NFC East 2014 Preview
"Drama" is definitely one word to describe the NFC East based on the last few seasons; from Robert Griffin III's knee injury and Philadelphia's 2011 "Dream Team" to everything about the Dallas Cowboys, this division is a walking reality TV series. There's also plenty of drama on the field, as well; the division championship usually comes down to a "win-and-in" game against two of the teams in the East, like in 2013 when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Cowboys 24-22. Coming into this season, I don't see a team in the East that has made a clear separation from the rest of the pack. Nevertheless, there can only be one NFC East champion, and here's how I think the standings will play out in 2014.
1. Washington Redskins (2013 Record: 3-13)
Surprised? You probably should be. The 'Skins are coming off a terrible 2013 season, which included their quarterback in tatters and Coach Mike Shanahan fired soon after the regular season finale. To replace Shanahan, Washington hired Bengals OC Jay Gruden (brother of Jon) to work on RGIII's game on a personal level.
Here's why I think they will go from 3-13 to NFC East Champions: Although it may be nothing more than speculation, I think that Gruden could be the real deal; he was one of the main components of helping make Andy Dalton become a sufficient quarterback for Cincinnati, and he's exactly the kind of guy that Griffin needs. Plus, Washington brought in former Eagles WR Desean Jackson to pair up with Pierre Garcon, and with Alfred Morris still carrying the load at running back, this offense should quickly rise up the ranks. As for defense, the Redskins have one of the best outside linebacker combos with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, and they added players like Jason Hatcher and Ryan Clark to fill the supporting roles. The only reason anybody is talking about Washington right now is because of their name, but once the season begins, there could be a lot more to talk about with this team.
Projected 2014 Record: 10-6
2. Philadelphia Eagles (2013 Record: 10-6)
It's hard for me not to put Philly up at number one, but it's just how the dice rolled. Even though their below Washington in the division, I still think that the Eagles would have a better shot than the Redskins at winning in the playoffs. I say that because Philadelphia will now be in their second year of Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense and 3-4 defense. At this time last year, many were concerned that his college schemes wouldn't suffice on the professional level, but it has obviously prevailed.
Quarterback Nick Foles will be under the microscope this year to see whether his impressive 2013 season was a fluke or if it was the beginning of something even better. If I had to guess, I would go with the latter; Foles stepped out of his shell while in Kelly's offense, and he'll definitely be more comfortable in 2014. He'll also have help in the backfield, which includes LeSean McCoy (led the league in rushing yards in 2013) and Darren Sproles (acquired from New Orleans). I might be low-balling their 2014 record, but I'm not doubting their potential success in the playoffs.
Projected 2014 Record: 10-6
3. New York Giants (2013 Record: 8-8)
It seems like whenever the Giants are at their lowest point, they bounce right back and win the Super Bowl, doesn't it? Well, the title "Super Bowl XLVIX Champions" may be a bit of reach for this team, but that was the same case in '07 and '11. However, those championship teams seem to be a distant memory after of the offseason departures of Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks, and Linval Joseph. The two pieces that have been around for both the good and the bad are Head Coach Tom Coughlin and Quarterback Eli Manning. They've received a lot of criticism from the New York media, but they both could end up in the Hall of Fame once it's all said and done. At the very least, they've put the Giants in "contender" status for a very long time.
As I said before, the Giants of 2014 look much different than they have before. The biggest difference has to be the change of offense with new Offense Coordinator Ben McAdoo, who came over from Green Bay. This could mean a bigger emphasis on the passing game, which would be good news for Manning. They also signed Running Back Rashad Jennings, who will most likely have the majority of reps due to the retirement of fellow backs Brandon Jacobs and David Wilson. With several key acquisitions in free agency and the draft (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Odell Beckham, jr., Andre Williams), the Giants are obviously trying to reload in order to keep up with the competition; it's possible that they may stand out in the East, but I'm not sure if you should anticipate it.
Projected 2014 Record: 8-8
4. Dallas Cowboys (2013 Record: 8-8)
Alright, where do I start... Tony Romo? Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones? How about Johnny Manziel? Yes, Dallas is basically the circus ring of the NFL, and it's not because of their eye-popping talent. Aside from the drama and antics, I simply don't buy that the Cowboys can be an elite professional football team any time soon.
I do believe that Tony Romo is a solid quarterback, but the first issue I have with him is that he is 34 and has only one career playoff win. Some thought that Dallas would draft Johnny Football in the first round to become Romo's eventual replacement, but the world probably would've blown up had that happened. Another difficult decision the Cowboys had to make was to release star Defensive End DeMarcus Ware due to salary cap issues. This means that defensive underachievers like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will need to step up and make a name for themselves. As for Head Coach Jason Garrett, this has to be a make-or-break year for him. No matter what Jerry Jones says, he is an impatient owner, and his so-called friendly relationship with Garrett will mean nothing if Dallas doesn't start winning soon.
Projected 2014 Record: 6-10
NFC East Award Projections
MVP: Robert Griffin III, Redskins
Offensive Player of the Year: Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Defensive Player of the Year: Brian Orakpo, Redskins
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jordan Matthews, Eagles
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Smith, Eagles
Comeback Player of the Year: Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
Fantasy Sleeper: Jordan Reed, Redskins
Coach of the Year: Jay Gruden, Redskins
This division has everything for the casual fan: lots of drama, fast-paced action, and some pretty good football teams. As a not-so-casual fan, I'm looking for three things out of the NFC East; one, for the Eagles to elevate themselves to the next level in the playoffs; two, for the Redskins to get out the hole they dug themselves and rise to the top of the division; and three, for the Giants to play well enough in order to secure Tom Coughlin's job as Head Coach. In conclusion, we know this division for its drama, and I think nothing will change once the 2014 season concludes.