PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles warms up before a game against the Green Bay Packers during the NFL season opener at Lincoln Financial Field on September 12 2010 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
As I've begun to take a closer look at the NFC, I've discovered that it really is an incredibly deep conference. Each division generally goes 3 deep. The East is no different, finish up our foray into the NFC with what may be the toughest division in football this year.
Projected Winner: Philadelphia Eagles. The whole "Dream Team" business was totally blown out of proportion. Yeah, this is mostly a team built on free agent acquisitions, but I also think that is more or less overblown. This team really came together in the last few weeks of the season. They'll be just fine without Asante Samuel. Nnamdi Asomugha and Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie make up one of the strongest CB tandems in the league, the defensive line is stout, and the offense is wicked explosive. There's a lot of firepower to be had with this team. I probably wouldn't count out the Giants or Cowboys either.
"X" Factor: Tony Romo. Romo has always gotten a bad rap as a choker and whatnot, but really he's quietly been one of the NFL's best quarterbacks over the past few years. Remember that in order to choke, one must be in a position to win the game. Romo's teams are often in position to win games. He'll take the Cowboys to the promised land if he gets a little help from his defense.
Dallas Cowboys: This offense could be awesome. Dez Bryant (suspension pending), Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, and Miles Austin make up a deep stable of skill players. Dallas' defense was a very middle of the pack unit last year, their improved secondary with Brandon Flowers and first round pick Morris Claiborne make this unit deep and talented. If they want to get better, it'd behoove them to bring along Tyron Smith and Bruce Carter from last year's draft class. These two could really make a difference in improving their respective units. If the pass defense improves, they could boast a pretty strong unit, stopping the run wasn't much of a problem last year as they rated 8th on Football Outsiders.
New York Giants: While they may "the team to beat" because of a Super Bowl victory, the Giants will have a tough time repeating as divisional champs. They've got talent along the line as always, JPP will be terrorizing quarterbacks all year. His presence alone should make this team solid as a pass rushing unit. The passing game should be lethal again. Eli Manning is slowly moving in on the crown as "best Manning". He wasn't plagued as badly by untimely interceptions that have helped define his career thus far. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are beyond terrific. This is probably the last year for Ramses Barden to make an impact. I'd love him to do just that, but it seems increasingly unlikely. They'll be a better running team with the addition of first round pick David Wilson.
Philadelphia Eagles: Definitely my pick as divisional champs, may have a shot to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. I am still definitely on the Eagles bandwagon. Keep Michael Vick upright and you have yourselves an instant contender. I love DRC and Nnamdi Asomugha at the corners, love Jason Babin at end, and of course the offense will be top notch. There are still plenty of holes in this team on the defensive side of things, but Casey Matthews should be better. I feel like he was kind of thrust into the role of starter based on pedigree as opposed to being the best linebacker available. Still gotta love Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins along the line as well.
Washington Redskins: Four words: Robert Griffin The Third. I think he'll be great. Maybe the greatest from this class, but he may need more time to adjust than people expect. Temper your expectations for rookie RGIII, as that's still what he is. I like Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, and Pierre Garcon at receiver with Fred Davis at tight end. The backfield is also pretty deep, but not overwhelmingly talented, with Tim Hightower, Evan Royster, and of course rookie sensation Roy Helu Jr. Their linebacker corp is outstanding with Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo, and London Fletcher, but I really fear for the defensive line and secondary which boasts a lot of washouts like Brandon Merriweather, DeAngelo Hall, and Cedric Griffin. This isn't the Skins year. Give it a couple more and RGIII could lead them to the playoffs for the first time in forever.
I love watching this division play every single year. The Eagles should be the team to beat, the Giants are certainly no pushovers, and the Cowboys could play spoiler with the Redksins bringing up the rear (unless RGIII really is above and beyond what we expect him to be). I can see any of the top three teams winning the division and making a deep playoff run. There just don't seem to be enough playoff spots for all of the great teams that will take the field this year in the NFC, the East is no exception.