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2018-19 NFC East preview

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Roar Guru
29th August, 2018
2

The only division in the NFL where every team has won a Super Bowl, the NFC East is a tough group to come out of every year.

The Giants were 3-13 last season but were 11-5 in 2016. This is a mixed bag of goodies. Who comes out on top?

Philadelphia Eagles

There are 213 days between the Super Bowl and the opening game of the 2018 season, and Eagles fan haven’t stopped celebrating for any of them. The current Super Bowl champions are still living the highs of winning the city’s first title in NFL history.

This team has the talent to go back to back. The question is: will the pressure get to them?

Super Bowl-winning quarterback Nick Foles is happy to take a backseat when incumbent Carson Wentz returns from a torn ACL. It is not yet known if Wentz will be fit for Week 1 or if the Eagles push him to Week 3. Foles is ready to go regardless.

Almost every significant contributor has returned for 2018. This is a deeply talented squad capable of swapping in and out quality players at will.

Jay Ajayi, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Zac Ertz will command respect from every defence they face this season.

Plenty of people laughed at Jim Schwartz’s wide nine defence scheme when the season opened in 2017, but it was a godsend for the Philly faithful. He played a ferocious front four inside the wide nine scheme and it worked. They were fourth in overall defence and first against the run in the league.

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Crucial player: Travis Kelce
Centre Travis Kelce is a leader of men and will need to continue his impressive form for this team to go back to back.

Keep an eye on: The quarterback battle between Wentz and Foles
Can the two coexist or will there be fireworks in Philly?

Personnel changes
Mike Wallace comes in as an extra wide receiver. There’s not a lot more to mention.

Predicted finish: 13-3
Division champions. This team could go all the way.

Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich looks on during the NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers

(Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Dallas Cowboys

Plenty of talent has vacated Arlington in the last few seasons, so this is now Dak Prescott’s team. What will Dak do with his role as the franchise quarterback? Only time will tell. He had a rough year in 2017 and will need to improve significantly if he wants to remain the main man.

In the past 22 seasons only the Cowboys, Redskins and Lions haven’t been to an NFC championship game. That’s poor from the so-called ‘Americas team’.

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Wide receiver Allen Hurns comes across from the Jags with rookie Michael Gallup as his back up. It looks as though the Cowboys will again use Zeke Elliott as their number one running back, with tight-end duties being shared between Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers and Dalton Shultz.

The defence has been bolstered by the addition of rookie Leighton Vander Esch and the signing of Jihad Ward from Oakland. The rest of the line remains the same and will be better for another year together.

Crucial player: Sean Lee
He is the general in the defence and will need to stay healthy for the Cowboys to have any chance of play-off football. Lee has missed 42 games in eight seasons due to injury.

Keep an eye on: Rico Gathers
The former Baylor basketball prospect didn’t play a snap until he joined the Cowboys in the 2016 draft. He has the potential to be tight end one if the Cowboys give him a shot.

Personnel changes
Kellen Moore is the quarterback coach, Sanjay Lal is the receivers coach and Kris Richard is the secondary coach.

Predicted finish: 10-6
Wildcard. This team needs to gel if they are any hope of a winning season.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) and Tony Romo (9) warm up

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

Washington Redskins
The perennial whipping boys of the NFC East, the Redskins are 64-95-1 over the past ten seasons with six last-place finishes. That is a horrible record.

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So what do they do? They bring in Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. Kirk Cousins wasn’t the greatest quarterback who ever lived, but you are trading apples for apples – well, a young apple for a much older, slightly mouldy apple in Smith.

Sure, he hasn’t had a below 0.500 season since 2010 and is coming off a stellar year, but he had talent around him to make plays. The Redskins lack talent. Everywhere.

They drafted Louisiana State University running back Darrius Guice to help them change that. He tore his ACL, so they brought in veteran Adrian Peterson. What Peterson does is still to be seen. The Redskins have always been the dysfunctional side in the NFL. Nothing seems to work for them.

Running back Chris Thompson returns from a broken leg and should be right for Week 1 action. The defence will improve with the signing of Da’Ron Payne and Tim Settle from the 2018 draft.

Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Norman and sack machine Dayarlo Jamal Swearinger will be back to bolster the line. They will all need to work as a unit to stop the rot of previous seasons.

Crucial player: Alex Smith
The Redskins will not win a single game unless Smith finds form and cohesion with his new side.

Keep an eye on: Adrian Peterson
He is on his 150th chance in the NFL. What can he do this time around?

Predicted finish: 3-13
It’s going to be another tough year in Washington.

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American football generic

(Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

New York Giants

Why is Eli Manning still the quarterback in New York? Why didn’t they take a good young quarterback in the draft? Understandably they took running back sensation Saquon Barkley, but they could have had both. Eli was poor last season and has only two seasons left on his contract.

The offence has some explosive talents. Rookie running back Saquon Barkley was electric for Penn State and will transition nicely into the NFL. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Junior finally got the contract he was looking for and will start the season for the Giants.

With Sterling Shepard on the opposite side, the Giants are capable of scoring points. They just need Manning to fire. Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison will play tight end and add more scoring options.

The defence was ranked 31st in points against last season, averaging 375 yards and 24.5 points against per game. This needed to change. What did they do to change this? James Bettcher came in as the new defensive coordinator. He brought with him a change in system, from a 4-3 to a 3-4, meaning more blitz plays from the edges. He also brought a calm, relaxed nature – uou play for each other under Bettcher, not for yourself.

Coming into the squad are Kareem Martin, Alec Ogletree and Curtis Riley, who should fit nicely into the Giants new defensive plays. They will improve on the dysfunctional performances of 2017.

Crucial player: Saquon Barkley
The number two overall pick in the 2018 draft will have the weight of a franchise on his broad shoulders. This kid can handle the pressure and will be a breath of fresh air into the Giants offence.

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Keep an eye on: Eli Manning
He is on his last legs. This guy has got to go.

Personnel changes
Dave Gettleman is now the general manager, Pat Shurmur has become the head coach and James Bettcher is the defensive coordinator.

Predicted finish: 3-13
They have the offensive weapons to challenge for second place in the division, there is just too much infighting on the defensive side of the ball for them to win enough games.