NFC East 2017 Preview

For the overall 2017 NFL Preview click here, and see the links at the bottom of the page for the rest of the divisional previews.

Eagles 8-8

Coach Doug Pederson thinks he’s got a Super Bowl caliber team in Philly, but he’ll have to settle for a division winner.

Carson Wentz is still described as a work in progress, but he got a ton of help in the offseason: Better receivers (Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith), better offensive linemen (Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski), and better eyes. Jeffrey’s integration into the offense has been slowed by injury (which was his biggest knock in Chicago) but the addition of LeGarrette Blount should help provide the Eagles with a great 1-2 punch at running back (Darren Sproles is still a versatile threat, even at age 34).

The Eagles’ defense was up and down in 2016, ranking in the top half of the league in points allowed and yards allowed. This year, the team added cornerback Ronald Darby and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan via trade, but overall the unit isn’t significantly better than it was last year. The way I see it, Philadelphia is in the same boat as Washington: More talented than last season, but it won’t necessarily show up in the won/loss column because of a tough schedule that includes games against the AFC West and a more competitive NFC East.

Cowboys 7-9

Don’t believe the Dallas hype!

The Dallas downfall begins and ends with this incredible fact: The Cowboys are far and away the most suspended team in the league. David Irving is the third Cowboys pass rusher in the last year to start the season on suspension and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Ezekiel Elliott is facing a six-game ban.

Furthermore, two-fifths of the vaunted Cowboys offensive line has changed, so the strength of that unit is a bit in flux at a time when Dak Prescott has to try to ward off a sophomore slump, all without Elliott around to take some of the pressure off.

Jaylon Smith is set to make his long anticipated debut for the Dallas defense, and looks like he’ll be a stud. But this unit lost multiple starters to free agency and suspension, Anthony Hitchens is out half the season with a knee injury, and without the benefit of a dominant, ball-control offense, I expect the Dallas offense to struggle and the team as a whole to revert to the mean.

Giants 7-9

A lot of people like New York to overtake Dallas for the NFC East title.

I’m not one of those people.

The Giants offense looked awful in the preseason and now enter the season with Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall hobbled. When healthy, Marshall is an upgrade over the departed Victor Cruz, but relying on 36 year-old Eli Manning to carry the load without a good run game is risky with so many elite pass rushers on the Giants schedule.

Though losing Johnathan Hankins hurts, most of the players that made the Giants defense a top five unit in 2016 return; they figure to remain among the best defenses in the league this year. However, Big Blue will get little rest in 2017. The Giants will play four teams coming off a bye this season and will have 22 fewer days of rest than their opponents — both are the most in the NFL. They’ll also have to play four games in the Pacific or Mountain Time Zones. With a difficult schedule providing few breaks, count on the Giants coming up short of the postseason.

Redskins 7-9

Kirk Cousins is probably playing his final season in Washington and he’ll do so without Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, making him the first QB to have to deal with the loss of two 1,000-yard receivers in the same offseason. The ‘Skins signed Terrelle Pryor Sr. to offset at least one of those losses, but he’s a one-year-lease-with-an-option-to-buy learning a new system. The other starter is Josh Doctson, a huge question mark coming off an injury-plagued rookie campaign that saw him catch only two passes. And yet, former offensive coordinator Sean McVay might be the biggest loss of all (as the ‘Skins’ preseason struggles might indicate) because it’s left the play-calling duties to head coach Jay Gruden. Folks, we’re about to find out just how good Cousins really is.

Meanwhile, the defense underwent a much needed overhaul, and apparently brought tons of hyperbole. New defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is looking to beat people up, new inside linebacker Zach Brown thinks he can be the best defender in the league, and holdover corner Josh Norman is ready unleash hell on his foes. While this unit figures to fare better than last year’s 28th-ranked squad — the ‘Skins used their top three draft picks on defensive players, headlined by first-rounder Jonathan Allen, who will be coached by one of the top defensive line coaches in the league, Jim Tomsula — the loss of feel good story Phil Taylor and the curious situation surrounding Su’a Cravens will hurt badly.

Even with Coldplay’s blessing, the Redskins will likely start slow on offense, intermittently struggle on defense, and play on the wrong side of .500 for most of the season.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

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Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on

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