Tuesday, August 29, 2006

NFC East Predictions

I am a big fan of the NFC BEAST... Here you are

1. Dallas
2. Philly
3. New York
4. Washington

Anybody can finish 1st and anybody can finish last. Last year everybody had philly repeating as division champs, but after a year in last place nobody likes them anymore. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of people picking Washington to win the division, with the Eagles or Giants in last place.

Washington Redskins. ( 4th Place)
I live in washington and everybody and their mom already wants to buy Redskins Superbowl tickets. The Redskins are the pre-season paper champions once again. It is amazing how each year the Redskins sign some high profile guys and think all their problems will disappear. From Bringing in High profile coaches, Martyball and Daniel Snyder Literally flying in Steve Spurier to bringing in Deion, Mark Carrier, Stephen Davis, Bruce Smith, Mark Brunell, Randy Thomas, and the list goes on and on. Mo money = Mo problems.

Everybody is so high on the Skins because of what happened last year. Most people think the Redskins cured their offseason problems by bringing in some high priced free agents. Last year was last year, and each NFL season brings new problems and new fortunes.

Last year the Redskins went on a little "run" to close out their season. Now lets take a closer look at that 5 game win streak. They beat Harvard Rookie Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Rams, they beat an Arizona team that quit on their season, I'll admit they beat Dallas, they beat the giants in a poorly officiated game, and then they beat the Eagles scrubs on a Sean Taylor 39 yard fumble return in the final 2 minutes. Then, they won the 1st of many controversial officiated NFL playoff games. If you would have reversed the Lavar Arrington fumble recovery, the Sean Taylor phantom touchdown, or the Tampa Bay Receivers juggle rule touchdown, they lose. If the Redskins would have lost in Round one at Tampa Bay, they wouldn’t have these high expectations. Seattle lost the turnover battle, and Sean Alexander knocked himself out and the Redskins still couldn't make their game competitive. Now the Redskins did have that 5 game win streak, but beating the Mike McMahon led Eagles scrubs in the final 2 minutes doesn’t impress me. I just see the market overrating them here.

The Redskins have such high expectations that Mark Brunell has already been quoted saying "superbowl or bust". Those are some lofty expectations to live up to.

Some failures to look out for....
- 4 out of 5 offensive lineman had major surgury in the offseason, thats 80% of their offensive line that will be testing out their footing very carefully. Throw in the fact that the Redskins always trade away their draft picks, and they have a bunch of unproven players that will have to fill in.
- Al Saunders is new... While Philly has had that same coaching staff for 5+ years, and Dallas and New York should build upon what they have, the Redskins have to adjust to a new offensive “playcaller “who is being called an associate head coach. Al Saunders is known for his ariel passing attack in St. Louis, and his ground attack in Kansas City, but the chiefs offense didn't "get it" instantly.
- 2 years ago, everybody wanted Mark Brunell out of town as he looked horrible with that 63.9 QB rating . In fact, last year Patrick Ramsey opened up the year as the starting quarterback. Mark Brunell will be an aging 36 in a division with good pass rushers.
- Who knows which Brunell shows up this year. There is already a large movement that wants to see Jason Cambell play. I don't think Mark Brunell will take every snap this year, and depending on how Campbell fills in, there could be a QB controversy. There is nothing that tears a team apart more than a QB controversy. The backup quarterback, is the most popular guy on the team.
- The new "upgrades" might not be such upgrades after all. Everybody thinks the Redskins cured their pass rush because they brought in Andre Carter... Carter had 4.5 sacks last year, and can't do it all by himself. Phillip Daniels actually started to bring on a respectable pass rush last year, but he is already hurt in preseason. I've been saying for years that this team really lacks a pass rush, and Greg Williams can't keep pulling rabbits out of hats. Everybody is focused on their offense improving, but I think it is likely this defense might take a step back.
- Corner back. Who is going to play Nickel corner? If Kenny Wright is your nickel corner, your in trouble. Carlos Rodgers is still young and relatively unproven but I think he will be just fine. Shawn Springs is now a 10 year VET, and already out injured 4-6 weeks. He is the same Shawn Springs that was an injury concern back in Seattle. I do NOT like their corner situation at all, and when you combine that with a poor pass rush it could mean trouble. Greg Williams will have to scheme the heck out of teams, which could work, but it could also put his players out of position. The Redskins just traded for Mike Rumph, possibly the worst DB in the league. In a game of inches, the guy can routinely get beat by 5-10 yards. That is a panic move to me, and I think they are more likely to play Antwaun Edwards.
- Linebacker is also a concern. Marcus Washington is solid, but Lemar Marshall is a passing "C" at best, and Rocky McIntosh is only a rookie. They got rid of pass rush specialist Chris Clemens and brought in James Posey from Buffalo. So the redskins are thin at LB as well.
- The offense MAY improve, but Greg Williams has his hands full with this defense. If he provides the same results as last year, the guy deserves coach of the year consideration as an ASSISTANT.
- On offense, everybody loves the fact that the redskins brought in Brandon Lloyd and Antwain Randel El. Besides the fact that they grossly overpaid for both of them, neither of the receivers are listed above 6 feet tall. Lloyd is a skinny 6' receiver, and Randel el is listed at 5'10, but is probably closer to 5'8. They have 3 smurfs playing receiver. Moss and Randel El are the same player, and Lloyd is the misfit with good hands. There is a big difference between throwing to tall receivers with big wingspans, and little smurfs.
- The team has an overall lack of depth. I'd say they have a quality backup running back, and Campbell might be worthwhile at QB, they have a few receivers, but where is the O-Line depth? Where are the Linebackers and defensive backs? The fans always say " as long as we stay healthy, we will win the division". The only problem is that every team gets hurt, and every teams needs depth. The redskins have been giving away middle and later round draft picks for years, and it will bite them in the ass this year.

The Redskins raised the stakes with all those acquisitions, but once again we will see disappointment in Washington. That team has too many problems for me to pick them to win the division, which is why I put them in dead last place.

New York Giants

The NFC East is the best division in football. The way the schedule works out, everybody plays their own divisional opponents twice, plays everybody in 2 divisions, and then plays the corresponding place teams from their conference...

The Giants have the NFC EAST division rivals twice,
The whole NFC South ( 2nd best division in the NFC)
The AFC south ( a solid division)
1st place teams of the central, and west (Chicago and Seattle)
This means the Giants have the hardest schedule in the NFL.

I think the Giants have a solid team. In fact, they might have the best team in the division. Separating the NFC East is very difficult. Some say, there could be a lot of close games, and it could all come down to the kickers. If it all comes down to kickers, I'd say Dallas ( Vanderjack) is in the best shape, Philly ( Akers) is #2, New York Giants ( feely) are 3rd, and Redskins ( Hall) are in the most trouble ( he already went 1/3 in his first preseason game and had a kick blocked against New England).

I'd like to throw in another variable. Winning on the road. Eli Manning stepped up more than anybody dreamed in year 2 of his NFL career. Eli was 2nd in the NFC in passing yards, and tied for 1st in touchdowns. Eli did also throw 17 interceptions and not have a good completion percentage. I noticed that a lot of Eli's picks, were careless throws in the red zone towards Plax. I know Terrell Owens gets a lot of press for being a Pre-Madonna receiver, but Plax is pretty high maintenance as well. You can clearly see him crying for the ball during games. In the Dallas loss, Manning just threw those lazy jump balls up to Plax in the red zone against double coverage. Plax is big and tall with a frame that will allow him to beat some smaller cornerbacks, but sometimes he fails to make the routine catches and I'd venture to say that 75% of Mannings interceptions were passes intended for Plax. I'd also say that most of those picks were in or near the red zone. It‘s like the intelligent Eli Manning just blindly throws to Plax in the red zone. It seems like a very cure-able problem to cure for the Giants

Eli has shown some trouble winning on the road, which will be HUGE this year. The team with the best divisional record, might win the NFC east. To have the best record in the NFC East, a team will have to win on the road.

I think the Giants front 7 is actually pretty deep. They have 2 Probowl bookends, followed by young Justin Tuck and 1st round speedster Mathias Kiwanuka. When other teams pass rushes could be getting tired late in games, the giants have 4 horses to chase after you. In the playoff loss to Carolina last year, the Giants were picking up guys off the street to play linebacker, they now how some depth. They have 3rd round pick Gerris Wilkinson, Brandon Short, and Reggie Torbor all on the bench. Their current bench is better than their playoff starting linebackers last year. I think Arrington has a chip on his shoulder, and could help the Giants to continue producing turnovers on defense. An underrated aspect of their scoring offense last year, is the good field position they got on turnovers, and their ability to take low risk chances.

I think their secondary can't really be any worse than last year. I still believe Sam Madison is a top 5 corner, and he can't be any worse than Will "toast" Allen. I was reading an article from the Star Ledger that talked about how Madison was struggling in Miami because they tried to have him “react” to a receiver by playing 10 yards off the ball. Madison has been known to be a good physical corner and that’s how the aggressive Tim Lewis will use him this year. I think the switch back to more press coverage will help out Madisons game a lot. Corey Webster the left side starter was a 2nd round steal in the draft two years ago, and I like the underrated pickup of Rw Mcquarters. Curtis Deloach is a taller corner who was starting games last year, and now he's 4th on the depth chart. The Giants DC Tim Lewis, blitzed like hell last year when they had no secondary, I'd like to see what they do this year with a better secondary. Willie Demps was an "upgrade" brought in from Baltimore, but I think he's overrated. I think he was one of the weak links of the Ravens. I do like the backup Quenton Harris from Arizona for added depth.

I think Tiki Barber is irreplaceable at running back. He helps make that offense flow. Barber is both a rushing and receiving threat. Brandon Jacobs is a short yardage back, and I think the Giants have no answer if Barber gets hurt. Barber is a smaller back who is getting older, and if he misses more than 3 games, the giants are in serious trouble. I think Derrick Ward ( the current backup) is complete garbage. The Giants should look to pick up a camp cut off waivers. If Eli Manning is on the road, with Derrick Ward as his starting running back, he’s in trouble as teams will tee off against him..

I like the blend of receivers they have. Throw in the fact that Shock is a good pass catching TE, Barber is a good receiving threat, and you have 3 solid receivers. Plax is a tall deep ball guy in his prime. Toomer is a solid route running vet, and Moss is that speedy slot receiver you can throw screens to. Tim Carter is also a speedster on the bench but often injured.

I think the Giants have a very solid team, with good depth at their front 7 on defense, but without a quality backup quarterback or running back. The Giants could be a year or two away. I think their schedule is brutal this year, especially their first 6 games...
Indy, at philly, at seattle, (early bye), washington, at Atlanta, and at Dallas. The giants could theoretically start out 2-4, while Dallas and Philly could be off to much hotter starts.

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