FoxSports StreetCred's Blog
May 29, 2007
With the draft being over and most of the free agents having been signed, the rosters are starting to take hold for the upcoming season. It is still pretty early to do predictions. There may be some free agent signings after June 1st, some rookies and unknowns will emerge during training camp, and the always unpredictable injury bug will cripple teams. However, what would be the fun in waiting until opening day to do some predictions. I am going to post one division each week. I'll list what I feel are each team's strengths and weaknesses. I'll then try to predict the record and placing in the division. After I have done all the divisions, I will make my playoff and Super Bowl predictions. My first division will be the NFC East.
Strengths: This team returns the core that made this a top offense in the NFL last season. Despite Tony Romo not starting the season, the Cowboys were 4th in the league in points scored, and 5th in total yards. Jones and Barber form a terrific duo at running back, and Owens, Glenn, and Witten are excellent targets. The offensive line is solid. This is one of the more balanced offensive attacks in the NFL. The defense has a very intimidating front 7. Ware and Spears are excellent pass rushers. Rookie Anthony Spencer should be able to help in that area as well. Also, the defense was 10th against the run.
Weaknesses: The main weakness is the pass defense. While Terrance Newman is a great cover corner and Roy Williams helps stop the run as well as any safety in the league, the Cowboys gave up too many big plays last year. The Saints exposed what a balanced attack could do to the Cowboys at the end of last season. Ken Hamlin will be an upgrade at safety. Anthony Henry needs to play better than he did last year. While cornerback was addressed in the 7th round, those players will probably not contribute as starters this upcoming season. The other area of concern is whether Wade Phillips is the right person for this job. While has made the playoffs with the Bills and Broncos, he has never taken a team on a deep playoff run. Handling personalities is always a concern when you have TO in your locker room. Also, there is concern at the third receiver spot. Patrick Crayton looked tough at times last season. However, after him, there is a huge drop off in production. If the Cowboys sustain injuries to their 30 plus starting wide receivers, the offense could severely suffer.
Prediction: This may be the toughest division to pick this year. Three of the teams are coming off playoff births, but everyone has big questions. The biggest key for Dallas will be the development of Tony Romo. While he looked like a Peyton Manning clone against Tampa last year, he had some average performances as well. Sometimes quarterbacks take a step back after the league has a chance to watch film on a player. If he plays at a Pro Bowl level, the Cowboys should have a great chance to not only win the division, but make a solid playoff run. If he plays poorly, the Cowboys don't have a shot to do much of anything. Outside of the division, the schedule might be tough, but most of the tough games are at home. There worst road game is at Chicago. They have home games against New England and New York Jets. The Rams, Packers, and Panthers offer some competition against 8-8 teams from a year ago.
Record: 10-6, NFC East Division Title, NFC #3 seed
Strengths: Andy Reid probably did his best coaching job last season. The Eagles had a very explosive offense last season. They were 6th in points per game, and 2nd in total yards. All this was accomplished despite losing Donovan McNabb in the middle of the season. They were able to survive that injury, in part because of Jeff Garcia, and in part because Brian Westbrook is one of the most versatile running backs in the game. The pass defense was, as usual, in the top 10 as well last year. The acquisitions of Takeo Spikes and Kevin Curtis should help on both sides of the ball.
Weaknesses: The Eagles enter the season with a number of question marks. 1) Will Donovan McNabb be healthy to start the season? He is coming off a serious ACL injury. The goal is for him to be ready for the third preseason game. However, if he is slow to come back or gets hurt in the middle of the season, as he has the last two seasons, the Eagles could be in trouble. Feeley and Kolb do not have the track record of a Jeff Garcia in the event McNabb misses significant time. 2) Will a healthy Jevon Kearse and the addition of Takeo Spikes be enough to improve a 26th ranked rush defense, and 3) How will the Eagles replace Donte' Stallworth. His production dropped after McNabb got hurt, because Garcia was not a strong at throwing the deep ball. However, he was a nice addition to the team and will be missed by McNabb. Their draft appears to be fairly average this year, and even with the addition of Curtis, they failed to add any proven playmakers to the offense.
Prediction: As long as McNabb is ready for the season opener and is able to start at least 14 games this season, the Eagles should be in contention for the playoffs and the division this year. Without him, they don't look to have a realistic shot of making the playoffs. However, even if he is able to stay healthy, the Eagles are not as strong as the teams from a few years ago. They need to stop the run better this year and they need someone to step up on offense to take the pressure off of McNabb and Westbrook. Unlike the Cowboys, they play both the Jets and Patriots on the road. They also get the Seahawks and Saints, instead of the Panthers and Rams. That alone might be enough to give this division to the Cowboys. Andy Reid is a great coach and will get the most out of this team. However, it is very hard to pick a record for this team without knowing how McNabb will come back from that injury. For now, I am predicting the Eagles will take a step back this season.
Record: 8-8, 2nd NFC East, No Playoffs.
Strengths: The strength of the Redskins is their running game. Betts was a 1,000 yard rusher last season. Portis, when healthy is a 1,000 yard rusher. The Redskins should be able to punish teams on the ground. While Santana Moss had an off year last season, part of the problem was the musical chairs at quarterback. Cooley is also a nice target at tight end.
Weaknesses: When you have the 6th pick in the draft, there are plenty of them. The biggest weakness by far was the defense. 27th against the run, 23rd against the pass, 31st in total yards, and 27th in points allowed. The Redskins had a bend and break defense. LaRon Landry should be a big help in the secondary. He is a four year college starter who should be able to step in and contribute immediately. Outside of that pick, the Redskins got very little immediate help in the draft. If Springs can stay healthy and Landry plays well, the Redskins should be much better against the pass. However, I still have doubts about their ability to stop the run. On offense, the passing game as a whole must improve. Jason Campbell had a nice end to the season. He showed flashes of being a good starting quarterback, particularly against the Giants in the season finale. However, for the Redskins to be competitive, he needs to take the next step in his development. That means having higher than 53.1% completion percentage and taking care of the ball. While Moss and Cooley are quality targets, Lloyd and Randle El need to contribute more.
Prediction: While this team is only a year removed from the playoffs, I don't see them returning to the playoffs this season. The Eagles and Cowboys are tough teams, and have fewer issues than the Redskins do on defense. While the Eagles run defense was nothing to celebrate, it should be better and a veteran quarterback gives more hope for a good season. With Jones, M. Barber, and Westbrook in this division, the Redskins have to stop the run. The schedule is a mix of difficult and easy. The Redskins travel to the Patriots and Jets. The Cardinals and Bucs should be easier than what the Eagles and Cowboys face. While a healthy Portis mixed with Betts and Moss may be exciting at times, it's hard to run the ball a lot if the defense is giving up a lot of points. I think playing around .500 football is a realistic expectation.
Record: 7-9, 3rd Place NFC East, No Playoffs
New York Giants
Strengths: The strength of this team is its skill players. Even with the retirement of Tiki Barber, the Giants have some good weapons. Burress had 10 touchdown grabs last season, Shockey is a very solid tight end, and Jacobs rushed for 9 touchdowns last season. Droughns is a nice addition to the team, although he is the same type of player as Jacobs, in that he is a power runner. Eli Manning has shown signs that he can be a Pro Bowl level quarterback, but has been way too inconsistent in his play.
Weaknesses: Where do I begin? The biggest problem that the Giants had last season was chemistry. Eli Manning never seemed to be on the same page with his team. Coach Coughlin was never able to get control of the team. It was very surprising that Coughlin survived the offseason. The Giants have to replace Barber, who had 2107 total yards, 5 touchdowns, and was the leader of their offense. Jacobs looks up to the task, but until he plays a full season, who knows? Droughns adds a quality second option. Next, Eli Manning has to make the jump this season. The Giants are 0-2 in the playoffs under Manning. He is hot one week and cold the next. He completed 57.7% of his passes and had 18 interceptions last season. He must become smarter in his decision making, continue to throw touchdowns, and make good decisions under pressure. Finally, they also have to find a way to stop people. The Strahan injury contributed to that problem. However, a defense can not count on one player so much that his injury causes them to finish 24th in points per game and 25th in yards allowed.
Prediction: The hardest thing to figure out about this team is whether they are the team that started 6-2, or the team that finished 2-6. I like their draft. Ross and Smith should help right away. Droughns was an acceptable addition to make sure that Jacobs doesn't have to shoulder the entire load of replacing Tiki Barber. The noteworthy part of the schedule has the Patriots, Jets, and Packers at home, with the Bears and Falcons on the road. In the end, I think that Tiki Barber is going to be a too huge of a void to fill. With all the talent on offense, it was still evident from the Redskins game to close the season that he was the go to guy in the offense. If they struggle against the Eagles, Jets, Falcons, and 49ers at the beginning part of the season, it could be over quickly. I don't think Coughlin will be able to keep control of the team if they hit a rough patch early in the season. Finally, I don't think the defense is good enough to compensate for Manning making a high number of mistakes. If he doesn't value the ball this year, it could be a long season. I think predictions for this team will greatly differ between people, depedning on how highly that person values Eli Manning. Despite making the playoffs, the Giants were still an 8-8 team last year. With all these issues, and being in a competitive division, I don't find it unrealistic in the least to see them take a step back.
Record: 6-10, Last Place NFC East, No Playoffs
I hope you enjoyed reading the predictions. I will try to post the NFC South sometime next week.