Finally the end to our season previews! You all wanted nearly 2,000 words for free on every division in the NFL right?! – AFC North preview AFC East preview AFC South preview AFC West preview NFC North preview NFC West Preview NFC South preview
Personally, I think the NFC East is about as even as they come. The Eagles will be most peoples picks to repeat as division champions but the ‘Superbowl slump’ is real and has affected very good teams over the past few years. Since 2005, no winner has successfully defended their title. Between 2006 and 2013, every defending champion either failed to qualify for the playoffs the following year or lost in the first round. Point is, resting on your laurels as a superbowl champion is not the way to go. While I feel the Eagles will probably still win out as division champs, with all the changes in their coaching staff and uncertainty about QB Carson Wentz and his surgically repaired knee, I just don’t have any confidence that they will make a superbowl run. With the other teams, I almost feel like 8-8 for all of them would be a fair, and somewhat, incredible result for all.
Philadelphia Eagles – Last year – 13-3, SB Odds – 10/1 (365), Division odds – 10/13 (Redzone), o/u – 10-10.5
So while I don’t think the Eagles will make a magical superbowl run, I do think they have enough talent to keep control of the NFC East. I see them atop the division but it will be close. In my opinion, Their divisional games are going to be crucial. Tilt one way or the other, or drop a home game and I think ANY of these teams could land at the bottom of the pile. Doesn’t take much. The obvious talking point is the health of their star QB Carson Wentz. While fantasy players will lament his extremely high 7.5% TD efficiency (percentage of his throws that resulted in a TD). Next highest Russell Wilson at 6.1% and Jared Goff at 5.9%. There will be regression in this regard as it would be nigh on impossible to maintain that level of efficiency but he is an extremely good QB and will only get better with time. The rest of the offence is more or less intact from a season ago. Gone is burner/burnt out Torrey Smith and they have upgraded him with also burner Mike Wallace. There is concern that his top WR Alshon Jeffrey will miss a few games to begin the season which opens the door up for Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz to establish themselves early. LONDON BORN (note: I hate that every time we hear Ajayi’s name we get that he is from London, don’t care English pundits, please stop doing it) Ajayi heads up a good backfield along with Corey Clement and Darre Sproles who will continue to find success behind a very good offensive line.
On defence, they made some very good additions, one might say almost unfair to add Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata to an already pretty dominant line. Promising rookie Derek Barnett played extremely well last year and the behind them the LBs are led by Jordan Hicks and S Malcolm Jenkins. They led the league in rushing yards allowed at a mere 79.2 yards per game and were 4th overall in total yards at 306 per game and 4th in points allowed (18.4). I would expect more of the same this year. Might take some time to gel with the new pieces and there is certainly a scenario, whereby if Wentz isn’t ready and backup QB Nick Foles doesn’t play well, they could struggle early doors and be too late to make a late playoff push.
New York Giants – Last year – 3-13, SB Odds – 50/1 (most, although 70s at Blacktype?), Division odds – 7/1 (Betstars), o/u – 6.5
Hot take!! Giants will finish second in the division this year! Ok, maybe not necessarily that hot a take but I am not quite ready to say they make the playoffs so that is far out on a limb I am willing to go. All the talk we hear is about Eli Manning and how his play has stunk these past few seasons. To that I say, he’s never had a guy like Saquon Barkley in the backfield. I am always hesitant to lay down too much praise on a rookie RB but this guy, could be the next big thing. He is a physical specimen (combine combine yada yada yada) but he backs it up with piling up the stats in college but by also seeming to be a pretty stand up guy that has a great attitude about his new career in the NFL. In comparison, but in no way less talented, stands Odell Beckham Jr. A perceived prima-donna type has the bad rep but I don’t know why. So yeah his antics get a bit boring but honestly, every other superstar WR is an outspoken extrovert type so I don’t see why people knock him for it. Reality check? Ignoring last year as he missed most of it due to injury, since 2014 he has averaged 96 catches 1374 yards and 11 TDs a year. WITH ELI MANNING. The Giants pairing could rival a 1-2 punch only beaten by Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh. That’s how good they could be. Given the precarious position that the Steelers are in with Bell, 2019 could be the year they supplant them. Unfairly, they have more weapons for Manning to play with. Sterling Shepherd is a great WR and TE Evan Engram both stepped up in Beckham’s absence so the only issue they are going to have is figuring out which mouths to feed on any given week. They shored up the left side of the offensive line signing LT Nate Solder and drafting Will Hernandez at LG. The opposite side needs some work and I wouldn’t expect Ereck Flowers to remain much longer on the roster let alone starting line up but they definitely cannot be worse than they were last year.
On defence, they have premier rush stuffer Damon Harrison and breakout stud safety Landon Collins leading the way. While they won’t be as intimidating as previous giants units, they should be serviceable and not lose them too many games. Concerns go in to the season with Eli Apple who was a headache for the team all season and the virtually all the other positions but watching Collins last year he is a genuine game changer at this position and in my opinion only really rivalled by Seattle’s Earl Thomas. Hopefully for them, Olivier Vernon has some juice left to get after the QB and Alec Ogletree, who they paid decent money for, despite playing relatively poorly all last season for the Rams.
Dallas Cowboys – Last year – 9-7, SB Odds – 33/1 (Skybet), Division odds – 9/2 (Hills), o/u – 8-8.5
Dallas has a similar problem to New York, in that their shaky QB play has all but derailed their hopes of any type of season long success. Dak Prescott started out as a shiny new toy for Jerry Jones’ Cowboys, playing virtually flawless football as a rookie but followed up with a sophomore campaign that all but erased all those expectations and has the QB pegged as a genuine concern for the season. They parted ways with Dez Bryant, and seeing as he is still to find a team, their decision is not looking as stupid as initially thought. The departure of Bryant and long time servant Jason Witten, leaves gaping holes in their pass catching corp. They drafted highly regarding rookie Michael Gallup to hopefully make an impact right away and the signed underrated Allen Hurns from Jacksonville. Outside of those guys however, question marks still remain. The one true bright spark is, and always will be, for the Cowboys is workhorse RB Ezekiel Elliott. Expected to take on more of a receiving role this year, his fantasy stock was already high given his guaranteed 300+ touches but adding more opportunites in the passing game could tip him over as the number 1 back in the league. There are issues on their vaunted offensive line which may derail their season entirely. It happened fast and all of a sudden, star guard Zack Martin hurt his knee in the preseason and although they are expecting him to play, all-pro center Travis Frederick is battling with a rare auto-immune disorder called Gullian-Barre Syndrome and is out indefinitely. We may see Zeke power through, literally and figuratively, these problems and still produce big numbers but more likely, there will be less gaping holes for him to run through so this year may be a bit of a down year him. They still have arguably the best LT in the game in Tyron Smith and budding star L’ael Collins at RT so they have some impressive ‘bookends’ to hopefully keep pressure off the edge.
When researching Dallas, I was genuinely surprised to see that their defence actually ranked 8th in yards against the run and 11th against the pass, ranking in 8th overall at 318 yards a game. For context, as above, the Eagles were 4th with just 12 yards a game less. They have added first round LB Leighton Vander-Esch who is rangy and figures to make an immediate impact along side Sean Lee. Their cornerbacks are very good in Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie and Tyrone Crawford brings consistent pressure on the QB on the edge. Adding Vander-Esch could offer further improvements from this unit but ultimately, I don’t know if they can overcome the issues that the offence will have, Zeke or not.
Washington Redskins – Last year – 7-9, SB Odds – 66/1 (most), Division odds – 9/1 (betstars), o/u – 6.5-7
The Redskins are the team that I genuinely hope does better than what my gut is telling me. I don’t see a complete collapse like the Giants did last year but hard to see them beating out relatively strong defences like the Eagles and the surprisingly the Cowboys. They had some bad luck in high draft pick Derrius Guice going down with a ACL injury early on in the pre-season. He and Chris Thompson would have formed quite a formidable duo. They signed future hall of famer Adrian Peterson once Guice went down but only time will tell how much gas he has in the tank. He did look good in limited action so that will seriously help take some pressure off his new QB. Alex Smith was traded again and has experienced a career resurgence over the last few years with the Chiefs. Still maintaining his impressive low turnover rate 1.4% interception rate) he led the league in passing plays over 20 yards dropping dimes to Tyreek Hill and co. I am not sure how that is replicated this year and although Jay Gruden is proficient in getting everything he can out of his QB (see Andy Dalton’s career year and all of Kirk Cousins good seasons) I think first year teething issues may be too much to overcome.. Josh Doctson had a strong 2nd year building up his confidence from a missed rookie season due to injury. Jamison Crowder looks penned in for success from the slot and if, just IF, Jordan Reed can stay healthy, I can all but guarantee he returns to a top 3 TE and unstoppable force in the red zone.
Defensively, there isn’t really a household name outside of Josh Norman who is at the backend of his career. I really like Zach Brown at MLB and Ryan Kerrigan on the outside but other than those guys, it will take a team effort to make an impact in their games. Seriously, you have to dig quite deep in order to find their depth chart, any other reviews that I have seen, barely any note of defensive changes or upgrades that they have made so that is why I primarily believe that they will finish bottom of the division.
- Eagles/Giants straight forecast – 4/1 (Betfred) – 1 point
- Dak Prescott 5+ rushing TDs – 7/4 (Skybet) – 2 points