NFL Season Outlook: NFC East
Dallas Cowboys –
Ceiling: Could the Cowboys make a Superbowl this year? Doubtful with this defense. They could win a very up for grabs NFC East though and maybe even win a playoff game. But just as DeMarco Murray couldn’t carry the Cowboys to the Superbowl two years ago, Zeke Elliott will not be able to do so this year.
Floor: Dallas is always an injury to Romo away from being 8-8 or worse, so they are really hard to predict, but after two tough division games in weeks one and two, they get a brief respite against the Bears and 49ers. If they can’t come through that stretch at 3-1 or 4-0, we could be looking at 6-10 or 5-11 again this year.
Storyline: Can Romo stay healthy? Can Dez stay healthy? Can Sean Lee stay healthy? Can the Cowboys defenders stop using banned substances? Who the hell is going to play defense? What will Zeke bring to the table? Oh yeah, and can Romo stay healthy?
Best Game on the Schedule: Week one against the Giants are consistently good games every year, and this one should be no different. This will set the tone for the year. Is Romo back in command of the offense, and can the Dallas defense show up against one of the better receivers in the league? Win this one and a lot of questions will start to be answered.
Worst Game on the Schedule: Week one against the Giants. If the offense of the Cowboys falters and Beckham torches the secondary, this could make for a long, lost season.
2016-2017 finish: First in the East, Fourth Seed in the NFC Playoffs
Washington Redskins –
Ceiling: The Redskins could win the East again, absolutely. Hell, anyone can win the East (except maybe the Eagles). Do they have what it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs? I don’t see it.
Floor: The problem with winning the division last year is playing all the division winners this year. That’s not a good sign for the Redskins who may have a hard time hanging with the likes of the Cardinals, Panthers and Vikings. This team could win the East or wind up in the bottom half of the NFC based solely on the tough schedule.
Storyline: Is Cousins the real deal? Can the Redskins build off a playoff berth last year? Was Josh Norman a good investment?
Best Game on the Schedule: Week one against the Steelers will go a long way to telling us what we’re getting from Washington this year. Hanging tough with Pittsburgh should be considered a moral victory and something to build on going into week two against Dallas
Worst Game on the Schedule: It’s always easy to pick the Browns game as the worst on the schedule because you don’t anticipate good football on that day, but if you’re a Redskins fan, you have to be terrified of weeks 8-14, which includes division winners and road division games. This stretch could sink the ‘Skins.
2016-2017 finish: Second in the East
New York Giants –
Ceiling: The Giants could win the division this year, and depending on their defensive improvements, they could actually win a game or two in the playoffs. I am not high on overpaying free agents, so I’ll reserve judgment on their defensive improvement until midseason.
Floor: If Beckham turns into a headcase and the defense doesn’t respond as one would hope, this could be a bad time to be a Giants fan. Eli is not getting any younger, so if he’s going to make another deep playoff run, he needs to do it soon (like this year or next) before his window closes. If father time catches up to the younger Manning, it could derail the Giants and set them up for a five or six win season this year.
Storyline: How much does Eli have left in the tank? Will those high-priced free agent defenders get the Giants back to defensive dominance? Will there be any effect from the coaching change? Is Beckham ready to just play football against Josh Norman twice a year or is he unable to keep his emotions in check?
Best Game on the Schedule: Any division game in the NFC East will be a good game, but week one at Dallas should be a statement as to the direction of the team for this year.
Worst Game on the Schedule: With the Cowboys and Saints as the first two games of the year, if the Giants defense is not up to par, it could spell early-season disaster.
2016-2017 finish: Third in the East
Philadelphia Eagles –
Ceiling: 5-11 unless they get really lucky. The Eagles are a rebuilding team and they are easily two years away from getting back to where they need to be.
Floor: The Eagles have a fairly easy schedule, so they may win one or two early, giving Doug Pederson confidence in Sam Bradford that will slowly erode as they drop game after game towards mid-season. 2-14, 3-13 is not out of the picture.
Storyline: Well, you have a new head coach, a high draft pick quarterback that needs to get used to a Pro-Style offense, and an incumbent starting quarterback that is pissed that he’s not the guy for the team’s future. What else do you need for storylines?
Best Game on the Schedule: Because the Eagles have a fairly easy schedule, they don’t have very many “watchable” games unless you want to see RGIII and Sam Bradford duking it out. So I would say the division games, any of them, because you really never know what will happen in the NFC East.
Worst Game on the Schedule: Week three against Pittsburgh will be over by halftime, and not in Philly’s favor.
2016-2017 finish: Fourth in the East