With the exception of the 2017-2018 season that ended in a Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win, the NFC East hasn’t been an elite division in recent years by any means. On top of that, there has been a different division winner every year since 2004. That’s when the Eagles won the division four years in a row from 2001-2004. This past season was one of the East’s worst as the Eagles just beat out the Dallas Cowboys to take the division crown with a mediocre 9-7 record. Looking forward to this season, I believe all four teams are taking the right steps needed to become a real threat in the NFC. Below, I dive deeper into each team specifically with my 2020 NFC East predictions.
NFC East Predictions
The Dallas Cowboys just cannot seem to get over the hump and get back to their elite, winning ways. They have not reached the conference championship game since the 1995 season when they won their fifth Super Bowl. With the amount of talent they’ve had over the past quarter-century, that shouldn’t be the case.
At the conclusion of the 2019 season, it was inevitable for Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to be fired. Although it took some time, Jerry Jones finally realized that it was time to cut ties with Garrett after nearly a decade. For their new head coach, they brought in longtime Green Bay Packers play-caller, Mike McCarthy. As a Packers fan, I disagree with this decision. Virtually every Green Bay fan wanted him gone during the 2018 season and that’s exactly what happened. After sitting out a year, McCarthy is back to head coaching in the NFL. Although he wouldn’t have been my first choice, I still believe he will help the Cowboys succeed a lot more than Garrett ever did. McCarthy has much more playoff experience than Garrett including a Super Bowl victory under his belt.
New Acquisitions This Offseason
On top of the coaching change, the Cowboys added some key pieces to all three phases of the game. In the draft, they picked in my eyes the best receiver coming into the league in CeeDee Lamb. Lamb is joining an explosive wide out-group that includes star Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Those three, plus Ezekiel Elliott at running back will give Dak Prescott some very talented weapons. On defense, the Cowboys added veteran tackle Gerald McCoy to their defensive line. Expect to see both McCoy and DeMarcus Lawrence will be terrorizing quarterbacks all season long for Dallas.
Last but not least, we have to remember that kickers are people too. The Cowboys added veteran kicker Greg Zuerlein, also known as “The Leg”. Dallas has had their fair share of kicker problems ever since the head-scratching release of Dan Bailey. Brett Maher relieved Bailey of his duties but never lived up to him. After just two seasons, the Cowboys have decided to look elsewhere for their kicking duties. Zuerlein has played eight seasons in the NFL, all with the Los Angeles Rams, and can still contend to be the best place-kicker in the league. Although kicking isn’t the most entertaining part of football, you never know when you’ll need those extra three points at the end of a game.
Due to the positive changes that the Cowboys have made this offseason, I have them at the top of my 2020 NFC East predictions with potentially a deep run in the playoffs.
As mentioned previously, the Philadelphia Eagles were atop the NFC East last season with a 9-7 record. That earned them a home game in the Wild Card round of the playoffs where they lost to the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 17-9. Quarterback Carson Wentz got injured after what some would say was a dirty hit by Jadeveon Clowney. Wentz had to sit the remainder of the game and backup Josh McCown took over from there.
It wasn’t a great season by any means for the Eagles. However, it was pretty impressive for them to make the playoffs given the talent they had on the offensive side of the ball, specifically at wide receiver. Due to many injuries, their number one receiver was Greg Ward. You’ve probably heard this before, but Ward actually played quarterback in college at Houston. With more weapons for Wentz, or if his receivers stayed healthy, the Eagles could have very well been a dangerous team in the playoffs.
Looking Forward to This Season
As for this season, the Eagles front office made it a point to take care of the wide receiver position. In this year’s draft, they selected a total of three wide receivers; including Jalen Reagor out of TCU in the first round. On top of those three, they also went out and signed speedy wideout Marquise Goodwin in free agency to add more depth at wide receiver. These new Eagles receivers will join veterans Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson as Carson Wentz has some nice weapons to work with.
If the Eagles can stay away from the injury bug, then I see them as an underdog Super Bowl contender with a very high chance to make some noise come playoff time. As for now, I personally like what the Cowboys have done slightly better so I put the Eagles in second for my 2020 NFC East predictions.
Last season, the Washington Redskins weren’t really much of a threat to any of the NFC. One of the main reasons is because they had a rookie quarterback leading the team in Dwayne Haskins. The team posted just three total wins on the season and finished at the bottom of the entire conference. Some are already counting out Haskins to be a reliable starter in the NFL, but I am not by any means. I believe he just needs some more experience and be surrounded by some good coaching to lead him in the right direction to becoming a star quarterback.
After an 0-5 start, the Redskins decided it was time to part ways with head coach Jay Gruden and go in a different direction. As a replacement, their front office hired longtime Carolina Panthers head coach, Ron Rivera. I absolutely love this hire for Washington. Rivera is a good, strong head coach with Super Bowl experience. I believe he is the type of leader that Haskins needs as he grows in this league. Former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had high praise for Rivera when he was let go by Carolina. The two loved working with each other and I can see a similar bond form in Washington between Rivera and Haskins.
Redskins Found a Gem in the Draft
In this past draft, the Redskins had the second overall selection and it was virtually a guarantee as to who they would pick. The player who I am talking about is former Ohio State defensive end Chase Young. Some are saying that Young has the potential to be an all-time great, and I am 100% buying that. He is a freak of nature and is someone I would not want to see on the opposite side if I am a quarterback.
In just three seasons at Ohio State, Young tallied up 30.5 sacks and ranks second all-time for school sack leaders. He is behind Mike Vrabel who posted 36 sacks throughout his four years in college. With one more year, one can assume Young would have gotten the record. However, Chase Young still did break another Ohio State record. This past season, Young broke the single-season school record for sacks with 16.5. He is an exceptional talent who will be a dominant threat in this league for a long time.
I believe the Redskins will make some major strides this season compared to last. For these 2020 NFC East predictions, I have them securing a four-win improvement from last season.
New York Giants
Similar to the Redskins, the New York Giants weren’t that big of a threat last season with just four wins on the year. However, there were not that high expectations for the team as they had a rookie quarterback in Daniel Jones for the majority of the season while Giants legend Eli Manning was under center for the other games. Another key to their mediocre season was some poor coaching the players had to deal with. Head coach Pat Shurmur was fired after just two seasons with the team, and some thought the firing would come sooner than it did.
For their new head coach, the Giants decided to go with Joe Judge. Judge has spent the past seven years under the wing of Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots. If history tells us anything, Judge’s experience with the greatest coach of all time will help tremendously. After all, this will be his first-ever head coaching job with an NFL team. Players have praised Judge for his coaching ability and motivation to win. That includes current Patriots wide receiver who told Matt Lombardo of NJ.com that Judge is “very passionate” for the game of football. For now, it is looking like GM Dave Gettleman may have found his coach of the future.
A Mediocre Offseason For the G-Men
Player-wise, the Giants didn’t have necessarily a great offseason. In the draft, they took offensive tackle, Andrew Thomas, out of Georgia with the fourth overall pick. In my opinion, he wasn’t even the best tackle in the draft. I loved both Tristan Wirfs and Jedrick Wills and believe they will make more of an immediate impact on their respective teams than Thomas.
Also, I get that they needed some offensive line help. However, if I were the Giants, I couldn’t have passed up on Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson. Somehow, he dropped all the way to the eighth pick and got drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. He is one of the most versatile players I have seen and will be a straight baller on defense. When asked what position he played, all Simmons said was “defense.” He can play nearly any position on defense and Cardinals fans will be extremely happy that he fell in their lap in the draft.
As for their free agency, the Giants didn’t land any real big names for this season. Their best get was cornerback James Bradberry from the Carolina Panthers on a three-year, $45 million deal. Outside of Bradberry, they signed mere role players such as Blake Martinez, Levine Toilolo, and Kyler Fackrell. If the Giants improved their team more this past offseason, I could have considered predicting them with more wins. Since they did not have a really great or even good offseason, I have them in the cellar in my 2020 NFC East predictions.
The Division is On the Climb
For each of these four teams, I predict that they will have an increase in their win total from last season. Even if I didn’t necessarily love some of their offseason moves, I truly believe every team is better than last year. After sending a nine-win team to the playoffs last year and being one of the worst divisions in the entire NFL, I think the NFC East could cause some problems in both the regular season and playoffs.
Main Image: Embed from Getty Images