After being forced to watch inferior sports such as hockey, baseball, and basketball, finally, the king of sports is back. Without a doubt, it’s been one of the most interesting off-seasons yet. Denver’s grace of God, Tim Tebow is now a Jet, fighting for the starting position with the extremely streaky Mark Sánchez. Denver fans quickly got over Tebow leaving, as one of the most elite and sophisticated quarterbacks, Peyton Manning, joined the team. The Colts future looks brighter than ever as they drafted one of the best college all-around QBS ever, Andrew Luck. And speaking of quarterbacks, the Redskins found a way to get Robert Griffen III, who arguably might be the most athletic one in the NFL. To top it all off, the referees are on strike! Sometimes, football can be hard to predict, but I believe it’s a safe bet to say that this year is going to be another extraordinary year.
In all likelihood, this will be the tightest division this year. To be honest, I cannot remember the last time the defending Superbowl champions were not favored to win their division. The Giants, despite showing a lot of courage and leadership last year, are playing second fiddle to the Eagles, who many people speculate will become the Dream Team that they were supposed to be last year. Andy Reid might be the greatest coach ever to never win a Superbowl, but it’s still hard to fathom that he will be around next year if the Eagles don’t exceed their expectations – making a desperate Reid scary for his opponents. However, there are too many flaws on their team.
The defense became stronger up front in terms of stuffing the run with new their addition, but they lost one of their shut-down corner backs, Asante Samuel. Last year, many people speculated that he and Nnamdi Asomugha would shut down their sides of the field. After all, Asomugha only had 20 passes thrown towards his way the entire following season on the Raiders. However, the biggest difference between the Raiders and the Eagles defense is the Raiders mostly played man-to-man defense that year, while the Eagles mostly played zone. Honestly, watching Asomugha tried to play zone was like watching a deer in headlights or a chicken with his head cut-off. To his credit, the players were coming off a strike, which meant less time to practice and learn the system especially for newly picked up players. This year, however, he should be ready to play zone. But unlike last year, though, he won’t have Samuel on the other side – which will hurt their secondary a lot.
Albeit proven over the off-season, there’s nothing that makes me confident in the Eagles offensive line. For two years in a row, it has been nothing but a disaster. And nothing is worse than a sub-par offensive line protecting one of the most injury plagued quarterbacks in the league. Sadly, but surely, Vick getting injured at least once in a season is one of the safest bets a bettor could make. He almost has gotten hurt every year he has played. And, unlike last year, the Eagles don’t have an ace in the hole. Vince Young, the creator of the slogan “Dream Team”, is now in a place that’s actually colder and more dirtier than Philly known as Buffalo.
Furthermore, we haven’t even got to Vick’s abilities. Without a doubt, Michael Vick’s forte was scrambling outside the pocket and either creating enough separation from the defenders to make a pass or taking off for forty yards. Due to injuries, however, the Eagles have tried to make Vick something he never was – a pocket passer. In my opinion, there are two reasons why Michael Vick cannot be an élite pocket passer. One, his size. Vick is only 6’00 tall and his small figure makes it difficult for him to stand in the pocket and take a hit. And, two, his lack of an ability to read a defense’s coverage, blitz scheme, or anything the defense is doing. Surely, Vick has a terrific arm, but an arm isn’t what makes a quarterback great. You need the total package.
The Eagles may be the favorite for the bookies (+130), but they’re not the favorite for me.
There is a very small chance that the Redskins end up winning this division. They are in a rebuilding year, thus progressively should become better year by year (especially when (or if) Robert Griffen III ameliorates). Last year, they, however, proved that they were capable of hanging around with their division. In fact, in week one they defeated the New York Giants and followed that up by beating them again in week 15. And even though they never defeated another opponent in their division, every game, except for the last one vs the Eagles, ended up being decided by 7 points or less. They fell victim of two major problems that plagued their team – their team ran into the injury bug and they never found productive quarterback. Otherwise, they weren’t a terrible team. At the start, I would have called them merely average. They have a rock-solid offense and plenty of weapons in the backfield who can run the ball, plus Robert Griffen III is their wild card.
Although, even if Robert Griffen has a breakout year, I don’t believe they are good enough to win this division. That said, I do believe they are a sleeper team, one that will win several upset games. If you have more confidence than me, take them as a +700 underdog. It will be a nice score if you ended up winning.
Despite the hype, the Cowboys are in fact projected to finish third according the sport bookies. Maybe they are sick of falling for their hype every year, and finally have realized the Cowboys organization is a mess. Without doubt, the Cowboys have talented players. In fact, you could argue they have the most talented players in the game. However, Jerry Jones isn’t the best at putting together a winning team. Instead, he’s great at getting players who are great individuality, which creates a hodgepodge team. And, I cannot agree with his decision of making Jason Garrett the head coach, especially when there were better choices out there and because he was the main reason they didn’t make the playoffs last year after all.
Indeed, the Cowboys have improved, but I do not believe they are good enough to win this division. I do, however, believe they could make the wildcard. They have all the weapons, but they need to figure out how to finish games and play as a team. If anyone can gel a team together, it’s Rob Ryan. The defense should be better this year because he will have more time to teach the defense his complex defenses. Ultimately, it comes down to Garrett’s preparation and his in-game decisions, plus Tony Romo’s performance. We all know Romo has a chance to become an élite QB. His statistics are on par with the best, but he hasn’t gotten over that hump that can put him on that level. He needs to prove once and for all he has water running through his veins. Otherwise, he’ll be known as the guy who had promise, but couldn’t get it done when it mattered.
Yes, this means I’m picking the Giants. They did lose a few of their assets, particularly Brandon Jacobs and Manningham. However, their secondary is at full strength, especially since they’ll be getting one of their top corner backs back, Terrell Thomas, who was injured all season. Furthermore, they have Eli Manning, who is proving that he is a future Hall of Famer every day he plays. Nevertheless, not all the success can go to Manning; Victor Cruz was another reason the Giants pulled off at one time looked impossible. Also, how could I not mention four of the best down linemen combo possibly the NFL has ever seen?
Unless the Giants flirt with mediocrity again until Tom Coughlin is close to be fired, I see them winning this division. Of course, you always have to account for their lapses that happen every season – but even with those, they should win this division at +180 underdogs – which will be a nice cash in at the end of the year.
How It Should Play Out:
1. New York Giants
2. Dallas Cowboys (tie breaker)
4. Washington Redskins
Tags: DeSean Jackson, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, NFL predictions, Tony Romo