Swoop or Sweep – The Philadelphia Eagles
Michael: The Eagles are one of the teams that could either shock the world and play in January, or be a dumpster fire once again. I’ve said this over and over since the draft, and I still feel the same way. Their 2015 offensive rankings look like this: PPG – 13th, Pass Yds – 12th, Rush Yds – 22nd, TOs – 30th. Their defensive rankings look about the same: PPG – 28th, Pass Yds – 29th, Rush Yds – 29th, and TOs – 11th. All in all, a below average team. One of two teams in Week 15 that had more turnovers than touchdowns.
Now, the Chip Kelly Era is over, a failed experiment that most people are happy to see in the rearview. His doings have been undone, with almost every single one of ‘his’ players off to other teams, or sliding down the depth chart. Two 10-6 seasons, followed by a 7-9 season, and nothing to show for them, and Chip is off to San Francisco. (Another dumpster fire, but that’s neither here nor there.) The only thing that saved the Eagles from having a worse season last year was the fact that their division rivals were equally bad, if not worse.
The Eagles are, on paper, in a position to have an 11 win season. They could also have another losing season, facing the Redskins, a revamped Dallas squad, and the rough-and-tumble AFC North. I’ll call it at 7-9. I think the early bye week hurts them, and they fall apart after a 3-1 start (losing only to the NFCE Champions), and getting everybody’s hopes up by Week 5.
Sean: The Eagles, to me, are a wildcard in the division. They have a new head coach, the possibility of the rookie QB seeing some time, and a questionable running game. Their defense should be much improved from what Chip Kelly employed. New Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz should be able to keep them in ball games.
I look for the Eagles to be a team of just misses. They need to improve in a couple of areas in order to once again be a serious contender in the division. With a few breaks, they could finish the season at 8-8 or 9-7. However, that is not going to win this division this year. Realistically, look for the Eagles to finish 7-9. I just do not think they have enough fire power against their division and having to also play the demanding AFC North.
Go for Broke.. Or Brokeback – The Dallas Cowboys
Michael: No, that wasn’t a gay joke. It was a reference to Tony Romo and his seeming inability to stay healthy. This is another NFC East team that could really go either way. If Romo and company stay healthy, they could rise from the dust of a 4-12 season, and dominate in the East. Their 2015 offensive rankings look like this: PPG – 31st. Pass Yds – 27th. Rush Yds – 3rd. TOs – 32nd. Defensive rankings are equally medicore/ugly, with one shining spot: PPG – 16th. Pass Yds – 5th. Rush Yds – 19th. TOs – 32nd.
So clearly, their run game needs no work, and they have done nothing but improve it in the off-season. They face some stout run defenses this season, but they also face some with more holes than a stop sign in a redneck town. Their pass defense is very good (Glover Quin being Glover Quin), and could cause problems for some of the okay-but-not-quite-great QBs that they face this year. However. They need Romo to stay healthy to ensure solid connections to Dez and the others, and they need him to play like 4th quarter comeback Tony, not oh-great-another-pick Tony. They also need to step up their game on run defense, and especially turnovers, otherwise the good QBs will have a field day through the air, even if they have a mediocre supporting cast.
An early midseason bye week. A resurging offense, with healthy and dangerous weapons. A defense that can finally get its hands on the ball. And an easier schedule than it is on paper. Unless I dropped the ball on this one (couldn’t resist), I call the Cowboys at 10-6, continuing the trend of being unable to beat Baltimore.
Sean: Many people see the Cowboys as the team to beat in this division. I see this differently. I do not think that the Dallas defense will be able to hold up to the high powered offenses that they have to face. The Redskins and the Giants both got better in the offseason. Dallas feels that they were one elite player away and with the drafting of Ezekiel Elliott, they now have the new version of the triplets and should be Super Bowl bound. You must have a defense in order to win games.
The Dallas Cowboys could surprise many people, including me. They could get their suspended players back and DB Orlando Scandrick could become a Pro Bowler. It is all entirely possible. The real possibility is Dallas could be a year away. I see Dallas finishing the season at 9-7, 2 games out of the division championship.
Odell All Day.. Oh, Damn – The New York Giants
Michael: In today’s NFL, when you think of crazy one handed catches, the name that comes to mind is the always electric, sometimes flamboyant Odell Beckham, Jr. He’s the only name thrown around more in the NFL circles today than Eli Manning, when it comes to the New York Giants. The Giants themselves are a team that are much, much better on offense than they are on defense, and it shows. Their offensive rankings: PPG – 6th. Pass Yds – 7th. Rush Yds – 18th. TOs – 13th. Defensive: PPG – 30th. Pass Yds – 32nd. Rush Yds – 24th. TOs – 7th.
This is a team that will absolutely have a great season if they can get their defense in line. The front seven needs to step WAY up, at least to the level that the secondary is playing at, if they have any hope of having a winning season, let alone a postseason hope. The Eli to Odell connection is not enough to win games, with the schedule that they have, and the pass defenses that they will be facing.
A bye week in the exact middle of the season. A struggling division. A defense that could go either way. An offense that is trending up. But then there’s the AFC North, and the stifling defenses in other games. I think the Giants make a step forward, but miss the playoffs for another year at 9-7.
Sean: The Giants, on paper, are quite possibly the scariest team in the division. They added major talent to a pourous defense. They upgraded their WR group. New Head Coach Ben McAdoo is a hold over from the previous regime, so there is not much change there. The question surrounding this team will be if all that money can play together. If so, the Giants, will be one tough football team. This team could easily finish with 10 or 11 wins. If they see some struggles from all that money they will be looking at sitting there with the Cowboys at 9-7. Money pays the salary but it doesn’t always talk in performance. Let us see just how well the New York Giants perform.
YOU LIKE THAT?! – The Washington Redskins
Michael: This is a team that made the playoffs because it wasn’t as bad as the other three teams in the division. That isn’t a good thing, Skins fans. It spells trouble for the next season. Granted, their rankings weren’t bad, but they didn’t exactly play great teams. Here’s the offensive rankings for Washington: PPG – 10th. Pass Yds – 11th. Rush Yds – 28th. TOs – 15th. Their defensive rankings don’t look impressive, either: PPG – 17th. Pass Yds – 25th. Rush Yds – 31st. TOs – 9th.
Kirk Cousins isn’t the answer. He’s been handed the key to the franchise, but I think it breaks off in the lock. Their rushing game has gone from bad to worse, so that won’t help him at all. They can’t stop the run, and will be facing some great rushing attacks in Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Cincinnati. It’s also give and take on turnovers.
A slightly late bye week may give an added boost to any fatigue or minor injuries. But I think they end up at 9-7 again, but without the playoffs by default scenario.
Sean: The Redskins are the reigning NFC East Champions. Many said that they won it last year by default. “If the Cowboys were healthy they would have run away with the division!” is all that was heard. While this may have been true there was a spark about the 2015 Redskins. A spark that should only be able to carry on.
The Redskins will go the way of QB Kirk Cousins. If Cousins can have a repeat performance of the last 8-10 games of 2015, the Washington Redskins should once again be atop the NFC East. If – it is still a major question – Cousins falters, then the Redskins will find themselves looking up at the Giants winning the division in 2016. The Redskins are very young and talented on both sides of the ball. The front 4 on defense is a little weak but the back end is strong. Look for the Redskins to win 11 games and repeat as NFC East Champions in 2016!
Credit: Michael Telford and Sean Naylor, Original article on NFL Chalk Talk