From top to bottom, the NFC East might be the toughest division in football. The AFC South is the only other division with 4 potential playoff teams, and last year, the NFC East fielded 3 playoff teams. Without further ado, here's the NFC East, in reverse order of projected finish:
4th: New York Giants
Yes, that's right. The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Eli Manning and crew won the Super Bowl last year, but after losing Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora to retirement and injury, it's hard to see them coming close to a repeat. Their strength last year was their devastating pass rush. But this year, it has become a weakness with the loss of 2 of their best players. Eli Manning looked like he might be ready to step up and become an elite player after an outstanding performance in the Super Bowl, but after the Giants traded Jeremy Shockey, he just doesn't have enough weapons on offense.
Even if Eli improves his game, he would have to CARRY this team if they were to make the playoffs again. Remember, they didn't exactly roll through the regular season last year. They barely made the playoffs as a wild card. This year, they'll need to be even better if they want to make the playoffs. And there's just not a lot of reasons to think that they CAN be.
3rd: Philadelphia Eagles
When Donovan McNabb is healthy, he is among the elite QB's in the NFL. The problem is, he has missed 13 games in the past 3 seasons, and hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2003. The other key player in the Eagles' backfield is Brian Westbrook. No other RB in the NFL has been as valuable to his team as Westbrook over the past few years. Whether McNabb is playing or not, Westbrook has shown that he is one of the best of the best, and can make the Eagles an offensive threat regardless of the circumstances.
If they can stay healthy, McNabb and Westbrook alone make the Eagles a playoff contender. Their defense isn't as great as it used to be, when they were losing NFC Championship games every year, but they still can shut teams down on occasion. Andy Reid has some distractions last year, but if he can put those behind him, the team has a great chance to make some noise.
2nd: Washington Redskins
Even though he's in the twilight of his career, the addition of Jason Taylor should pay off well for the 'Skins. He's a veteran leader, and still has a ton of ability. However, this season might just depend on the offense.
Jason Campbell is looking to prove himself this year, and show that he's capable of leading the offense for the long haul. Campbell has shown glimpses of the talent that made him a 1st round draft pick in 2005. Clinton Portis (when healthy) is one of the best RB's in the league, and he keeps things interesting at interviews, too. Talent-wise, the Redskins can keep up with almost anyone. Jim Zorn is a great new head coach, and we'll see if he can maximize their potential this year. They should make a run at the playoffs again. The only thing that could stop them is simply the other teams in their own division.
1st: Dallas Cowboys
Once again, the Cowboys are the most talented team in the NFC East, and arguably the entire NFL. Outside of Brady to Moss, Tony Romo and Terrell Owens are the best QB-WR combo in the league. Marion Barber is a beast of a running back, and Felix Jones looks to be one of the most talented backups in the league. The defense, anchored by DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Henry, and newcomers Zach Thomas and Pacman Jones should be as good as ever.
The Cowboys are definitely the favorites to win the NFC East, and possibly the entire NFC. If Tony Romo can get the monkey off his back and finally win a playoff game, this is a team that has the talent and the coaching to go deep in the playoffs.
What are your thoughts on the NFC East?