Who Will Win the NFC East Division?
This division shapes up to be a two-horse race between Philadelphia and Dallas. Will Carson Wentz and his Philadelphia Eagles defend their NFC East Division crown? Can newly appointed Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy be instrumental in ending years of frustration for Cowboys fans? The contents of this article will assist in answering those questions and make your NFL betting a more profitable experience.
NFC East Futures Odds
Below are the odds for each NFC East team’s chance of winning the division. All betting odds are courtesy of 5Dimes.
• Dallas Cowboys -103
• Philadelphia Eagles +128
• New York Giants +1275
• Washington Redskins +2300
Philadelphia Eagles (+120)
It is a good thing that Philadelphia’s current roster is loaded with talent across the board. Because if they planned on improving their team even further via the 2020 NFL Draft they failed miserably to do so. What makes it even worse is they had 10 draft picks at their disposal. The first two of those selections were spent on TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor (1st round) and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (2nd round). Reagor possesses top end speed but was the 9th rated wide receiver in this 2020 class. Taking Hurts during the 2nd round was even more puzzling considering they already have a young franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz.
On a side note, my field of expertise is undeniably not one an NFL historian. With that in mind, I would take an educated guess and say Philadelphia is the first team to ever use its first two picks on guys named Jalen! Hopefully you can use that invaluable hypothesis to win your next bet at your local watering hole.
Fly Eagles Fly
Speaking of wide receivers, the Eagles have an abundance of talent and quality depth within that position group. Besides their previously mentioned 1st round draft pick Jalen Reagor, they have top shelf veterans in DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey. Both players missed substantial time last year due to injuries. Thus, allowing the likes of Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to take on a more prominent role. Each of those receivers did an admirable job filling in from a production standpoint. Philadelphia also traded for former Bills and 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin who will vie for the 4th receiver spot on Philadelphia’s depth chart.
Philadelphia did not address the running back position during the recently completed draft. It then becomes obvious that they have a high degree of confidence in their two young backs Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. When looking at those two players numbers from last season, it then becomes easy to understand why they decided to stand pat. The running back duo combined for 1776 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns.
Philadelphia has one of the game's elite tight ends in Zach Ertz. All he has done during the last 5 seasons has averaged 86.2 catches, 914.4 receiving yards, and 5.6 touchdowns per year. Furthermore, during his 7 career postseason games Ertz has accumulated 33 catches for 360 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Eagles also have a very capable second tight end in Dallas Goedert, who had an attention getting 58 pass receptions for 607 yards and five touchdowns a season ago.
Eagles Need Carson Wentz Healthy
There has never been a doubt about Carson Wentz's ability to become the Eagles franchise quarterback. What is a concern has been his durability? Hence, a possible reason for drafting Jalen Hurts so high. Wentz was able to start all 16 games last season. Although, the previous two seasons before last, he missed five regular season contests and three postseason outings. Ironically enough, Philadelphia was able to win a franchise first Super Bowl in 2018 while led by then backup quarterback, Nick Foles.
Last year was also a challenging one for Wentz due to his top receivers being sidelined by injuries down the final stretch. Despite that being the case, Wentz still passed for 4039 yards and 27 touchdowns while being intercepted only seven times.
The Eagles finished 10th in total defense last season while allowing just 331.7 yards per game. Nevertheless, they certainly did not air on the side of complacency during this off-season. The Eagles traded for former Detroit Lions starting cornerback Darius Slay. They also signed unrestricted free agents Javon Hargrave (DT/Steelers) and Nickell Robey-Coleman (CB/Rams). The Eagles defense will be an extremely formidable unit which includes quality depth at all positions.
Dallas Cowboys (-103)
Do you want to know how good the Dallas Cowboys draft went? They went from +127 to win the NFC East before the draft to -103 after their selections were made. I for one believe that such a drastic move was justified. Because the Cowboys absolutely killed it in regards to choosing their 2020 rookie class.
Potentially Dynamic Offense
Owner/GM Jerry Jones and his front office staff were ecstatic when it was time to make their 1st round draft pick. Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was shockingly still available with the 17th overall selection. That now gives Dallas one of the most electric trio of starting wide receivers with Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Amari Cooper. Keep in mind, Dallas was #1 in total offense last season while racking up 431.7 yards per game. The Baltimore Ravens were 2nd in that category while finishing a distant 23.9 yards behind Dallas.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will once again lead the rushing attack. Elliot continues to be one of the game’s top backs after collecting 1777 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns last season. Last year’s 4th round draft pick Tony Pollard proved to be a reliable backup to Elliott. Pollard accounted for 563 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns a season ago.
The tight end position is a huge question mark after longtime Dallas Cowboy Jason Witten signed an off-season free agent contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. Witten had an impressive 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns a season ago. Jerry Jones was inexplicably not willing to shell out the kind of money that the soon to be 38-year-old Witten was able to get in his new deal. Dallas is set to go with Blake Jarwin as their starter. Jarwin will be backed up by Dalton Schultz and former Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell. Those 3 players combined for just 40 receptions, 438 yards, and 3 touchdowns a year ago.
Strong Offensive Line
When an offensive line allows the 2nd fewest sacks (23) and paves the way for a 5th leading rushing attack (134.6 YPG), they are unquestionably doing a lot of things right. That was precisely what Dallas' group up front did last year. They will have to replace center Travis Frederick who retired. However, they still have veteran Joe Looney, and Dallas also drafted Wisconsin center Biadasz in the fourth round of this year's draft. I look for similar success from Dallas’ offensive line during this upcoming season.
Can Dak Prescott Match Last Year’s Enormous Production?
Saying Dak Prescott is coming off an awesome season would be at the very least a vast understatement. All he did was pass for 4902 yards and 30 touchdowns. Additionally, Prescott ran for another 277 yards and 3 scores. Not bad for a former 4th round draft choice of Dallas who will be entering just his 5th season. I do not know if Prescott can duplicate what he did last year. Nonetheless, what is obviously apparent, Dallas has a quarterback that may be on the verge of stardom if he has not reached those heights already.
New York Giants (+1275)
I was optimistic about the Giants being able to turn things around this season. I was also anticipating their hierarchy improving the team at the 2020 NFL Draft. I am of the strong opinion that did not take place which hindered my sanguinity a bit. Then again, I am not a big fan of Dave Gettlemen. I feel he is and has been an overrated talent evaluator.
Critical Year 2 for Daniel Jones
Speaking of Gettlemen, many NFL Draft gurus thought he went out on a very thin limb when making former Duke quarterback Daniel Jones his first round pick last year. With all being considered, Jones had a very good rookie campaign during which he threw for 24 touchdowns and 3027 yards in only 13 games played. He also ran for 279 yards and two touchdowns as well. For the Giants to contend for a possible playoff spot, it is imperative that Jones takes the next progression in being a successful NFL quarterback.
Riding Saquon Barkley
One of the most important allies for a young starting quarterback like Daniel Jones is a productive running game. The Giants were just 19th in rushing offense last season at 105.3 yards per game. New York’s ground attack was greatly hampered by star running back Saquon Barkley missing three games due to injury. Notwithstanding of that unfortunate occurrence, Barkley still managed to rush for 1003 yards and average a lofty 4.6 yards per carry. In any event, the G-Men are hoping Barkley returns to his rookie form of two years ago, when he garnered a tremendous 2028 total yards from scrimmage and scored 15 touchdowns. Barkley has fumbled just once in his 621 career touches and the Giants recovered it to retain possession. A superbly talented running back like Barkley can make even an average-at-best Giants offensive line look misleadingly decent.
Adequate Group of Receivers
The top Giants wide receivers are good but will never be mistaken for being great. The trio of Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, and Sterling Sheppard combined for 154 catches, 1992 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns last season. It also must be noted, those 3 players also missed a cumulative 13 games due to injuries.
Evan Engram has often been referred to as a wide receiver playing tight end. You can pine for that being a legitimate argument. Unfortunately, the 6’3 and 240-pound Engram has encountered injury problems over the past 2 seasons which forced him to be sidelined in 13 of 32 games. New York is wishing for Engram to emulate his rookie year of 2017 when he had 64 catches for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns while missing only 1 game.
Key Defensive Free Agent Acquisitions
The Giants defense left much to be desired last year. They finished 25th in total yards allowed and were especially vulnerable against the pass (28th/264.1 YPG). Consequently, they were readily active on the free agent market in a dire attempt to improve defensively.
New York signed a pair of former Green Bay Packers linebackers in unrestricted free agents Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell. Martinez has averaged a titanic 147.6 tackles per year over the past 3 seasons for Green Bay. During his 4-year NFL career, Martinez has also had 10 sacks and 3 interceptions. The Giants would like to see Kyler Fackrell accomplish what he did 2 seasons ago when he was responsible for 10.5 sacks on opposing quarterbacks.
The Giants were also able to sign unrestricted free agent and former Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradbury. During his 4-year NFL career which were all spent with Carolina, Bradbury had 8 interceptions, three sacks, and two forced fumbles. The 26-year-old also is not hesitant about putting his body on the line as evidenced by him averaging 56 solo tackles per season.
Head Coaching Carousel
Following last year’s abysmal 4-12 season, head coach Pat Shurmur was fired after just two years on the job. Shortly thereafter, the Giants named former New England Patriots special team coordinator Joe Judge as their 4th head coach in 5 years. The Giants organization is hoping that Judge can bring a same type of stability that former head coach Tom Coughlin provided during his 12-year tenure which concluded in 2015.
Washington Redskins (+2300)
Keeping with the precedents that has previously been set, I am not going waste anyone's time, including mine, on some team with no shot of winning a division title. The Washington Redskins perfectly fit that description. The Redskins were 3-13 last season and it looks as if we will see similar results this year as well.
On a more positive note, Washington hired former Carolina head coach Ron Rivera to serve in the same capacity. During his 9 year stretch with Carolina, the Panthers went a combined 76-63-1 in regular season action. Carolina captured 3 NFC South Division titles with Rivera in charge. They also advanced to the 2016 Super Bowl where they lost to Denver. Under Rivera, the Panthers had a 3-4 postseason record.
Final Analysis and Prediction
As already indicated, I am eliminating the Washington Redskins from any discussions pertaining to division supremacy. I do think the Giants will be an improved team but expecting them to win a division crown is highly improbable.
It then comes down to Dallas or Philadelphia. The Cowboys have the more durable quarterback (Dak Prescott) who is coming off a career best season. Dallas also had far and away the much superior 2020 draft compared to Philadelphia. Lastly, Jerry Jones finally was able to get up enough nerve to fire his red-headed stepchild Jason Garrett. During Garrett's 10-year reign as head coach, Dallas did go a respectable 85-67 in regular season action. Nevertheless, they only made the postseason three times, and never advanced beyond the NFC Divisional Round.
Newly hired Mike McCarthy spent 13 seasons as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Throughout that time, Green Bay went 125-77-2, won 6 NFC North Division titles, made playoff appearances in 9 of those 13 seasons, and won the 2011 Super Bowl. Additionally, the Packers were 10-8 in postseason games with McCarthy as their head man. My NFC East Division futures prediction favors Jerry Jones team.
Pick: Dallas Cowboys -103