Saturday, September 3, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions - NFC East

1) Philadelphia Eagles
(10-6, 1st in ’10)

Key Gets – Nnamdi Asomugha (CB, Raiders), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB, Eagles), Cullen Jenkins (DL, Packers), Anthony Hargrove (DL, Saints), Jason Babin (DL, Titans), Vince Young (QB, Titans), Ronnie Brown (RB, Dolphins), Steve Smith (WR, Giants), Ryan Harris (OL, Broncos), Danny Watkins (OL, Baylor), Jaiquawn Jarrett (S, Temple), Curtis Marsh (CB, Utah State), Casey Matthews (LB, Oregon)

Key Gones – Kevin Kolb (QB, Cardinals), David Akers (K, 49ers), Brodrick Bunkley (DL, Broncos), Stewart Bradley (LB, Cardinals), Ernie Sims (LB, Colts)

Key Games – wk2 @ Falcons, wk3 v. Giants, wk8 v. Cowboys, wk9 v. Bears, wk10 v. Cardinals, wk11 @ Giants, wk12 v. Patriots, wk15 v. Jets, wk16 @ Cowboys

I already had the Eagles as my preseason Super Bowl favorites before they signed the top free agent of the offseason, Nnamdi Asomugha. Take a look at all those other names. That’s a serious talent haul. Even with all those additions, the Eagles will go only as far as the legs and arm of Michael Vick will lead them. After taking over for an injured Kolb in the season opener, Vick didn’t let go of the starting QB job. He resurrected his career and enters this season, once again, as one of the league’s most dangerous weapons. He’s not alone in the dangerous weapon category. Joining him once again is the dynamic receiving duo of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. LeSean McCoy is in the perfect place to take advantage of his quick cutting and receiving ability. While not at the top of their game, the Eagles were still quite a formidable unit on defense in ’10. So what did they do? They go out and bring in the #1 or #1a corner in the game, another cover man with plus ball skills, two pass rushers who combined for 19.5 sacks last year, a veteran back with some tread on his tires, and a talented but troubled project QB (sound familiar). Trent Cole has been a beast of a defender throughout his career, and he’s got to love the additions of Babin, Jenkins, and Hargrove and the attention they’ll draw. Watch out for DT Antonio Dixon this year; very strong and active. Jamar Chaney shined when called upon late in his rookie season, and he’s set to slide outside to make room for Matthews in the middle. Last but not least is that sexy secondary. Lost in all the offseason hubbub is All Pro Asante Samuel. Behind those three corners will be the second year duo of Nate Allen (love him; hope he gets healthy quick) and Kurt Coleman.

How will the fact that the Eagles are now supposed to win it all affect their play on the field? Aside from a serious Vick injury, it’s going to take quite a bit to derail this team.

Team MVP – Michael Vick
Breakout Player – Antonio Dixon
Disappointment – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

2) Dallas Cowboys
(6-10, 3rd in ’10)

Key Gets – Abram Elam (S, Browns), Tyron Smith (OL, USC), Bruce Carter (LB, UNC), Demarco Murray (RB, Oklahoma)

Key Gones – Leonard Davis (OL, free agent), Marc Colombo (OL, Dolphins), Marion Barber (RB, Bears), Roy Williams (WR, Bears)

Key Games – wk1 @ Jets, wk6 @ Patriots, wk8 @ Eagles, wk14 v. Giants, wk15 @ Bucs, wk16 v. Eagles, wk17 @ Giants

So much for a home game Super Bowl huh? The Cowboys weren’t exactly on the fast track to the playoff before Tony Romo’s season ending injury (1-4), but after losing their QB and canning Wade Phillips two weeks later, the second half of the ’10 season turned into audition time, especially for Jason Garrett, Dallas’ new head coach. Jerry Jones humanely ended the Roy Williams experiment and has decided to move on from veterans Barber, Davis, and Colombo. Dez Bryant may not be able to pay for the jewelry he “buys”, but he can make plays on a football field. Assuming he doesn’t have any more significant off field trouble, Bryant will push Miles Austin for the role of Romo’s top downfield target. With Barber’s departure, Felix Jones will have no one buy himself to blame for not assuming the role of Dallas’ top ball carrier. With Garrett apparently having little to no confidence in Tashard Choice and the face that Murray is a rookie, Jones may be the most key player in Dallas. The loss of Romo got a lot of play for being Dallas’ demise, but the defense was steadily shoddy throughout the year. In to rectify that situation is Rob Ryan. There was virtually no turnover in the starting lineup, so Jerry must be hoping the coach makes a significant difference. DeMarcus Ware is still the highlight player on this side of the ball, but he can’t get it done on his own. Anthony Spencer hasn’t developed as quickly as Dallas would like as a pass rusher, and both the DL and secondary (especially cornerback) are still in need of upgrades.

They should be able to put up plenty of points, but I expect them to struggle again defensively. Talent matters.

Team MVP – Felix Jones
Breakout Player – Victor Butler
Disappointment – Mike Jenkins

3) New York Giants
(10-6, 2nd in ’10)

Key Gets – Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska), Marvin Austin (DL, UNC), Jerrel Jernigan (WR, Troy), James Brewer (OL, Indiana), Greg Jones (LB, Michigan State), Tyler Sash (S, Iowa)

Key Gones – Steve Smith (WR, Eagles), Kevin Boss (TE, Raiders), Shaun O’Hara (OL, free agent), Shawn Andrews (OL, free agent)

Key Games – wk3 @ Eagles, wk9 @ Patriots, wk11 v. Eagles, wk12 @ Saints, wk13 v. Packers, wk14 @ Cowboys, wk16 @ Jets, wk17 v. Cowboys

Last year was the first time since 1988 that the Giants have won at least 10 games and failed to make the playoffs. They controlled their own destiny until losing to the Eagles and eventual champs in weeks 15 and 16. Eli Manning led the league in a passing stat, but I don’t think interceptions is the category he had in mind. On one hand he was one of only five QBs who threw 30 or more TDs, but on the other hand, his completion percentage was easily the lowest on the bunch. That’s even more concerning when you consider that he was sacked only 16 times (2nd best among eligible passers). He’s not getting hit, but he’s not making the right reads often enough. Ahmad Bradshaw took over the Giants’ role of primary ball carrier last year rushing for over 1,200 yards, but his 7 fumbles are unacceptable. Look for Brandon Jacobs’ role to be larger this year. Hakeem Nicks is poised to be a star, and Mario Manningham looks to be putting it together as well. The biggest offseason news about the Giants’ defense is the bitter relationship between the front office and Osi Umenyiora. I don’t quite understand going out of your way to piss off one of your more talented players, but I guess Jerry Reese knows what he’s doing huh? On the plus side, second year end Jason Pierre-Paul looks poised to play with the big boys this year. Justin Tuck keeps getting it done, finishing with his third double digit sack season in four years in ’10. I think they’re linebackers will prove to be a big weakness. Mathias Kiwanuka and Clint Sintim are both coming off significant injuries and I’ve always thought Michael Boley was more hype than production. Jonathan Goff, a guy I mentioned last year as someone to watch, is the best of this bunch. Corey Webster is a quietly talented cover man, and Aaron Ross is fine in the slot. Unfortunately, both will be called upon to step up big time as Terrell Thomas just went down for the year with a torn ACL, and Prince Amukamara won’t be active to start the year because of a foot injury.

I have a hard time making a case for this team because I don’t think the offense is going to get it done well enough often enough, and the secondary has cracks in the foundation.

Team MVP – Ahmad Bradshaw
Breakout Player – Jason Pierre-Paul
Disappointment – Michael Boley

4) Washington Redskins
(6-10, 4th in ’10)

Key Gets – Tim Hightower (RB, Cardinals), Sean Locklear (OL, Seahawks), Josh Wilson (CB, Ravens), Ryan Kerrigan (DE/OLB, Purdue), Jarvis Jenkins (DL, Clemson), Leonard Hankerson (WR, Miami), Roy Helu (RB, Nebraska)

Key Gones – Albert Haynesworth (DL, Patriots), Donovan McNabb (QB, Vikings), Carlos Rogers (CB, 49ers), Andre Carter (DE/OLB, Patriots), Clinton Portis (RB, free agent)

Key Games – wk1 v. Giants, wk3 @ Cowboys, wk6 v. Eagles, wk11 v. Cowboys, wk13 v. Jets, wk14 v. Patriots, wk15 @ Giants, wk17 @ Eagles

Mike Shanahan’s first season at the helm of the Redskins didn’t go exactly as planned; especially the end of it as they lost seven of their last nine. Both McNabb and Haynesworth were disappointing and disgruntled last season, and both are now playing elsewhere. The Redskins QB job will be either Rex Grossman’s or John Beck’s to botch horribly. This has trainwreck written all over it. Washington brought in Hightower and Helu this offseason to share snaps with Ryan Torain. I don’t expect any of them to run away with the job. Santana Moss stuck is coming off a career year in receptions, but he’s also 32. Gaffney was a good add as a reliable target, but he’s not a playmaker. Chris Cooley is banged up and being monitored. Up front, last year’s first round pick Trent Williams would like to press reset on his rookie year, really struggling in pass protection and with penalties. I like the right side of the line with Jammal Brown and Chris Chester, and as a whole, the unit has had an impressive preseason. Things weren’t any prettier on defense last year. Haynesworth pouted about having to play nose in the new 3-4 defense, and no one other than Brian Orakpo earned more than 2.5 sacks on the year. That’s pathetic. To cure that ail, the Redskins drafted Ryan Kerrigan and Jarvis Jenkins. Kerrigan should slide in right away as the starting OLB opposite Orakpo, and Jenkins is expected to see plenty of time playing one of the end positions behind Adam Carriker. London Fletcher is solid but aging inside. I can’t stand DeAngelo Hall, the most overrated defender in football. Teams will continue to pick on him with Wilson, a very underrated add, starting at the other corner spot. Another good get was Atogwe at FS; really nice eye for the ball.

Team MVP – Santana Moss
Breakout Player – Ryan Kerrigan
Disappointment – whoever lines up under center

1) Philadelphia Eagles
2) Dallas Cowboys
3) New York Giants
4) Washington Redskins

Division MVP – Michael Vick
Division Breakout – Antonio Dixon
Division Disappointment – Mike Jenkins

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