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NFC East 2011-2012 Predictions
The NFC East used to be one of the best divisions in football but due to the last few years the Giants and Cowboys have taken a step back, while the Eagles and Redskins have remained consistent. The Eagles have consistently won games, while the Redskins sadly have not. The Eagles have won the division six times in the past ten years and the NFC East has not been represented in the Super Bowl since the Giants win against the Patriots. This season the NFC East teams are faced with the tough act of dealing with the AFC East in their schedules.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
The Eagles were one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NFL last year due to their explosive offense led by Michael Vick and his plethora of weapons. Due to the increased popularity, players clearly wanted to come to Philadelphia this off-season as they pulled off an incredible feat by surprising everyone and signing what seemed to be everyone in free agency. The biggest surprise was none other then that of signing CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Before the off-season began it was almost expected that DE Jason Babin would return, seeing how his defensive line coach Jim Washburn came to Philly. The Eagles biggest and most pressing needs heading into the off-season was that of the defensive line, the lack of the pass rush the corner back position outside of Asante Samuel and the right side of the offensive line. Now that the Eagles seem to be done signing people, (now that I've said that it would not surprise me if I were to check around the internet and see that the Eagles signed someone else) they have addressed all of those issues. The players they signed may not start but surely add depth and can contribute immediately. The biggest issue with the team will be seen in the beginning of the year, which is team chemistry. Once the players learn to play for new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and learn to play together, the defense can be extremely good. The other issue can be the right side of the offensive line, Eagles fans constantly talk about this in the beginning of the year, but it always get better as the season goes. The right side is more important now as it is crucial to keeping Vick upright.
Player to Watch- Michael Vick
Vick enjoyed great success last year as he truly became a quarterback. Did he still make mistakes? Yes. Did he still electrify the crowds with his running ability? Yes. Did he still get killed a couple times a game? Yes. Vick struggled more towards the end of the year due to the injuries among the offensive line, especially his blind side. The Eagles solidified the right side of the line by drafting one of the top interior linemen in Danny Watkins, and they also signed RT Ryan Harris who is a very good pass blocker. Doing so will also free up TE Brent Celek to run routes more often instead of staying in to block to make up for the decencies of the offensive line. Celek can help open up the field for the outside threats in Jackson and Maclin.
Player on the Rise - LB Jamar Chaney
Chaney started on the inside when Stewart Bradley got injured at the end of the year last season and impressed the coaching staff. This season they moved him to the outside to utilize his speed and maybe provide an extra pass rush off of blitzes. Chaney did a good job against the run in limited time last season which is crucial to the Eagles this season. The biggest question with the Eagles this season is what can they expect from the young inexperienced linebackers. If Chaney and rookie MLB Casey Matthews can do an adequate job, it could propel this defense to the top.
2. New York Giants (8-8) -
The two biggest strengths of the Giants remain from last season, an excellent pass rush and an excellent running game with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. It wasn't expected that they would be able to retain Bradshaw but luckily the Dolphins backed off of their pursuits of the speedy halfback when they traded from Reggie Bush. The Giants still have a dominant pass rush with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka. The Giants now have a problem along the offensive line and linebacker position. To try to stabilize the linebacker position they have tried to move Kiwanuka to OLB, although it may help the pass rush it will make them even worse in coverage. The offensive line lost their starting center Shaun O'Hara due to cuts, O'Hara may have been old and towards the end of his career but he was one of the leaders of the team. The Giants also outside of their super bowl winning season, have struggled towards the second half of the year, it also doesn't help seeing how the Giants turned the ball over 25 times last season while their defense only got 16 turnovers.
Player to Watch - Osi Umenyiora
It's very well documented at this point that Osi is not happen and clearly wants a new contract. With the new rules in place from the new collective bargaining agreement, he probably won't get his wish. It seemed at one point he would be traded to an AFC team like the Ravens, Jets or Patriots but those teams balked at the idea of trading away a first round pick for him. Thus, an unhappy Osi stays in New York. Due to the lockout and the limited practice time, any negative distraction like this can cause problems for a team. If he plays inspired football as he looks for the contract he wants, then the Giants can be in good shape. If he doesn't then it can cause big problems for the Giants in the season.
Player on the Rise - Travis Beckum
The loss of TE Kevin Boss hurt initially but it could potentially make their passing game better. Manning loves to have pass catching tight ends, look at his career, he has had Shockey and Boss as two of his favorite targets. Now Travis Beckum is his new starting tight end, and while Beckum isn't as well rounded as Boss, he is much faster and he has better hands. He can't block like Boss could, so that may hurt the running game a bit, but with his speed and size he will be a nice target for Manning to go along with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. The loss of WR Steve Smith will also allow Beckum to get even more balls thrown his way in the upcoming season as Nicks will receive the most attention from opposing defenses..
3. Dallas Cowboys (7-9) -
Last year was a complete mess in Big D, and from the look of things nothing has really changed with the roster. They did however change things up on the sidelines by keeping Jason Garrett as the head coach and bringing in Rob Ryan to coach the defense. I have no doubt that eventually Ryan can make the Cowboys into a really good defense, but he needs to bring into his kind of players to do that. This defense still has the same problems in the secondary and along the defensive line outside of NT Jay Ratliff. Jerry Jones, due to salary cap issues, was only able to add one free agent this off-season in safety Abram Elam who looks to start right away. Elam is a decent player, but he wouldn't start on a good portion of teams in the NFL. The bigger problem for the Cowboys remains to be the offensive line, and judging by last season, you'd think they would do more then just draft one linemen to protect their quarterback. The Cowboys even cut G Leonard Davis, who is old granted but still better then some of the guys they will start along the line this season. The remaining positive on this team is the young and promising wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant and the fact that they know they will get a solid pass rush from DeMarcus Ware.
Player to Watch - Tony Romo
For the Cowboys to take the next step and go further in the playoffs, QB Tony Romo needs to step up in every aspect. He has talent, that's not even a question, but it is his intangibles and decision making that come into question. In 2007 and 2008, he didn't play as well in the second half as he did in the first half but in 2009 when the Cowboys won the division he played great all year round. That consistency has to be there all the time for him and his team to be successful, if he gets distracted off the field at all, then it shows in his play. Romo's success also goes hand in hand with the play of his offensive line, and with the below average offensive line then the Cowboys still have, Romo could struggle. If he doesn't then the Cowboys offense will be in good shape and they will constantly be in games.
Player on the Rise - Felix Jones
Felix Jones is a dynamic player but has yet to be healthy throughout a full season. He will also likely get more carries this season seeing how Marion Barber was cut which will lead to more carries and more yards for Jones. It will also mean he gets hit more often and is more likely to get hurt, but if he can stay healthy he can be a tremendous weapon to an already talented offense. It is likely that Tashard Choice will get some carries, but due to how explosive Felix Jones is, it is expected that he will be the featured back in Dallas this season. Jones in his career has a 5.3 yards per carry average but struggles to get touchdowns. In his brief three years so far in the league the most amount of rushing touchdowns he has gotten was three.
4. Washington Redskins (6-10)
I appreciate Rex Grossman for his comments in saying that he is confident in his team winning the NFC East. I appreciate how he is trying to make his team's fans excited for what will be a long season. I also don't appreciate how those kind of comments are coming from a maligned quarterback like himself, if it came from a established player in the NFL like London Fletcher or Chris Cooley, then fine. The Skins will have a tough go of it this season with a below average offense and most of that is attributed to the lack of play they expect to get from the quarterback position and offensive line. They also showed their desperation in going after a bunch of wide receivers that are past their primes in Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney and even Brandon Stokley. Stokley somehow got out of his contract with the Skins already however. The Redskins did manage to pick up a top safety in OJ Atogwe and local product CB Josh Wilson. The first round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan will also provide the Skins with a good pass rusher opposite Brian Orakpo and the two should play off each other well. The Skins front seven will be able to provide plenty of pressure as it has been upgraded along the line and with the selection of Kerrigan. It also bodes well for them that the players are now more comfortable in the 3-4 scheme and have the players that fit the system. The defense is much improved but due to the lack of offense they will lose plenty of close games.
Player to Watch - LB London Fletcher
London Fletcher is one of the most respected players in the National Football League and one of surest of tacklers to boot. He is a tackling machine as it never seems to matter who he is playing with as year in and year out he always manages to get well over 100 tackles a season. Father time may be catching up to him as he is 36 years old but he has never missed a single game in his fourteen year career. At the middle linebacker position that is the most impressive stat of his incredibly consistent career. This season with the upgrades the Skins have made along the defense looks to bring the best out of Fletcher as he will more then likely be able to run free after the quarterback and halfback more often then the best few seasons in Washington.
Player on the Rise - Brian Orakpo
This may be a surprise as Orakpo has already in his two seasons has 19 sacks, but due to the Skins being more comfortable in the new 3-4 scheme and Orakpo having Kerrigan on the other side it is likely that Orakpo could have his best season. He is a pure pass rush and nothing else and that is all he will be expected to do. Kerrigan will be able to take some pressure off of him as teams will not be able to double team Orakpo nearly as much. If Kerrigan can establish himself early to command some respect from opponents then Orakpo will blow by offensive tackles as he is quicker then most.
Play of the Year for the NFC East
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- AFC East 2011-2012 Predictions
Detailed predictions on how the AFC East could shake out this upcoming season
- AFC North 2011-2012 Predictions
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- NFC South 2011-2012 Predictions
Detailed predictions on how the NFC South will pan out this season
- NFC West 2011-2012 Predictions
Detailed predictions on how the NFC West will shake out this season
- NFC North 2011-2012 Predictions
Detailed predictions on the NFC North
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