Tuesday, August 30, 2016

NFL 2016 Preview: NFC (L)East (Not just bad....real bad)

After finishing my review of the major conferences (and the American) in college football it's time to turn my gaze toward the Shield. Or, the league that we all love to watch but also love to hate.  While I'm not as much of an NFL fan as I am a fan of the college game I do realize that there are many out there who will only watch the professional version of the sport.

With that in mind here's the first installment in my division by division look at American football at the professional level:

Part the First: AFC East (Same Old, Same Old)

Part the Second: AFC North (One of these teams is not like the others)

Part the Third: AFC South (The Changing of the Guard)

Part the Fourth: AFC West (Evil Always Wins)

Part the Fifth: NFC (L)East (Not just bad...real bad)

East W L
Washington 8 8
Philadelphia 7 9
Dallas 6 10
N.Y. Giants 4 12
1. Washington Redskins. When I first took a look at this division I picked Dallas to win it. Then the 3rd week of pre-season happened and Tony Romo's crepe paper back imploded so I needed a new winner. So D.C. it is. Out of all the divisions I think this one is where there's the most potential for pundits (and idiots like me) to be wrong. The problem is that there's just not a lot of "there" there in these teams. Kirk Cousins is meh, as is Pierre Garçon. DeSean Jackson is, and always has been, overrated in my opinion. Offensively Washington's best asset is a pretty solid O-line. A big minus for them is that they have a body at RB. Something you can tell they recognized as evidenced by the fact they have 7 RB's currently on the roster. Defensively things are better. They, famously, picked up Josh Norman in the off-season who, along with Baushad Breeland, should be one of the best CB tandems in the country provided Breeland doesn't wilt under the constant attention. They have good team speed and good size as well. DeAngelo Hall is a 13 year veteran who can still play a good center field and a good veteran presence.  Still not sold on Jay Gruden as a head coach, but we'll see.

2. Philadelphia Eagles. Coming off the failed Chip Kelley experiment (which is now playing at San Fran) Eagles fans can be forgiven for throwing in the towel on this season before it starts. I wouldn't however. Because if I were to pick a team that could jump up and surprise in this division I think it would be the Eagles.  Yes, they're sticking with inaccurate and moody Sam Bradford at QB, and Ryan Mathews at RB doesn't sight hearts alight.  But Aghalor/Matthews/Huff are a solid group of 3 WR's and Brent Celek is a good security blanket. The O-line might be one of the better in the division, although there are some gaps. On defense the Eagles are young, and are going to need players to improve over last year if they are going to challenge for the playoffs. I remain a huge Brandon Graham fan and think he might have a monster year.  We'll see how head coach Doug Pederson handles the mess he's been given. Still, if the dominoes fall in just the right order....

3. Dallas Cowboys. OK Cowboy fan, a moment of reality.  The Romo back injury is huge and Dak Prescott, while he might be a good QB long-term is NOT a better option than the QB with the crepe paper spine.  Oh, and defensively it could be a long year.  Other than that?  Dez Bryant is still pretty good and by all appearances Ezekiel Elliott is going to be spectacular, but I look for him to tire late in the year, The O-line is average, but not bad, although I think the search for WR2 and 3 could be a year long issue. At tight end it's amazing but this will be Jason Witten's 15th year and he's still going strong. The defense might be OK provided LB Sean Lee stays healthy. He's been suffering from some bad luck, and long stints out due to injury, the last couple of years so the Cowboys could really use him healthy. I wonder who is going to rush the QB for the Cowboys, and I question whether or not their DB's can contain opposing WR's for all of the time I think opposing QB's are going to have because of that. Jokes aside Jerry Jones has actually had solid draft classes the last couple of years and the team does have some talent. That's why I think they could have won the division with a healthy Tony Romo.  Without him? I just don't see it.

4. New York Giants. This team has me perplexed. There are some pundits who are predicting them to win the division and for the life of me I cannot figure out why. Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz are pretty good WR's and Eli Manning is an above average QB. But the Giants are going to have zero run game and almost no protection for the Manning who still has some arm strength. Defensively this team is not good. They weren't good under former (defensive minded) coach Tom Coughlin and I don't think they'll be good under new (offensive minded) coach Ben McAdoo. I don't see too much explosiveness at LB and the defensive backfield feels like it was put together with a glue gun, with none of the parts making sense in the whole. This team has been pretty bad for a couple of years now, I don't see how just firing Coughlin and promoting the OC of a team that wasn't very good at offensive football last year solves the problem.

This is likely to be the worst division in football this year. It will also be one that gets the largest share of nationally televised games. This means, again, the the NFL's prime-time schedule is going to stink, again.  Part of the reason it stinks is because we continue to get force-fed this bowl of crap of a division.

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