Last year serves as a good example of why the NFC East is annually difficult to predict. The eventual Super Bowl-champion Eagles entered the season relatively off the radar in their own division. Almost all prognosticators were debating whether the Cowboys or Giants would emerge on top.
With that said, even for a defending world-champion team that arguably got better in the offseason, nothing is guaranteed. Dallas is still strong. New York is reloading with a new coaching staff. Washington is a feisty team with a new quarterback who has a freshly placed chip on his shoulder.
Based on SN’s picks for the entire 2018 season, here are our predictions for the NFC East.
NFC East: 2018 predictions
The Eagles’ biggest question mark, QB Carson Wentz’s health (or lack thereof) going into the season, is alleviated by the presence of the reigning Super Bowl MVP as the backup. Philadelphia has few if any weaknesses across it’s roster. Its offensive and defensive lines remain some of the best in the league, and it’s not like the team’s skill-position units are lacking.
Don’t expect a drop-off for QB Dak Prescott in the absence of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Expect the opposite. The Cowboys remain loaded offensively with a still-elite line, a presumably full season of Ezekiel Elliott and a relatively deep corps of pass-catchers. Defensively, as long as Demarcus Lawrence is still causing problems for opposing passers off the edge, the unit is capable of creating big takeaways.
New York Giants
Many of New York’s issues in 2017 were tied to injuries and questionable coaching, and the Giants are getting a fresh start on both this season. The talent on the roster is undeniable, but scheme changes on both sides of the ball, including a new offensive focus on rookie RB Saquon Barkley, are reasons to curb expectations in a tough division. Per usual, the Giants need Eli Manning to be average at worst, solid at best.
Washington’s roster for 2018 is an interesting mix of old and new, and while certain positional question marks can be found, don’t discredit the strengths. The Redskins are solid in their defensive front seven, and Orlando Scandrick was added to start opposite Josh Norman at cornerback. The aforementioned scenario for Smith is a positive for Washington, too. The talented QB is on a mission to re-establish himself in Year 14.
NFC East: 2018 picks
1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
2. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
3. New York Giants (7-9)
4. Washington Redskins (2-14)
As great as the Eagles were last season, there was still a lightning-in-a-bottle element that will be hard to replicate. For one, there’s notable turnover on both lines; for another, they might start the season without Wentz as he keeps rehabbing.
The window is there for the Cowboys if they can make their offseason retooling at receiver and on defense pay off. Same for the Giants as they center their offense on Barkley and bring back Odell Beckham Jr. For Washington, post-Kirk Cousins? Sure, if literally everything goes perfect for them and gets blown to smithereens in the rest of the division.
Contributing: David Steele
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