NFL Season Predictions Part 3: The NFC East

2013 nfc east

The New York Giants

Inconsistant consistency 

Record Prediction: 10-6 (3-3)

After winning the Superbowl in 2012, the Giants ended the 2012 season with a 9-7 record, missing the playoffs. In the most unpredictable division in football, the Giants just seem like the safest pick to win the division. A 10-6 record feels just right as I expect the division to beat up on each other, limiting any team from running away with it.

What to like: 

Eli Manning may not be featured on any Jay-Z tracks in the near future, but he is still the leader in the locker room and is still one of the top quarterbacks in this league. I may not agree with Ron Jarworski’s quarterback rankings entirely, but I would agree that Eli is easily a top 10 guy (and for me a borderline top 5 guy).

I am not going to dissect his rapping abilities, but what I like about that video is the confidence Eli showed. The 2013 season will be Eli’s 10th season in the NFL and he is finally starting to develop some swagger. When he was drafted out of Mississippi in 2004 there was concern that he would get eaten alive in New York City. Even after winning his first Superbowl MVP, watching his demeanor in interviews was awkward.  I do not expect him to be as charismatic as his brother or as cocky as Aaron Rodgers (who only has one ring the last time I checked), but I like what I have seen this offseason in his confidence off the field.

Eli Manning’s numbers dropped last year with his throwing yards dropping from 4,933 to 3,948 and the interceptions remained an issue, but he also did not get much help from his offensive line or the hobbled Hakeem Nicks.

The offense should be better this year as Nicks appears to be healthy and is in a contract year. Victor Cruz had a good summer, signing a 5 year $43 million deal and despite being a bit hobbled in the pre-season, should be in for a big season. In addition to the receiving weapons, the Giants also have David Wilson and Andre Brown, maybe one of the better one-two punches of any backfield in the league.

Concerns: 

Defensively the Giants should bounce back from a pretty mediocre season. The young defensive star Jason Pierre-Paul dropped from 16.5 sacks in the 2011 championship season, to just 6.5 in 2012. His partner in crime, Justin Tuck, was just as ineffective, getting to the quarterback only four times all season. If this defense does not get pressure on the quarterback, they do not win games. In a division where they face erratic guys like Tony Romo, Michael Vick and the run-happy Robert Griffin III, it is essential that they are able get pressure to force mistakes. Vick and RG3 may make you pay with 30-60 yard runs, but, Vick especially, will make poor decisions under pressure.

The Giants should be a little wary about their wide receivers who are entering the season a bit beat up. Defensively they are going to have to find a way to get back to championship form. Eli Manning is going to have to eliminate some of the turnovers. The running backs are going to have to stay healthy and productive.

Bold Prediction: 

Eli Manning throws for closer to 5,000 yards than 4,000 yards, the team wins the unpredictable NFC East and makes another run at the Superbowl, hosting big brother Peyton in the bitter cold Meadowlands.

(OK I am not going to go as far as a Superbowl prediction here, but tell me that wouldn’t be a great storyline?)

Washington Redskins

It all rests on one man’s ACL

Record Prediction: 10-6 (3-3)

Based off of my season prediction chart, this is one team that I appear to like more than I would have guessed. One of the two remaining teams in this division, I actually like better than the Redskins this year, but we will get to that later.  The Redskins finished 2012 at 10-6 last year, so this is not too farfetched, but 9-7 seems more likely.

What to like: 

Between Robert Griffin III and rookie sensation Alfred Morris, the Redskins lead the league with 2,709 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns (good for second in the league behind the Patriots).  An average of 169.5 rushing yards a game will get most teams a few extra wins, but the  ability of RG3 to run and throw is what kept defenses on their toes all season long. RG3 led the league in yards per pass attempt (8.14) and yards per rush (6.8). The passing numbers become even more impressive when Pierre Garcon, his leading receiver, only played in 10 games.   He spread the ball around to all of his receivers very impressively, with no one guy reaching the 50 reception mark.

RG3 had 3,200 yards passing and 815 yards rushing. If those numbers are not impressive enough, he also had a touchdown to interception ratio of 20 to 5. That is a crazy number for a rookie quarterback. Even if their is a sophomore slump waiting for RG3, I can’t see him having a negative touchdown to interception ratio.

Oh and the the Redskins also have a backup quarterback in Kirk Cousins that could be a starter for a handful of teams in the NFL. I will name a few for shits and giggles:

  1. Oakland Raiders
  2. New York Jets
  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars
  5. Cleveland Browns
  6. Minnesota Vikings (Yes, I went there)

Cousins, who is having some foot problems right now needs to be mentioned here because of the obvious concern with this team.

Concerns: 

It is no surprise that the biggest upside for the Redskins is also the biggest concern. The entire season seemingly rests on the repaired knee of RG3. Redskins fans and RG3 fantasy owners are all hoping for the same thing: That Dr. James Andrews did his magic, repairing Griffin’s knee like he did Adrian Peterson, allowing him to have a historic season.

I have no doubt that RG3 is healthy. I do not understand why he feels the need to play in the preseason and am very glad that Mike Shanahan is sticking to his guns and not letting him do so. My fear about the Redskins this year is that they become way more conservative with their franchise quarterback, limiting the designed runs and read-option calls. If this is the case, this could effect the offense’s production in a number of ways. First of all, it would allow defenses to play more conventional, leading to better pass defense and the ability to focus more on stopping Morris. Secondly it may force RG3 to fight his instincts as a runner.

Sorry Vikings fans, I know this play brings back bad memories. Does this kind of play happen this year? Does RG3 have the confidence to let loose like that or would he be more eager to slide or step out of bounds once he felt a hit coming? My guess is Shanahan cuts back on the designed runs some, but that RG3  resorts to his feet when he feels the need, leading to some near heart-attacks for the head coach.

Bold Prediction: 

With a decrease in the read-option and designed quarterback runs, defenses will be able to maintain Alfred Morris and he will start to look like a much more average running back than he first appeared.

Philadelphia Eagles 

*Quack Quack*  Ducks fly together  *Quack Quack*

Record Prediction: 9-7 (3-3)

At 9-7 and third in the NFC East, the Eagles will miss the playoffs. I didn’t adjust my schedule predictions to try and get teams where I felt like they should be, but with the Eagles I was tempted to go through and try to find them another win. I am a believer in the new-look Eagles and would not be surprised at all if they won this division or at least were able to sneak in as a wild card.

What to like: 

If you do not watch college football and are too stubborn to turn on your TV on Saturdays then I would highly recommend watching a few of the Eagles games this season. Chip Kelly is bringing a college-type offense to the NFL and it should be fun to watch. The no-huddle offense will keep defenses on their toes and will prevent them from making situational substitutions.

Michael Vick may be getting a bit old for a fast paced offense like this one, but sounds like his has found a second wind. His skill-set is perfect for this offense. Kelly is going to run a spread offense, that is going to essentially serve as a two back set. Vick will stand beside LeSean McCoy or Bryce Brown in the shotgun and the simple threat if him running one way or the running back running the other way will keep defenses on their toes. Vick has always been a threat to run, that really isn’t a secret to anyone, but where Kelly’s offense succeeds in getting to the line quickly.

The fast paced, spread offense should also make McCoy and Brown be more successful. In the one drive I watched in the preseason, I saw Bryce Brown carry the ball 4-5 times on a 6-8 play 50-or-so yard drive that ended in a score. The Patriots defense had no answers, it was brilliant.

DeSean Jackson is a Mike Wallace-like receiver, he has incredible speed and can beat anyone. He is not the most disciplined of receivers.

eaglesfumble

He will never live that fumble down. He is the guy on this team now. Jeremy Maclin is out for the year with a torn ACL so it is up to Jackson to pick up the slack. Kelly’s offense should be aggressive and Vick should chuck it up to Jackson frequently. Look for Jackson to have a career season.

Concerns: 

The biggest concern for the Eagles this year is the question of whether or not the Oregon style offense can work. Sure it works with a bunch of young college guys, but can it work with an older and bigger offensive line and a quarterback who already has a lot of miles on his legs? In wearing out their opposition, they may also wear themselves out midway through the season.

Vick’s health is the other concern with the Eagles. He has a history of being unable to stay on the field due to concussions, hitting his hand on his offensive lineman’s head and many other odd injuries. If Vick gets hurt the team rests on Nick Foles, who is not nearly as built to run Chip Kelly’s offense.

My one hope for the Eagles this season is that they bring back the offensive play calling system that Kelly used in Oregon.

Bold Prediction: The Eagles rank in the top 5 in points scored this season.

The Dallas Cowboys

Consistently Inconsistent 

Record Prediction: 8-8 (3-3)

This feels like a safe record for the Cowboys. Like any Cowboy’s season I expect the team to underachieve based on Jerry Jones’ high expectations. The power-hungry owner will then fire Jason Garrett and resort to trying to coach the team himself.

What to like: 

The Cowboys probably are the most well-rounded team in the division.

Offensively they have skilled players at every position. Tony Romo had a career year in 2012, throwing for 4,903 yards. His touchdown to interception ratio was not great (28/19) compared to 2011 (31/10), but he was not bad enough to deserve all the blame for the team missing the playoffs.

Dez Bryant has the skills to be one of the best receivers in the league and last year he seemed to avoid any off the field issues. His 1,382 yards was good enough for 5th in the league in receiving and his ceiling has not been reached. Miles Austin was not 100 percent most the season, playing hurt with a quad injury, but appears to be healthy enough to be returning punts this preseason.

The Cowboy’s backfield is also strong on paper. Demarco Murray has the skills to be a feature back, but seems to have the bones of a 80-year-old man. He only started in 10 games last year, but did have 1,000 all purpose yards when he was on the field.

Concerns:

The problem with the Cowboys is they always find a way to crap the bed. They are talented at most positions, but just can never finish. They crumble in fourth quarters, they fail in second half of seasons and they always fall short of their goals. There really isn’t any one thing to pin this on, but if they were able to figure it out they could easily win this division by a couple games. They are the one team in the NFL that has seemingly no home-field advantage. Cowboy stadium is nothing but a circus and the Cowboys are just a bunch of clowns.

I blame Jerry Jones.

Bold Prediction: (this one is not very bold)

Jason Garrett is fired at the end of yet another failed season.

What the hell, let’s get a little bolder. To replace Garrett, Jerry Jones hires Rex Ryan as the head coach….

Can you imagine those two personalities working together? Hard Knocks 2014?

That’s it for the NFC East. I’ll go back to the AFC next and do the AFC West.

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