Columnist: Jim R.
Outlook and predictions for the NFC East in 2011:
1. Philadelphia Eagles 12-4 Last season: 10-6.
The Eagles vaulted to the top of this division with an unbelievable free-agency period. They were a very solid, on-the-verge team last season, falling short in the Wild Card Playoffs against eventual Super Bowl winners the Green Bay Packers. They acquired 2009 Pro-Bowl corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from Arizona in exchange for Kevin Kolb, then signed the most coveted free-agent in the league in corner Nnamdi Asomugha. Combining these two with already established elite coverman Asante Samuel gives Philly the best cover secondary in the league, hands down. They could even experiment with Cromartie at safety so they wouldn’t have to trade Samuel, as some are speculating. They also addressed their need in pass-rush, signing 12 sack man, last season Pro-Bowler Jason Babin. With the holes in the defense secured, look for Mike Vick to build upon his marvelous comeback season, surrounded by weapons WR DeSean Jackson and versatile RB’s Lesean McCoy and newly acquired Ronnie Brown. It’s safe to say they are now far superior to every other team in the division, and should have no problem taking the crown should they meet their potential.
2. New York Giants 10-6 Last season: 10-6
The Giants are an interesting team. Their lack of consistency has been the main problem, even though they put together a ten-win campaign in 2010. I think we will see a similar season in 2011, as they failed to really address defensive needs during free-agency. They have an offense that has some explosive pieces, including RB Ahmad Bradshaw who is currently on the market, and WR Hakeem Nicks. The Giants lack star-power on defense, and haven’t shown they can perform on offense enough to consistently win games or compete with top-tier teams. They will be staring up at the Eagles all season long, and I don’t think they have enough to get over the hump. They will be lucky to get a wild-card, or even make the playoffs, given all the teams on the rise in the NFC.
3. Dallas Cowboys 9-7 Last season: 6-10
Dallas is another one of those teams that is a mystery to me. They have enough talent to win ball games, that’s no question. I think QB Tony Romo comes back from injury and plays well, but this team needs more time together to gel. Not to mention the NFC is stacked, they will be facing stiff competition all across the board, and will also be looking up at Philly in the division. Will they rebound from last year? I believe so. But it is inconceivable to think they will come back from a 6-10 season to be a powerhouse this year, as they have consistently failed to meet expectations even when they were healthy and there wasn’t coaching issues or off the field player issues. Combine that with the loss of RB Marion Barber, who was a consistent producer, and the Boys have a couple questions on the offensive end. They have some young talent in WR Miles Austin and RB Felix Jones, but this will be Jones’ first year as full-time starter and Austin has been somewhat inconsistent, he needs Tony Romo to be on his game to be productive. The Cowboys could surprise us all, but I don’t expect the them to be a big contender this season.
4. Washington Redskins 3-13 Last season: 6-10
The Redskins are feeling the effects from Daniel Snyder’s awful history in free-agent signings. They never gave Donovan McNabb a chance, and are now stuck with John Beck going into training camp as the number one. That in itself says to me this team will be rebuilding for the next few years, and the Skins lack in every area to realistically compete in the NFC. They are trumped in talent by leaps and bounds by their division counterparts, and will be nothing more than a league doormat in 2011.