With the release of the NFL 2010 regular season schedule, there is a great sense of anticipation for those of us who love professional football. There is not a more intriguing division in the NFL than the very competitive NFC East. The blockbuster intra-division trade of Donovan McNabb from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Washington Redskins rocked the sports universe. This surprising deal has completely turned the NFC East on its head, with several experts who had earlier picked the Eagles to win this division changing their predictions.
Still, the NFC East has the potential to field three NFL Playoff teams, and is considered by many to be one of the toughest divisions in football. Home of the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins, the NFC East has a rich history of winning franchises. That tradition will continue in 2010. Here are my predictions on how each of these teams will perform over the 2010 season:
1. Division Winners- Dallas Cowboys (Prediction: 12-4)
After going 11-5 and earning last years division crown, Dallas once again looks solid. The Cowboys will benefit from having a relatively easy out of division schedule with games against Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, and a re-building Arizona Cardinal team. Returning a strong nucleus of players from a team that won this division last year, it is fair to say that Dallas’ hopes rest on the arm of QB Tony Romo. With the emergence of WR Miles Austin and the consistency of TE Jason Witten, the Dallas passing game is poised for a strong season. The defense is led by LB’s DeMarcus Ware and Keith Brooking along with rising star CB Mike Jenkins. The offensive line does a fine job of opening up holes for bruising RB Marion Barber. Cowboys have a strong blend of veteran leadership and young talent. Dallas has as much talent, top to bottom as any in the league. With that said, the NFC East title still goes through Dallas.
2. Wild Card Team- Philadelphia Eagles (Prediction: 11-5)
Coming off of an 11-5 season in 2009, this team is my “sleeper” selection. The conventional wisdom around the league is that, in light of the departure of Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, this will be a re-building year for the Eagles. I disagree. Westbrook was on the decline and Kevin Kolb has shown signs of brilliance in his limited playing time. He is already a much more accurate pocket passer than McNabb ever was. As of today, the Eagles also have Michael Vick slated as the back up, providing another option. Philadelphia is loaded with young offensive weapons like WR’s Desean Jackson and Jeremy Macklin, along with rising star TE Brett Celek. The offensive line is anchored by perennial pro-bowler Jason Peters. On the defensive side of the ball the Eagles have upgraded the linebacker position with the acquisition of Ernie Sims from the Detroit Lions. They have a solid secondary with pro-bowler Asante Samuel at CB and Quinten Mikel at Safety. Their defensive line is steady with veterans Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson anchoring the middle. and sack specialist Trent Cole at the DE. I expect this team of talented players to continue their winning ways despite the recent changes in personnel.
3. New York Giants (Prediction: 10-6)
The Giants performance over the 2009 season was erratic at best. After winning their first five games the Giants ended up with an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs. The team is led offensively by veteran QB Eli Manning. The Giants rely primarily on the one-two rushing attack of RB Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw who combined for 1,600 yards on the ground last year. The offensive line is solid, though receiving core has yet to produce in big-game situations. Steve Smith has shown flashes, but he hasn’t consistently performed at a high level. There are some holes in a defense that was led in tackles by Terrell Thomas and missed several key players due to injury. For New York to improve upon last years disappointing performance they need a better year from DE Osi Umenyiora and CB Corey Webster. Without dramatic change on several fronts, the 2010 season will be an uphill climb for this Giants team.
4. Washington Redskins (Prediction: 9-7)
The Redskins are clearly the most interesting and unpredictable team in the division. After years of spending money in free agency, attempting to build a team out of high-priced journeyman, it appears that Washington may have turned a corner. With newcomer Donovan McNabb in tow, expectations are high. There has even been recent talk that McNabb has been trying to convince Washington management to pursue his old teammate Terrell Owens. After finishing a disappointing 4-12 last year, the jury is still out on Washington as they struggle to justify the money spent on DT Albert Haynesworth, and attempt to resurrect the career of RB Larry Johnson. With the likes of RB Clintin Portis and WR Sanatana Moss, the Redskins do have talent on offense. The defense will rely on LB London Fletcher, CB De’angelo Hall and rising star S LaRon Landry. On paper this team looks a lot stronger than it has been o the field. I predict the trend will continue.
However the 2010 NFL regular season unfolds, you can rest assured that the NFC East division will provide a steady diet of hard-nosed, hyper-competitive, high level football. Kick back and enjoy!