The Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East last season and it appears that they could win it again in 2017. Here are my predictions for the NFC East standings for this upcoming season.
1st place: New York Giants
The Giants beat the Cowboys twice last season, but the Giants still weren’t quite able to win the division. However, the Giants have improved their team this offseason and they have surpassed the Cowboys as the most talented team in the NFC East. New York should have a terrific passing game in 2017 as they still have the elite duo of quarterback Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. However, the Giants also signed Brandon Marshall to be their number 2 wide receiver and they drafted tight end Evan Engram with their 1st round pick. The big question mark for the Giants on offense is their running back situation. New York let go of starter Rashad Jennings this offseason and they didn’t do anything to add to the position which means Paul Perkins will now be full-time starter in 2017. Perkins did well in a limited role last season for the Giants, but it will be interesting to see how he handles his increased role this season. Also, New York needs to get more consistent play from their offensive line to give Eli Manning more time to make an impact in the passing game. If the Giants can just get decent production from their offensive line and running backs then New York should have a very good offense in 2017. The Giants defense was much improved last season and they figure to be very good once again this season. New York’s secondary is one of the best in the entire NFL as they are led by Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, and Eli Apple. Also, New York’s defensive line is still a strength of their team as they have elite players Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison on their defensive line. However, their linebackers are clearly the weakness of the defense and the Giants didn’t do anything to address that position this offseason. The Giants still have some needs to fill on their team, but overall they have the most talented roster in the NFC East and they have a good offense and defense in order to compete with any team in the NFL.
2nd place: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas won the division last season and they still have a very good roster especially on offense. However, the Cowboys didn’t get any better this offseason and the Giants have clearly surpassed them as the best team in the division. Dallas shouldn’t have any issues scoring as they have star quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Also, Prescott still has good receivers to throw to as Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley are all returning in 2017. Dallas also has the best offensive line in football even without Ronald Leary who departed in free agency. There is really no weakness on the offense for the Cowboys and as long as Dak Prescott can be productive like he was during his rookie season. The thing that will hold Dallas back in 2017 is their defense as it wasn’t very good last season and it could be even worse this season. Dallas lost a lot of key players in their secondary this offseason and now they will rely on unproven cornerbacks Nolan Carroll, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jouran Lewis to play a big role. The Cowboys pass rush is another major area of weakness on their defense as their defensive line has 4 starters that aren’t very good. Dallas select defensive end Taco Charlton in the 1st round of the draft, but it is unknown how much of an impact that he will make as a rookie. The Cowboys linebackers are clearly the strength of the defense with Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens leading that group, but even that position group is just average. Either way, the Cowboys defense isn’t looking very good heading into the 2017 season and if they can just be an average defense then there is no doubt that this team could be the best in the division. However, the Cowboys offense will have tons of pressure to score some points or else this team might not make it to the playoffs.
3rd place: Philadelphia Eagles
This team probably isn’t going to make the playoffs in 2017, but it is certainly a team that is on the rise with 2nd-year quarterback Carson Wentz. If Wentz can improve upon a decent rookie season then the Eagles should be a better team in 2017. The issue for the Eagles offense was that there wasn’t a good supporting cast around Wentz. Philadelphia’s receivers dropped passes consistently and the running game was basically nonexistent since Ryan Mathews was injured and unproductive last season. However, the Eagles should be much improved with the additions of wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. Jeffery is a pro-bowl caliber receiver that will make tough catches and Smith is the perfect 2nd receiver as he gives the Eagles a much needed deep threat. Also, the running back situation should be much improved as the team signed LeGarrette Blount in free agency. I don’t expect Blount to have 18 rushing touchdowns like he did last season, but he at least takes some more pressure off of young quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles offensive line is still good overall and it will be important that they protect Wentz consistently since he needs plenty of time to make plays. Philadelphia’s offense still is just average, but they should be better than last season. The Eagles defense was surprisingly good last season and they should be about the same in 2017. Philadelphia’s defensive line could be decent as they have two really good starters with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Brandon Graham. Also, the linebackers are a decent group led by Mychal Kendricks and they could be a strength of this defense. However, the real strength for the Eagles on defense is at the safety position as Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins are one of the best duos in the league. They will need to be good once again in 2017 as the rest of the secondary isn’t very good especially at the cornerback position. Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson are expected to be the starters in 2017, but neither are very proven options which means that the Eagles could give up a lot of big passing plays this season. The Eagles defense is average, but they are still probably the strength of the team heading into 2017. Philadelphia should be an average team this season as they really don’t have any great players on their team. However, they are still a better team than they were a year ago and they are certainly a team on the rise as long as young quarterback Carson Wentz can continue to improve.
4th place: Washington Redskins
This is one of the most intriguing teams heading into the 2017 season because the Redskins have the potential to be really good or really bad. However, the expectation is that the Redskins will decline this season and they will probably be a 6-10 team or something like that. Washington’s offense likely won’t be as good as last season with the departures of wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson this offseason. The Redskins only replaced those receivers with Terrelle Pryor who was good last season, but that was his first season as a wide receiver. Also, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder will be expected to have bigger roles than they did last year for the Redskins. The only real reliable target that the Redskins have is tight end Jordan Reed, but even he is dealing with a toe injury right now and he struggles to stay healthy. The Redskins running back situation is even more of a mystery right now. Rob Kelley is the starter right now and he did a decent job for the Redskins last season, but he isn’t a very reliable starter. Rookie running back Samaje Perine will likely split the carries with Kelley and they will need a more reliable running back to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Kirk Cousins. Washington has a very good offensive line led by star left tackle Trent Williams and they should do a good job of protecting Kirk Cousins in 2017. Cousins is a good quarterback, but he has new wide receivers to work with and he doesn’t have a reliable running back alongside him. Washington’s offense has tons of potential, although we’ll see how well the passing game does without DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. The Redskins defense also has some potential, but I’m not quite sure how well they will perform in 2017. The strength of the Redskins defense is definitely at the cornerback position as they have elite cornerback Josh Norman and good young cornerback Bashaud Breeland as the starters. The Redskins also have star pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan who had 11 sacks last season, but the issue is that the Redskins don’t have another good pass rusher. Rookie 1st round pick Jonathan Allen could be a good pass rusher for Washington, but it is unknown the type of impact that he will make in his first season. The Redskins have some good pieces to work with on defense, but for the defense to really be successful then they will need young players like Jonathan Allen and 2nd-year safety Su’a Cravens to step up. Overall, the Redskins have enough talent to push for a playoff spot in 2017, but they will need a lot of players to have breakout seasons in order for them to do so.