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The Road To The Super Bowl, NFC East
by Wayne Root - 08/08/2012
This is a continuing series of Conference Previews as the 2012 NFL Season is just one week away from the start of NFL Preseason 2012. As the season progresses, I will be updating these predictions- as upsets and "key" injuries can change the course of action in a nano-second. There have been some off-season trades and the chemistry and the locker-room antics will be closely monitored during the two-a-day practices in the heat of August. This early season guide will allow you to stay updated on last season's strengths and weakness, and what lies ahead for each team this season.
The NFC East proves to be one of the toughest divisions year after year. Dallas is always great on paper to start the season, New York is coming off of a Super Bowl, Philadelphia and Vick started to gel at the end of last season and Washington now has as quarterback it can trust in RGIII. 2012 could be the year that the NFC East really returns to prominence as one of the premier divisions in the league. As always, the teams in the NFC East are going to have a lot of pressure on them this year to succeed. The Super Bowl champs are in this division, and there are three other teams that think that they can pull off the same task this year as well. The odds to win the NFC East are always tight, and that should lead to a great year of football once again in what is seemingly always one of the most competitive foursomes in the game. All four of the teams have to think that they can stake their claim to the division crown, and all four are going to be threats for sure with the Vegas betting numbers.
New York Giants---actually aren't the favorites to win the NFC East. They are the second choices on the board at +205. Winning the Super Bowl with the NFL's worst offensive line is almost unheard of, so one would assume the Giants don't want to take their chances again in 2012. Well, apparently, the Giants enjoy playing with fire because they did nothing to upgrade the starting offensive line. They did draft a couple of linemen, but the odds of them winning a starting position are slim to none. QB Eli Manning has definitely proven that he is an elite quarterback worthy of being called Peyton’s baby brother, though this year, he is going to be given a bit of a tougher task with WR Mario Manningham now in San Francisco. The ground game isn’t the greatest, but it is serviceable with RB Ahmad Bradshaw. QB Eli Manning is back with a ton of weapons at his disposal, but with WR Mario Manningham and RB Brandon Jacobs both gone, the defense which played so well at times last year, just doesn't feel like it can carry this team to the finish line this year. It is the pass rush that really makes the team though, and Head Coach Tom Coughlin has been preaching that over the course of his entire tenure in the Big Apple. The question is whether there is a Super Bowl letdown coming for Big Blue, though. It happened a few years ago. The G-Men could be in for a disappointing campaign, but we aren't ones to count the champs out, knowing that they have done some truly remarkable things over the course of the last few years under Head Coach Tom Coughlin. The defending Super Bowl champs don't have their bye week until Week 11. Home and away games are evenly distributed at eight and eight. They have two road trips that have them play consecutive games and one homestand where they are home for two weeks.
Philadelphia Eagles---at +140 are the NFC East favorites. The Eagles were the "Dream Team" last year, but they faltered at times and just never really got on track. The so-called “Dream Team” was a bit of a nightmare last year, though hindsight being 20/20. Losses to teams like the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers weren’t nearly as bad as they seemed to be at the time. The Eagles (now the "Dynasty Team") are still very talented and are extremely fast. The combo of QB Michael Vick, WR Jeremy Maclin, and WR DeSean Jackson is clearly the fastest in the league, and RB LeSean McCoy is most certainly not a slacker either. This year though, matters are a lot different. QB Michael Vick almost has to rebound from what amounted to be nowhere near that special of a season in 2011, and his offense really started to click at the end of the campaign last year. The defense seems to be more prepared now than it was at the outset of the year to dominate, and that could go a long way in helping out Vick as well. In the end though, it is going to be up to No. 7 to take care of the football. If he does that, the Eagles will win this division. If he doesn’t, it could be another year of missing the playoffs and the last year for Head Coach Andy Reid on the sidelines in the City of Brotherly Love. Head Coach Andy Reid knows that he has just one more shot to try to salvage this team and get it to a Super Bowl, and this might be the year that it happens. Remember that Philly is now playing a third place schedule, and that might make all the difference as well. Philadelphia wraps up the season with two division games, one at Washington and one against the Giants at home. The Eagles only have one division game in the first half of the season. The Eagles will take the NFC East from the Giants this year.
Dallas Cowboys--- are always considered to be contenders, but they just haven't figured out how to get the job done under QB Tony Romo, and that's why they are the +265 third choices to win this division. QB Tony Romo is always under a microscope, and that isn’t going to be an exception this year. He puts up great numbers thanks to the fact that he has a remarkable set of receivers, but perhaps he deserves more credit. No one had ever heard of WR Miles Austin before Romo put him on the map, and when both he and WR Dez Bryant were hurt last year, it was WR Laurent Robinson that suddenly became a hero. Romo is still in charge of the team, and now he has a real workhorse of a back in RB DeMarco Murray to work with as well. WR Dez Bryant, WR Miles Austin, and TE Jason Witten still make up one of the best receiving trios in the league. Don't forget about RB Felix Jones and WR Laurent Robinson as well. Dallas' offensive line worries me the most. The additions up front seem to be downgrades instead of upgrades. Nate Livings was a train wreck last season for Cincinnati, and how Phil Costa allowed so much pressure up the middle is a head-scratcher. The defense isn't quite there yet, but we know that DC Rob Ryan isn't going to let this squad come anywhere near allowing 350 points again this season. They did fix their biggest defensive weakness. Adding Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr brought some much-needed stability to their secondary. Rob Ryan was figured to be one of the hot head coaching candidates available in this past offseason, but after an atrocious year on the sidelines managing the Dallas defense, no one bit on Rex’s brother. It could be a make or break season both for Ryan and for Head Coach Jason Garrett, as more seasons of missing the playoffs won’t sit well with owner and GM Jerry Jones. Weeks 4 through 10 look to be brutal, so it will be important not to fall in an 0-2 hole right out of the gate.
Washington Redskins---made one of the biggest splashes of the entire offseason when they moved up in the NFL Draft to take QB Robert Griffin III. Last year, they weren’t a bad team, though they weren’t exactly a fantastic one either. Quarterback play was really all that was missing last year from the Skins, as QB Rex Grossman and QB John Beck were just downright awful. Washington had a good draft slot at No. 4, and it knew that it had to put together a great package to move up to No. 2 to take QB Robert Griffin III. And that’s exactly what the Redskins did. They got the job done, and now, they have the man that they hope will right the ship. We saw some rookie quarterbacks play well last year and get their teams to show big time improvement like QB Cam Newton with the Carolina Panthers and QB Andy Dalton with the Cincinnati Bengals, and if Griffin can do that with the Redskins, this might suddenly become a fun team to keep track of on a weekly basis. If Griffin is a lights-out quarterback, no one will even remember what they gave up to get him. He shouldn't have a problem succeeding—he is the total package, but he will need help from the defense. Jonathan Goff and Cedric Griffin were low-key signings with big-time potential, as both players have been successful in past stops. The combo of RB Roy Helu, RB Evan Royster, and RB Tim Hightower should be good enough to get the job done, and TE Fred Davis quickly emerged as one of the most underrated receiving tight ends in the league last year. LB Brian Orakpo was one of the five players on this squad that had at least three sacks as well, and that bodes well for this unit in 2012, too. Expect Washington to struggle, even with a new quarterback. It just isn't as talented as other teams yet, and it has a few pretty tough stretches in its schedule. Weeks 11, 12, 13 and 14 are sure to cause fits, as it plays the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants and Ravens, all in a row. During the first eight weeks of the season, the Redskins only have three home games. Still, the Redskins are +1120 to win the NFC East this year.
The Redskins are still a year away, but they are going to make life a living hell for the rest of this division. Don't be shocked if the Cowboys end up in the gutter if Romo doesn't end up making some massive strides in the right direction again. We think that this is just a one-team division this year though, and that one team is going to be the Eagles. Vick and the gang can run up and down the field faster than any squad in the league, and with some of the great additions to this defense in the offseason, this could be the team to beat, not just in the NFC East, but in the NFC as a whole. But don"t be shocked if there are weeks when all 4 teams lose because on any given Sunday Vick and Romo won't have it and Eli and RGIII will digress to mediocrity. This will be one of the best Divisions to watch but maybe a nightmare to bet!