LOUIS Ross (@LouisRoss67) takes his microscope to the NFC East and picks out his best bets in the Conference.
NFC East | 11th September 2016
More drama in Dallas as the annual Tony Romo serious injury bulletin boards went up earlier than usual. Yet another broken bone in his back will leave the ‘not quite elite’ Romo on the sidelines for six weeks or so. Dark Prescott has impressed in preseason and there is even talk of a Bledsoe/Brady situation (newcomers, see me after class)
Despite having the fifth easiest schedule in the NFL, Dallas still come into this season with a 1-11 record in 2015 without number nine. It’s not all doom and gloom though. After all they have the favourite for Rookie of the Year in running back Ezikiel Elliott. This college superstar is expected to see an awful lot of action. A brilliant pass blocker, his rushing is matched only by his pass catching. The kid has it all.
The back ups in the backfield are not bad either. Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden would get in most teams. Dez Bryant is a massive threat and will stretch the field whilst Jason Witten is still a huge threat at Tight End.
This is also a time for Terrance Williams to shine. There are two winnable home games in September and these guys need to take advantage.
A key question will be what Rod Marinelli can do with his defence. There is a lot of athleticism there. Rolando McClain, DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory are all athletic guys.
Orlando Scandrick was a big miss in the Secondary last term and will be welcomed back. This defence needs to show as much brain as it has brawn. It did not rank too highly in 2015.
Prediction: There is a season in here somewhere. 8-8 would be very acceptable at this moment.
New York Giants
It’s goodbye Tom Coughlin after 12 seasons and two Superbowls both of which were unforgettable for various reasons. Coughlin is replaced by his offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and boy have the Giants backed him.
Nearly $200m has been spent upgrading a defence that gave up a fourth quarter lead an NFL record five times in 2015. 6-10 could easily have been 10-6.
Rookie free safety Darian Thompson is joined by Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins will boost the front four. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit allowed the most yards in the NFL last year and that simply has to change.
If it does improve then there is a potentially star offence to carry New York into the post season. Eli Manning is still one of the best Quarterbacks around and the Giants ranked seventh in yards gained and sixth in points scored last season.
Not entirely surprising when you have Odell Beckham becoming a bigger star by the week. Dwayne Harris can provide a dual threat whilst there are high hopes for rookie Sterling Shephard.
The Giants have somehow managed to lose five season openers in a row but in a traditionally fierce division may end up with their fate in their own hands with three of the last last four games being against NFC East opponents
Prediction: 9-7 and a shot at a wildcard. OBJ lights up New York once again
If you know much about American sport, you know what Phily fans are all about. They wanted rid of Chip Kelly and they got their wish after a predictable 7-9 season and some inexplicable game management.
DeMarco Murray the best running back in the NFL in 2014 was acquired at huge cost from Dallas, rarely used in the right way if at all and now resides in Tennesee.
New head coach Doug Pederson is still left with Sam Bradford as his signal caller despite Philly trading all the way up the draft to number two in order to get Carson Wentz. Someone needs to explain that to me. As they (probably) say in Philly, if Sam Bradford is the answer then you’re asking all the wrong questions.
There is a general lack of talent in all the skill positions and where that talent exists such as the running back Ryan Matthews, there is problem keeping him fit.
Matthews had a career best 5.6 yards per carry last term and once again expect to see him split the load with Darren Sproles especially on passing downs.
Zach Ertz ranked number six amongst Tight Ends and Pederson who did well with Travis Kelce when Chiefs OC, will hopefully make more use of him than Kelly did.
Dorial Green Beckham is an interesting new addition. Hard to see why Tennesee let him go. 32 catches for 549 yards and four touchdowns was not a bad first season return. he has potential although neither he or Jordan Matthews will know what to expect from their quarterback.
Prediction: A lot depends how long Bradford stays under centre. At this stage I have to say 7-9 at best. 6-10 more likely
Who gave these guys much hope when Jay Gruden chose Kirk Cousins over RG3. They ended up winning out in the last month to finish Division Champions with a 9-7 record and Cousins tossing 29 touchdowns. In fact Washington scored the 10th most points in the NFL. None of us expected that.
The last team to repeat in this toughest of divisions was the Eagles in 2004. The Redskins have not managed it since seasons 1983 and 1984. Cousins really did grow into his role and in the last 10 games threw 27 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
There is a lot to be optimistic about in the nations capital. The offence looks capable once again. Alfred Morris has gone but Matt Jones was slowly taking that starting spot anyway. Jones is a better pass catcher than Morris but he has ball security issues and Chris Thompson will be waiting in the wings should those drops continue.
Jordan Reed has become an elite Tight End. 11 touchdowns would please anyone and the Skins were happy to extend his contract by five years. DeSean Jackson still has a lot to prove and Josh Doctson should see plenty of targets in his rookie year.
The real excitement this offseason has been about the defence though. Josh Norman was a shock arrival from Carolina. He offers a massive improvement to the Washington cornerbacks and he and Bashaud Breeland will be a huge challenge for any set of receivers. De Angelo Hall moves to safety and this will immediately give a jolt to a unit that ranked 25th last time out.
Prediction: 10-6 Division winners and maybe a first round playoff win