Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NFC East Preview

I'm not sure I'll have the energy to write up all the previews I expected to, but I'll try to at least hit the Eagles and the Steelers.

A general note, first: From year to year in today's NFL, half or more of the teams in the playoffs did not make the playoffs the year before. And there's usually at least two teams from each conference that come back from 5- or 6- win seasons to take a division. Most 'expert' predictions are simply a rehash of last year's playoff teams, which is statistically doomed to failure, but is a safe way to avoid looking foolish. Well, I have no such qualms about looking foolish, so you may see some predictions that look strange based on last year's results.

Also, injuries play a huge part in how teams finish, and they cannot be predicted. I'll use the 'injury' excuse liberally when I asses how my predictions turn out at the end of the season.

NFC East:

Philadelphia Eagles
NY Giants
Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins

Philadelphia Eagles

Strengths: DL, OL, QB, DB
Darren Howard is a huge addition to this defensive line. He is a solid run-stuffer, and when he moves inside on passing downs, the Eagles are going to have one of the best pass-rushing front fours in the NFL. Cole, Kearse, and Howard are all capable of double-digit sacks, and defenses will have to pick their poison when choosing who to single block. Bunkley is a beast inside, with strength to bull rush and quickness to step around blocks. The increased heat from up front will help the secondary round back into Pro Bowl form.
Weaknesses: RB, LB
Westbrook is a huge matchup problem for defenses when healthy. Buckhalter is an effective runner between the tackles, when healthy. If both these guys manage to stay on the field for most of the season, the Eagles will be in great shape, but history shows that they can't. Trotter is one of the best MLBs in the game, but the Eagles are weak at OLB.
Prediction: First in the NFC East, by a hair. This division is extremely close, but I give the Eagles the edge because they have the best QB and the softest schedule.

Dallas Cowboys

Strengths: WR, TE, DL, LB
The addition of Adell at LB has been highly underrated. He's a tackling machine who can run from sideline to sideline. Overall, the Cowboys have the fastest and most athletic defense in the division. Offensively they have a ton of weapons, and are capable of scoring 40 points against teams with a below-average pass rush.
Weaknesses: OL, DB
The Boys have done very little in the offseason to improve a line that gave up 50 sacks last season. With so many weapons on offense, they only need to play average football to score points, but I'm not sure they are capable. The back end of the defense is weak once again, but with such a good pass rush, they won't be exposed often.
Prediction: Second in the NFC East. Will compete for a wild card spot and could easily win the division if their OL steps up.

New York Giants

Strengths: RB, TE, DE, S
The Giants have the best DEs in football. Kiwanuka has come on strong, and he'll provide solid support for both Strahan and Osi. The addition of Will Demps gives the Giants one of the best safety tandems in the league. This offense, assuming Eli continues to progress, can be frightening.
Weaknesses: OL, DT
If you're starting Luke Petitgout at tackle, you'll be holding your breath on pass plays all season long. The Giants lack anyone at all to play DT, which means that Antonio Pierce will have to fight to get off blocks. Expect to watch teams pound the ball inside against them, neutralizing the speed of their DEs and taking advantage of the huge hole there.
Prediction: Third in the NFC East. They're as good as the Eagles and Cowboys, but they also have the toughest schedule. Will compete for the wild card, and could easily win the division if they get a few breaks.

Washington Redskins

Strengths: Coaching, OL
Gregg Williams and Al Saunders are two of the best coordinators in football. Although the team seems to be struggling to pick up the new offense so far, expect them to improve their play as the season progresses. The OL is solid, but not deep. If they can stay healthy, they are the best OL in the division.
Weaknesses: QB, DL
Mark Brunell is old, and he played like it at the end of last season. Expect to see more of the same. Behind him are career backup Todd Collins and yet-to-play-in-the-NFL Jason Campbell. The DL doesn't scare anyone...they've been run all over in the preseason, and aren't a threat to rush the passer. Gregg Williams will have to blitz to generate pressure, which means the defense will give up some big plays. I don't buy the hype of the offseason signings...their major additions were a WR with 35 catches (Randle El), a WR with an attitude problem (Brandon Lloyd) who played on the worst passing offense in the league, a mediocre safety from the 30th-ranked defense (Archuleta), and a mediocre DE from the 32nd-ranked defense (Carter).
Prediction: Last in the NFC East, by a mile.


At 10:53 AM, Anonymous deppen said...

Are you going to get the Steelers post in before tonight?!

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Sweet Tea said...

My plan was to write up my predictions after the game and then blame blogspot for not posting it on time...but you busted me.


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