games if their defensive line and linebackers produce at all.

So there you have the NFC East, traditionally one of the most competitive and hardest hitting divisions in the NFL and this year shouldn't be any different. The Super Bowl representative from the NFC might not come out of the East but they should have a team in the NFC Championship game.

NFC East

New York.......6-10

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