2017 NFC East division

2017 NFC East division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further adu, here is the 2017 NFC East division preview.

4. Washington Redskins

Last season: 8-7-1

Strength of Schedule: 7

Last season was an up and down one for the Redskins. This year the schedule makers didn’t make it any easier on them. Aside from playing in the tough NFC East, Washington must also play the AFC West. The AFC West is arguably the best division in football. As if the tough schedule wasn’t enough to deal with, the Redskins have glaring weaknesses on both sides of the ball.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Offensively, their line is average but consistent. The running back situation is somewhat of a mess. None of Washington’s running backs had more than 750 yards last season.

Rob Kelley, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson all got significant carries and return this season. Washington also drafted Samaje Perine from Oklahoma. Without a clear cut go-to running back, the offense will be one dimensional.

The strength of the offense is the passing attack, but it isn’t even all that great on paper. Kirk Cousins is an average NFL quarterback who will not lead a team to a Super Bowl. In their division, he won’t even be able to get them into the playoffs this season.

He doesn’t have the best of receivers either. His number one receiver is a converted quarterback. Cousins’ other viable offensive weapon is tight end Jordan Reed who has had nagging injuries keeping him out of the lineup.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Redskins are going to struggle. The Redskins gave up 23.9 points per game last season because they couldn’t stop the run. Teams ran for an average of 119.8 yards per game. This problem wasn’t addressed in the draft or in free agency. Washington did draft Jonathan Allen, but are playing him at defensive end and his strength is against the pass.

With the lack of a running game and a defense that can’t stop the run, teams will control the flow of the game and the clock against the Redskins. Washington will be playing from behind and Kirk Cousins will have a higher interception total this season. Their seventh ranked schedule is also a major reason on why they will have a rough year.

Prediction: 5-11 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3. Philadelphia Eagles

Last season: 7-9

Strength of Schedule: (T) 10

The Eagles made a lot of moves in the offseason to help out second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. They made it a point to do so because the second season is the most important in the development of a quarterback.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: http://www.csnphilly.com)

Heading into the season the Eagles have the best ranked offensive line according to Pro Football Focus. That line should pave the way for a solid year by LeGarrette Blount, who led the league in rushing touchdowns last season.

Wentz was also given a new huge weapon at receiver in Alshon Jeffery. Jordan Mathews, who had 73 receptions in 2016, returns to play alongside Jeffery. Carson Wentz is also blessed with a really good tight end, Zach Ertz, who led the team in catches with 78.

The Eagles have a very talented defense that allowed 20.7 points per game last season. The defense hasn’t changed much and should play similar to the way they did last season.

Philly has road games outside the division against the Chiefs, Panthers and Seahawks. They also have home games against the Cardinals, Broncos and Raiders. A tough division and tough schedule are what may hold Philadelphia back this season.

Prediction: 7-9 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2. New York Giants

Last season: 11-5

Strength of Schedule: 8

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: https://rukkus.com/)

New York’s season came to an abrupt end in the playoffs against the Packers after a 38-13 thrashing. It was just a bad game for the Giants and not a true indication of how good they really are. In reality, the Giants are a team capable of winning the Super Bowl and it starts with their defense.

Quietly, the Giants had one of the best defenses in the league last season. They gave up just 17.8 points per game, which was second best in the NFL. Their defensive line got lots of pressure and the amazing secondary put fear into opposing quarterbacks.

The weak spot of the defense is the linebacking corp and if they can just be average, then the Giants will have an elite defense yet again.

Offensively, the Giants can sleep easy knowing Eli Manning is still under center. He doesn’t get the shine like most Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, but he hasn’t missed a game since before Nov. 21, 2004. Manning is consistent and the team knows they will be able to get 4,000 yards and 25 or more touchdowns from him.

He has Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram as targets for 2017. This is going to make his job easy.

The only question mark on the offense is at running back. Paul Perkins is the man but can he shoulder the load for an entire season? He only carried the ball 112 times for 456 yards last season and will be taking over for Rashad Jennings. If he can be the workhorse, the Giants will have a dangerous offense that can win them a lot of games.

New York has talent on both sides of the ball. They will continue to build off of last season’s success and have another solid campaign in 2017 but it won’t be good enough to knock off the Cowboys for the division title.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1. Dallas

Last season: 13-3

Strength of Schedule: (T) 10

2016 was a great year for Dallas as they ran out to a 13-3 record and a first-round bye. Unfortunately, their defense let them down against one of the game’s best quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers. Dallas fell to the Packers 34-31 in the divisional round of the playoffs and their surprising season came to end. This year there are Super Bowl expectations for America’s team.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

The entire team is led by their running game. It is no secret how talented the offensive line is in Dallas and the Cowboys used it to their advantage. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,631 yards last season. The success of their running game took pressure off rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott should take a leap this year as the Cowboys will attempt to open up the playbook. Dak threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. The formula for success is still to run the ball, but with a better understanding of the offense and solid weapons around him, Dak could have an even better sophomore season.

The issue with the Cowboys is their defense but more specifically, their pass defense. Dallas addressed their defense by adding Taco Charlton to try and create quick pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They also drafted Jourdan Lewis out of Michigan, who was one of the best corners in the nation. To improve the secondary even further, they signed Nolan Carroll from the division rival Eagles.

All these moves should improve the defense but there is a potential superstar, who isn’t a new acquisition, waiting to be unleashed.

Jaylon Smith was a consensus top five pick last season before he blew his knee out in a bowl game. Smith sat out last season after the Cowboys drafted him in the second round. If Smith can stay healthy, he will be a Pro-Bowl caliber player. Adding him to this defense could be the difference in losing to Green Bay and heading to Minnesota for Super Bowl LII.

With all the talent the Cowboys have on offense, the defense just needs to be average. They will be better than average with the moves they made in the offseason and the Cowboys will be a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season.

Prediction: 12-4, division champion

 

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Super Bowl Series: NFC East

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC East

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl Series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl Series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. The first edition will be Super Bowl Series: NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s not going out on a limb to say the Dallas Cowboys can win the Super Bowl. Last season, Dallas earned the number one seed in the NFC but lost to Green Bay 34-31 in the divisional round. The experience was valuable for a relatively young team.

The Cowboys are a talented offensive team. Dallas’ offensive line ranked second in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. This allowed rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot to lead the league in rushing with 1,631 yards. Fellow rookie Dak Prescott was named Rookie of the Year after throwing for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

The second-ranked offensive line paved the way for the NFL’s leading rusher and they only gave up 25 sacks on the season.

To win the Super Bowl, the offense just needs to do what they did last season. If Elliot leads the NFL in rushing and Prescott protects the football, this offense will continue to be one of the best.

Winning the Super Bowl for the Cowboys comes down to their defense. Dallas gave up the fifth-fewest points last year (19.1) but a lot of that is due to a running game that kept them off the field.

Breaking down the Cowboys defense shows that they must improve their passing defense. The Cowboys ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense giving up only 83.5 yards per game. Dallas gave up 260.4 yards passing per game which ranked 26th.

In summary, the Cowboys offense needs to replicate their success from last season. Defensively, the Cowboys must continue to stop the run and bring down the passing yards allowed per game. This is what it will take for the Dallas Cowboys to win their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

New York Giants

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun)

Similar to the Cowboys, it is not far-fetched to say the New York Giants can win Super Bowl LII. The Giants went 11-5 and earned a wild card berth. New York lost their wild card game to Green Bay 38-13.

Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP and champion and the leader of this offense. For the Giants to win the Super Bowl this season, Eli Manning will have to have a minimum of 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards which he is capable of.

From that 4,000 plus passing yards, Odell Beckham needs at least 1,300. If Odell adds 10 touchdowns as well, then the Giants’ offense will be good enough to make the playoffs and compete for a Super Bowl.

As surprising as it is, the Giants will be led by their very talented defense. The front four is loaded and led by players like Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damon Harrison. These guys will need to continue improve their pressure on opposing quarterbacks. New York ranked 14th with 35 sacks and that must improve to take that step towards a Super Bowl victory.

The weakest unit of the defense is the linebacking corp. If the linebackers are average they can still help the Giants have a top 10 defense.

New York’s secondary is one of the best in the league. Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie combined for 14 interceptions. Continuing that kind of success will only help the Giants’ chances.

The Giants strength will be the defense and if the offense can keep up the Giants can win the Super Bowl.

Washington Redskins

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

The Washington Redskins finished last season 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs. Making the playoffs is going to be a difficult task considering how good the NFC East is. It is going to take a lot for the Redskins to win the Super Bowl.

Washington will need Kirk Cousins to take the next step as a quarterback. That next step is becoming a Pro-Bowl and MVP-caliber quarterback which is asking too much of him. Last season he had 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Those numbers need to be 30-plus touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions.

Washington also has a running back by committee backfield and that must change. One of these running backs needs to step up and have a 1,200-yard season. There must be that go-to guy in crunch time.

The receiving corp is not going to blow your socks off. These guys will have to play over their head and take some of the pressure off of Jordan Reed to help this offense succeed.

Washington is going to be a project defensively. The Redskins don’t have starters listed on their depth chart at either defensive end spot or at strong safety. Josh Norman and Ryan Kerrigan are going to have to lead by example and carry this defense to a top-five ranking if the Redskins want to win the Super Bowl.

In short, for the Redskins to win Super Bowl LII, Kirk Cousins will need to be in the MVP discussion and the defense needs to play out of their mind as a top-five defense.

Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: http://www.csnphilly.com)

Philly finished fourth in the NFC East with a record of 7-9 last season. Considering the Eagles had a rookie quarterback, it was a pretty good season. Philadelphia made a lot of moves to try and build a playoff team.

The acquisitions of LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery will go a long way to helping Carson Wentz avoid a sophomore slump. For the Eagles to win the Super Bowl, Wentz must have a huge year. What would that huge year look like? Wentz would have to double his touchdowns from 16 to at least 32 and cut down on his 14 interceptions.

Alshon Jeffery will simply have to stay healthy. Jeffery is elite when healthy but he has missed 11 games over the past two seasons. Torrey Smith will have to turn back the clock and mirror his 2013 season in which he caught 65 balls for 1,128 yards. Jordan Matthews will also have to step up his game.

The running game will need to take some pressure off the passing game. Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last season (18) with the Patriots and repeating that will push the Eagles to a higher plateau. Ryan Mathews needs to stay healthy which may be impossible because he has never played a full season in his seven years in the NFL.

The Eagles defense is full of playmakers and stars like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Jenkins. Last year Philadelphia ranked 12th in points allowed at 20.7 points per game. If the Eagles want to make the playoffs and win Super Bowl LII they must improve on that to alleviate pressure off of Carson Wentz and the rest of the offense.

If the Eagles remain healthy, get a huge jump in play from Carson Wentz and the defense allows fewer points than they did last season then the Philadelphia Eagles can win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: NFC East. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl Series.

Super Bowl Series: AFC East

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NFL Field

Fun With Projected NFL Win Totals

I am a football nerd and proud of it. With the NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, another favorite offseason event of mine took place earlier this week. Las Vegas released their projected regular season win totals for all 32 NFL teams. Here are my three favorite over/under bets for 2017.

Cowboys (Under 9.5 wins)

Unless you are an all-time great, this league has a way of humbling players whose careers get off to a hot start. Dak Prescott could be the latest example of that.

If he takes just a half step back from his 2016 season that saw him toss 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions, the effect will be dramatic.

In addition to their own division where all three opponents are at least reasonably capable, Dallas squares off with the western divisions in each conference, along with the Falcons and Packers. That is a really tough schedule for any team.

Dallas will still be very competitive, but that defense is not scaring anyone. The addition of Brandon Marshall makes the Giants the most complete team in the NFC East, and they already beat Dallas twice last year.

Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will have to be superhuman again for this team to be close to where they were last year. That is a tough thing to bank on.

Browns (Over 4 wins)

This one is a bit dicey given the quarterback situation. None of Cleveland’s options are particularly appealing in the short term.

Even so, accumulating talent is the name of the game in the NFL. They’ve added linebacker Jamie Collins and three freakishly talented first-round draft picks that actually made sense. Add that to franchise mainstay Joe Thomas and this roster is already much better than last year’s 1-15 squad.

Cleveland Browns

Photo: dawgpounddaily,com

Several of Cleveland’s losses last year were relatively close. They’ve improved via the draft and free agency. They also have a schedule that includes the likes of Jacksonville, Minnesota, the Jets and division rival Cincinnati twice. Four wins does not seem like much to ask.

Bucs (Over 8 Wins)

In each of the last two seasons, an NFC South team has risen from relative obscurity to reach the Super Bowl. If you are a fan of odd trends, here are a few reasons why Tampa Bay could follow their division rivals.

The thought of Jameis Winston throwing to Mike Evans along with new additions O.J. Howard and DeSean Jackson is enough to make any defender lose sleep. Winston gets better with every snap. The organization surrounding him with this kind of talent will only expedite that process.

Jameis Winston

Photo: cbssports.com

Most of the same faces are on the young defense that is far from perfect. They did have a few shining moments last year, including holding Seattle and the Saints to under 15 points.

The Super Bowl might be a reach in the minds of some, but eight wins feels like stealing.

 

Featured Image by flannerysdublin.com

 

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NFC East Preview: Can Dak Lead America’s Team?

Injuries can really shake up the NFL and that happened in the NFC East when Tony Romo went down with yet another injury. The NFC East has been one of the most competitive divisions over the past 16 seasons. The Eagles have won it the most, seven times, followed by the Giants with four, the Cowboys have won it three times and lastly the Redskins have won it just twice. The Redskins are the defending NFC East champions, but they won the division with a lousy 9-7 record. This division is pretty open and I think three teams have a legit shot to win it. Will the Redskins repeat as division champs? Will Eli lead the Giants to the top? Or will Dak Prescott lead America’s team to the crown?

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NFC East Preview

If I could describe the NFC East in one word that word would be: Entertaining.

Every year since 2004 there has been no repeat champion of the division, but this division still brings the entertainment. Every team in this division has the chance to the best or the worst. Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, or the ‘Skins, who will win the division?

Courtesy of Bleacher Report

Courtesy of Bleacher Report

#4 Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles are in their first year with new head coach Doug Pederson. This will probably be a rebuilding year for the Eagles. They return many of the same starters and core guys from last season. But the bad thing is that 2015 team only went 7-9. So the Eagles and their fans are hoping that a new voice in the locker room could turn that 7-9 into a 9-7, which definitely could win this division. But I don’t think the Eagles are going to have that kind of season. A 5-11 or 6-10 record is more likely to be the outcome of their season.

First, if you look at the schedule of games they have to play there aren’t too many teams you can see them beating. They play the whole AFC North and the only team I think they can beat is Cleveland. They are lucky they are playing Cleveland during wide receiver Josh Gordon’s four-game suspension.

Second, their roster is not that talented. Out of the four starting quarterbacks in the NFC East, they have the worst. Out of the four wide receiving groups I would say they have the worst. Every team in the division has a highlight type of receiver. Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants, Dez Bryant from the Cowboys, and DeSean Jackson from the ‘Skins. Where is Philadelphia highlight receivers? One is in Kansas City and the other is in D.C. playing for a rival. Their defense will be decent against the run with anchor Fletcher Cox at the defensive end position, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks at the middle linebacker positions. But against the pass is where my concerns come in. Look at the best wide receiver on each team (just listed above) and then think about the best cornerback on the Eagles. It is a mismatch every time for the Eagles.

The Cold Hard Reality for Every NFC Team

You have heard my two cents take on every AFC Team, now, I tackle the NFC. I will follow the same format. Eight words or less followed by a brief explanation in more detail.

NFC East:

Redskins- Peaked last year

The Redskins won the division last year with a marginal run game and defense, combined with the safest passing offense I have ever seen. Almost 46% of Kirk Cousin’s passing yardage from last year was gained by receivers running after the catch. In other words, he cannot throw the ball downfield. Now that there is a full season of film on Cousins, that success will be tough to duplicate. I am not convinced they can win any other way

Giants- Must learn to finish games

NFC East teams

photo from profootballfocus.com

They still have the talent to play with anybody, particularly on offense, but can the defense hold onto the late leads Eli Manning and crew give them? They failed miserably at this task last year. I cannot trust them.

Cowboys- Praying Romo stays healthy

Anyone who thinks Tony Romo is not a top flight quarterback after seeing what the Cowboys did without him last year needs to have their head examined. If Romo is healthy, I think they are the best team in the NFC. Romo also takes pressure off the defense because they do not have to be on the field as much. I really like Dallas in 2016.

Eagles- With the first pick in the 2017 draft…

The words I chose here are actually somewhat misleading. Philadelphia does not have a 2017 first round pick. That was one of the five draft picks they traded to Cleveland to go up and get quarterback Carson Wentz. It appears Wentz will be the third team quarterback and therefore inactive for most games in 2016. That is right. They gave up five draft picks for a guy who is going to mostly sit on the bench this year. It is going to be a long year for the Eagles.

NFC North:

Packers- Still good, but window starting to close

NFC East teams

photo from cbssports.com

Aaron Rodgers is very good, but he has only taken this franchise on one great championship run. I am not sure why he seems to be immune to criticism from media and fans. The Packers will probably still reach the playoffs, but I have serious questions as to if they can go further.

Vikings- Bridgewater is not the guy

I am still stunned this team made the playoffs last year. They were 31st in passing offense and have/had no consistent receiving threat to speak of. Thankfully, head coach Mike Zimmer, Adrian Peterson, and the defense is amazing. With Peterson another year older, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has to step up. His lack of arm strength was exposed in their playoff loss to Seattle. That was all I needed to see. He just has not progressed since his rookie year. Although I love rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, this team has gone as far as Bridgewater is going to take it and they will not get there again.

Bears- Will surprise people this year

The offense is pretty good. Jay Cutler really cut down on the mistakes last year. The signings of Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman will immediately stabilize the defense. I think they are a surprise playoff team.

Lions- No Megatron, no chance

Newly retired wide receiver Calvin Johnson was the only premier player they had. Unless quarterback Matt Stafford plays a lot smarter, it is hard to see them getting to .500.

NFC South:

Panthers- Tough act to follow

NFC East teams

photo from foxsports.com

A 17-2 record last year was quite surprising. However, one of those losses was the Super Bowl. Defensive coaches have spent all offseason trying to figure out how to stop quarterback Cam Newton. Coaches in this league always figure it out. They will still win the division, but the only way to go may be down.

Saints- Window closed

As good as Drew Brees is, he cannot carry this franchise forever. There simply was not enough player movement in the off season on what was statically one of the worst defenses ever last year. The glory days off about a half a decade ago are long gone in New Orleans.

Falcons- Matt Ryan consistency is key

There is some good young talent on defense here. They are led by 2015 first round draft pick Vic Beasley. Ultimately though, it is the play of quarterback Matt Ryan that will determine if this team is closer to the one that started 2015 5-0 or the one that finished it 3-8.

Buccaneers- Slowly building something special

The playoffs may still be a year away, but I really like where quarterback Jameis Winston is taking this franchise. Running back Doug Martin allows this team to run and throw effectively. The only question for me is the defense.

NFC West:

Cardinals- Well coached, but running out of time

They were so good last year. Head coach Bruce Arians continues to push all the right buttons, but quarterback Carson Palmer is 36 and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be 33 when the season starts. They are among many ageing key pieces. In Arizona, it is now or never.

Seahawks- Still loaded and dangerous

NFC East teams

photo from profootballfocus.com

There is no obvious weakness on this football team. They may lack just a touch of explosiveness on offense. The very talented Thomas Rawls takes over in the backfield. Other than that, the main cast of characters is the same.

Rams- New home, same lack of talent

It is exciting to have football back in Los Angeles, I am not old enough to remember it. Jeff Fisher will get the most out of what he has to work with. Unfortunately, he does not have much outside of running back Todd Gurley. It is hard to accept much from a team that is likely going with a rookie quarterback. Guys like Andrew Luck are the exception, not the rule.

49ers- Mad scientist at work

The mad scientist is of course head coach Chip Kelly. His odd personnel decisions did not pan out in Philly. He has no control over personnel in San Francisco, but significantly less talent to work worth. I have no idea what this team will look or play like and won’t until I actually see them play.