bill-swift - September 5, 2012
After weeks of sitting through preseason game hoping to catch a glimpse of good football the time is almost here. However, with the sun due to set a time or two before the real fun begins the talking heads on television and bloggers like myself need something to talk about.
That can only mean one thing-- its prediction time baby! Some guys look to stats, watch hundreds of hours of game film, read every article written about every team, and leave the NFL Network on 24-7 to come up with their predictions. Me--I rubbed my crystal football and chanted the name of the great Vince Lombardi till the clouds cleared in my mind and the answers became obvious.
This division will either be the most hotly contested or the biggest disappointment. Dallas, Philadelphia, and New York all field strong offenses and quality defenses. Washington looks to be much improved as well. Each team does have its weaknesses which could make the difference in the end.
Tony Romo is an incredible quarterback and will make the Cowboys offense look better than it is this season. DeMarco Murray will give the team a run threat for the first time in years which will help keep some pressure off of Romo since the offensive line will have trouble doing so. In the end the offense for the 'Boys will come down to the health of the first team. As thin at wide receiver and running back, if they lose anyone to injury (or legal issues) they are in trouble.
The defense will be one of the best in the league this year. Sean Lee emerged as a solid linebacker and DeMarcus Ware is one of the best. Linemen Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher will keep a lot of pressure from getting back to the linebackers effecctively freeing them up to make plays. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr will be one of the most dangerous corner back tandems in the league; the price Jerry Jones paid Carr and to get Claiborne will demand it.
The Eagles fizzled as the dream team last season, and will look to make up for it this season. With the nucleus of play makers on offense and their usual strong defense it is easy to think that they can. LeSean McCoy is one of the better running backs in the league. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. When Michael Vick is healthy he is a joy to watch.
The problem will be the health of Vick. At 32 he is pretty set in his ways even though he has recognized how they keep getting him hurt. While his all-out style is exciting, it isn't smart. It will be a surprise if Vick does not miss a few games this season; in the second half of last season some teams appeared to start figuring out how to stop him too. If Nick Foles is as legit as he looked in the preseason that could be a good thing...
New York Giants:
When you are the defending champions you should be the team to beat, but no one sees the Giants as that. The trouble is in their offense. Outside of Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, and to a lesser extent Hakeem Nicks they have no proven play makers in the group. Dominek Hixon has done little and neither tight end (Bear Pascoe or Martellus Bennett) are known as great pass catchers. Last season they had next to no rushing game and it is not easy to see whether they will with Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson.
If they are able to win the division it will be because of the defense yet again. Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathius Kiwanuka will continue to give opposing quarterbacks as little time as possible to pass. Against the Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins they absolutely dominated. The problem is when they didn't get to the quarterback or pressure him, opposing teams lit them up for 255 yards a game.
The Giants won the most disappointing and under-performing division last season. If they want to win it again they will have to do a lot more than get hot at the end of the season as everyone else goes ice-cold.
No one expect the Redskins to do much, and chances are they will not. What they will do is be one of the most explosive teams in the league behind the raw talent and athleticism of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. RG3 has the ability to make plays down field with his arm, and is just as dangerous with his feet. If he can connect with Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss the 'Skins will create some fireworks worth watching.
The problem will be marching the ball down field in a sustained drive. Head coach Mike Shanahan is the running back whisperer; Evan Royster, Roy Helu, and rookie Alfred Morris all look capable of pounding the ball down opponent's throats. The problem they will have is in the passing game. Moss and Garcon are quality deep threats due to their speed, but neither has the best hands.
Defensively, the team has a few good players, but there is no one 'must-avoid' player in the starting unit.
Michael Vick is going to get hurt for 4-6 games this season, and while Nick Foles will play well he will be hamstrung by unusually poor play calling forcing the Eagles to go 8-8 yet again bringing an end to both Andy Reid's and Vick's time in Philly. Washington will be exciting and fun to watch, but that will not translate into too many wins.
The division winner will come down to the Giants and Cowboys. Should the Cowboys key players get and then stay healthy, they will run away with the division. If they can't, the Giants defensive line will eat them alive yet again and win their second consecutive division title.
Division Winner: Dallas
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