The new NFL season is nearly upon us and all of the 32 teams are nearing the end of their pre-season programmes in preparation for the new term.
The NFC East has been one of the most fiercely contested throughout history and each team has won the crown in the last six years, with the Dallas Cowboys the current holders.
Dallas were the surprise package last term as rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott led the club to a 13-3 record and with it the divisional title. However, the Cowboys were one and done in the playoffs, suffering a defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers
The New York Giants defeated Jason Garrett’s men twice, despite the up and down performances of quarterback Eli Manning. They will hope that they can remain consistent enough to reclaim the crown for the first time since 2011.
The Philadelphia Eagles have also made improvements, while the Washington Redskins have talent at their disposal, although exits have weakened their roster.
The Cowboys have been rocked by the suspension of Elliott for the opening six matches of the season. He was the integral part of their push for a 13-3 record, notching a rookie-record 1,631 yards along with 15 touchdowns, while also collecting 363 receiving yards and a score.
Dallas would not have achieved the feat without him and will be at a huge detriment in the battle for the crown should he not be on the field. The NFL suspended him for violating the personal conduct policy following allegations of domestic violance, although Elliott was not charged by the police and is now planning to appeal his ban.
Should the 22-year-old not be available then the pressure will be on Prescott to raise the level of his performances. He was outstanding last term after replacing the injured Tony Romo, ousting the veteran from the position even when he returned to fitness.
Prescott still has Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley for support along with running back Alfred Morris, which could be enough to get them by until Elliott returns to the fold.
The Cowboys’ defense could take a step back next season after losing key parts of their secondary. Brandon Carr, Barry Church and Morris Claibourne all left the club in the off-season, although Dallas responded by selecting Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the 2017 Draft.
Those players have to hit the ground running, while defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will have to weave some magic once again to generate a pass-rush due to the lack of quality along the defensive line.
As a result they face a struggle, but they might just have the quality to edge the division at odds of +190 with Marathon Bet.
The Giants boasted one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, but their inconsistent play on offense halted a surge in the playoffs. New York defeated the Cowboys twice in the regular season, with Dallas’ only other regular-season loss coming against the Eagles when they rested starters.
Ben McAdoo’s men would have felt that they had the quality to win the NFC East, but poor offensive performances against quality sides was the reason they were unable to topple the Cowboys. Manning threw 26 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, while the club got next to nothing out of their running backs over the course of the campaign, ranking 29th in the NFL.
New York added only Wayne Gallman Jr during the 2017 Draft in the fourth round, and he will not be expected to start form the off. As a result, the pressure will be once again on Manning to put points on the board with the aid of All-Pro wideout Odell Beckham Jr. Brandon Marshall was signed during free agency to give Manning another weapon along with first-round pick Evan Engram.
Whether that will be enough to put enough points on the board is another matter. The defense remains stocked with talent, especially in the secondary. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple form a strong cornerback unit, with All-Pro Landon Collins behind them.
Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon will provide a solid pass-rush, but there is also depth behind the two starters. Therefore backing the Giants to reach the playoffs at +120 with TopBet sportsbook is a decent option.
Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz enjoyed a solid first season in the NFL, guiding the Eagles 7-9 record. Philadelphia’s decision to trade up to select the signal-caller out of North Dakota State looks to be justified, although the club will want him to take significant strides forward this term.
Wentz’s performances were impressive considering the talent around him. The Eagles lacked a threat in their receiving corps other than tight end Zach Ertz, while their running backs could not ease the pressure on the 24-year-old.
Philadelphia have attempted to address the issue by signing Alshon Jeffery and LeGarrette Blount. Jeffery was the number one wideout for the Chicago Bears since 2014, while Blount rushed for 18 touchdowns with the New England Patriots last season. Torrey Smith also arrived from San Francisco, although Jordan Matthews was traded away for cornerback Ronald Darby.
However, the veteran presence of the three additions should lighten the load on the quarterback and given him targets across the field along with a reliable running back in the redzone.
Philadelphia have talent on the defensive side of the ball, although last season they didn’t always play to their potential. Their front seven, especially the defensive line, has fine players in Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, while big things are expected of rookie Derek Barnett.
The Eagles’ secondary is likely to be their Achilles’ heel. Even the trade for Darby will only paper over cracks due to a lack of pedigree at the cornerback position. Considering the talent in the division at wideout – it could be the reason why taking them at -220 to with Unibet is a solid option for them not to make the playoffs.
The Redskins have had a tumultuous off-season due to the firing of general manager Scot McCloughan after the 2017 Draft. This followed the dismissals of the majority of the club’s defensive staff due to their issues on that side of the ball during the last term.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was given the one-year franchise tag for the second season on the bounce. He was then at the heart of a bizarre press conference from team president Bruce Allen, which saw him criticise the quarterback for refusing to take a new long-term deal. Allen also called him ‘Kurt’ rather Kirk, highlighting the turmoil behind-the-scenes.
Cousins will be operating in the new campaign with a different set of receivers after DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon left the club. Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick have been added, while 2016’s first-round pick Josh Doctson will be aiming to make an impact after a slow start to his career.
Cousins’ primary target Jordan Reed has started pre-season on the PUP list, raising concerns over his availability for the start of the term. Should he struggle for fitness, it will be a huge blow for the Redskins given the other departures.
The defense has a new staff in place, although Greg Manusky survived the cull. He now leads the unit, but did not pull up trees in the same role with the Indianapolis Colts. There’s scattered talent with Josh Norman, Breshaud Breeland , Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Jonathan Allen.
However, they are likely to be the anchor that weighs Jay Gruden’s men down once again. Therefore take the under for 7.5 wins with SportingBet at +100 as the club will be mediocre at best in 2017.
Dallas Cowboys To Win The NFC East
New York Giants To Reach The Playoffs
Philadelphia Eagles To Miss The Playoffs
Washington Redskins To Win Under 7.5 Matches