The NFC East was once regarded as one of the toughest divisions in the National Football League. But in 2015, it’s a different story. This could be the one season where scruffy football and some nail biting wins may actually see the Eagles sneak into the playoffs. Why? Let us explain..
Before we get to analysing every team, we want to make a summary point to emphasise just how open this division is. If anybody reading this watched both the Giants and Redskins game and the Eagles loss to the Cowboys and could honestly say “wow..this team is destined for a Championship game” about ANY of the four teams then frankly you must have had one too many at the tailgate! All four teams have a list of problems that are going to take time to fix and it’s a scenario that may well see an unlikely winner claim the division. The NFC East champion may not prove to be the best team, but the team who handled their problems the most efficiently and played to their strengths.
The NFC East is currently a Ferrari with some engine problems..a broken gasket…two wheels…a brake that doesn’t work and no suspension. The basics are there..but it’s going to take a lot of work to become all it could be. But why would a division symbolising a train wreck bode well for a team who are 0-2 and struggling to find some Offensive presence? Well, let’s take a look at the other three teams in the division a little more closely.
Dallas Cowboys (2-0)
The Cowboys are currently unbeaten after embarrassing the Eagles on their turf a week ago. But the road ahead is bumpy. Tony Romo’s broken clavicle has left the team in a situation of uncertainty as Brandon Weeden is expected to try and keep the Cowboys relevant without the help of star receiver Dez Bryant.
With DeMarco Murray gone, the Cowboys rushing game has completely vanished. The team now ranks 19th in rushing yards, leaving a lot of pressure on Weeden to keep the passing game afloat. If he can’t..then a weakened Defense are going to be on the field a lot more than they would prefer.
Whilst Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain return in two weeks, the Cowboys will still be without the pair and Randy Gregory for some important games. Falcons, Saints, Patriots, Giants. Not really a set of games you want to see your team endure if you are missing key parts in almost every position.
Yes the Cowboys dealt an early blow to the Eagles, but they face a much tougher schedule than the birds..a tougher schedule now made even harder with the absences of such important players to the team. The Cowboys are expected to struggle from here on out and whilst it’s unfair to really judge a teams potential season based off of two games..the Cowboys position in the East is going to look incredibly different in five games time compared to what it is now.
Washington Redskins (1-2)
A recent loss to the Giants doesn’t bode particularly well for the Redskins as Kirk Cousins struggled to find consistency against their division rival. But the teams lack of Quarterback presence is the least of their worries.
The Redskins have a Defense that are struggling to turn the ball over. The unit has completed no interceptions this year and have now received news that key player DeAngelo Hall will be sidelined for at least a few weeks with a partial toe tear. The benefit here is for the Eagles is that when the two teams meet on October 4th, the Redskins will arguably be at their weakest.
With no Hall and a defense struggling to turn the ball over, it’s the perfect contrast to what the Eagles will come up against when facing the Jets..a Defense who rank among the top in the league and forced Andrew Luck into countless turnovers. The Redskins are reliant on the run game..an area where the Eagles hold running backs to an average of 3.1 yards per rush. If the Eagles can ignite this Offense against the Jets, then the Redskins are in real trouble.
Beyond the Eagles game however, things don’t look like they’re going to get easier. The team face the Falcons and the Jets within the next three weeks and if Cousins continues to show his inconsistencies then the Redskins may already be staring into another empty post-season. DeSean Jackson’s loss has hurt the Redskins but if the Redskins are to have any chance at sneaking into the play-offs..just about every area except the run game needs improving…drastically.
New York Giants (1-2)
A win against the Redskins came after the help of some talent unknown to many changed the dynamic of the game. This of course after the team broke an NFL record. The first team in league history to hold ten point leads in two consecutive fourth quarters and lose both games.
It almost happened again against the Redskins…the Giants are struggling to close out games…in fact, struggling is an understatement.
Injuries are a common theme in the NFC East who are missing five starters currently. Victor Cruz, Rodgers-Cromartie and Will Beatty are all absent from the Giants side at the moment..once again giving the Eagles a substantial advantage and not just in a head to head sense.
The Giants move on next week to one of the toughest teams in the league…the Rex Ryan Buffalo Bills. Then it’s a game with the Niners before playing the Eagles for the first time this season. With the Giants being so short handed, they will struggle through the next few games and will simply need to pray that the Eagles don’t find a hot streak. If the Giants can return to full strength with 4-6 games left to play then they MAY have an outside shot…but it’s unlikely. The Coughlin era could well be coming to an end.
So what have we learned? Well, the ball is in the Eagles court. The team are easily the lightest on injuries, with Kiko Alonso and Kendricks expected to return to the field soon and on paper they are a team who should be obliterating opposing teams but for numerous reasons it hasn’t happened.
The good news is, Chip Kelly has some breathing room. Yes the Cowboys currently hold a 2-0 record and division lead but is it going to stay that way after facing two superbowl contenders? Sure the Redskins have looked good running the football but will a stale Defense hold against New England?
The division is currently so weak on so many fronts that it gives the Eagles vital time needed to revive their season. They don’t need to go 10-6 to make the playoffs. In fact, it may even get to the point where a 7-9 record is enough to clinch the division (a wild guess). It’s also arguable that the Eagles have the easiest schedule of ANY NFC East team..meaning that if the team can rally to a win in New York and find some confidence..their year is only just getting started.
There is only so much a team can do when it comes to controlling their fate. A lot of it rests on the teams around them, look at the Panthers last season for instance. All the Eagles need to do is ensure that they get back to winning ways as soon as possible and make sure that they come away from division showdowns with a W next to their name. The team don’t have to put up 49 points a game, Murray doesn’t need to rush for 100 yards a week and Bradford doesn’t need to go 30/32 every week. All the team need to do…is win. By a point, by 20. A win is a win. And with the division being so weak, it could be the difference between post-season football and Chip Kelly’s future.