Making Sense of the NFC East: Breaking Down the Eagles, Redskins, Giants and Cowboys
Heading into the season, the NFC East was the hardest division in the NFL to forecast, and if nothing else looked to be the most evenly matched group of teams in football. With that in mind no doubt, the NFL was kind enough to schedule two intra-division matchups in that division for week 1, giving us two compelling games to help shed some light on what to expect from the that division in 2013. After watching those two games, let’s try to make some sense of things in the NFC East.
Oddly enough, the team that was penciled in by many as the worst team in the division, the Philadelphia Eagles, may have been the most impressive in week 1. The Eagles took their foot off the gas in the 4th quarter and let Washington crawl back into the game and have a chance to win at the end, but they dominated Philadelphia for much of the game and were in complete control for the first three quarters. Whether or not the Eagles can keep up the pace they did in the first half Monday night remains to be seen, especially after teams get enough tape on them to make adjustments, but they’ll definitely pose a stiff challenge to teams, and if nothing else they should be able to get off to a fast start. Whether or not Michael Vick can continue to avoid turnovers throughout the entire season is also an issue we’ll have to watch as it continues to play out, but on first impression, the Eagles certainly look like a team that’s going to be relevant in the NFC east this year.
With the Redskins, it’s tough to know whether they’re going to end up being the team that got dominated by the Eagles in the first half Monday night or the team that made a strong comeback in the second half. It could have been a result of facing a new style of offense, but the Washington defense did not look like the same unit as last year. As for Robert Griffin III, he definitely didn’t look the same as last season. He looked tentative, didn’t step into his throws, and wasn’t nearly the running threat he was last year, and Alfred Morris having an off night didn’t help either. Griffin and the Redskins may get there eventually, but right now they’re far from being the playoff team they were last season.
The Giants were one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL last season, and they were also one of the biggest disappointments in week 1 after turning the ball three times in the 1st quarter and six times total. On the positive side, even with a lackluster running game, which will have to be improved, when the Giants weren’t turning the ball over their offense was tough to stop. With the emergence of Rueben Randle and the addition of tight end Brandon Myers, Eli Manning could be close to unstoppable if the offensive line gives him enough time to operate. Although if the defense doesn’t shape up they’ll once again be reliant on Manning to put up a lot of points this season, a formula that failed to get them to playoffs last season and might not be able to get them there this season either.
As for the Cowboys, they may be the best team in the NFC East on paper, but they needed all six turnovers they got in order to end their home losing streak to the Giants. Despite a wealth of talent, the lack of offensive execution is a concern, as the Dallas defense scored as many touchdowns on Sunday as the offense. Although credit goes to the defense for forcing six turnovers, that’s not the kind of thing they should count on happening every week, which means despite a lot of potential on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys look like a team with a lot of work to do, and a team that needs to be more consistent if they’re going to become the stand out team in the NFC East.
So, what exactly did we learn about the NFC East from week 1? Well, we learned that all four teams are very much a work in progress, and even the team that was the most impressive, the Eagles, has serious questions about how it will fair over a 16-game season. All four teams look capable of winning 10 games and getting to the playoffs, while they all look almost equally capable of losing 10 games and having disappointing seasons. We don’t know too much more than we knew before the season started, but we know a little bit more, and now there’s little doubt that the NFC East will be a hotly contested division this season, even if it’s a profoundly mediocre division.