Culture of Hoops

2015 NFL Season Preview: NFC East

Screen capture courtesy of the NFL/YouTube.

Screen capture courtesy of the NFL/YouTube.

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One thing that is always in the NFC East: anything can happen. Expect more of the same this season. The Dallas Cowboys went 12-4 and claimed the division crown thanks to a breakout season from running back DeMarco Murray, who then decided to cash in and take his talents to the Philadelphia Eagles. You would think this would mean Chip Kelly and the Eagles would be poised to take the crown, but they lost some key players as well. The Washington Redskins have Robert Griffith III back, somewhat at least. Odell Beckham Jr., no relation to David Beckham that we know of at least, had an awesome campaign on a New York Giants squad that went 6-10 last season. What does it all mean? It means once again the NFC East race is wide open.

Most Important Player: DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas has one of the huge fanbases in America. Even when they struggle, you cannot tell them the Cowboys are not America’s team. Last season, the Cowboys rewarded their fans with a great season, ending the year with a five-point loss to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. DeMarco Murray, the 2014 Offensive Player of the Year, had a lot to do with that. He racked up a career best and league high 1, 845 yards on the ground and found the end zone 13 times. The Cowboys’ ability to run the ball made life much easier for Tony Romo and his favorite target Dez Bryant to hook up through the air. Phily fans are hoping Murray will have the same effect seeing as they now have a new quarterback in Sam Bradford. With all the changes that have taken place in the Eagles camp, they are going to need a solid ground attack to sustain them until they find their wings; no pun intended… okay, maybe a little. But if this move to acquire Bradford backfires in Kelly’s face like some think it will, Murray could be the difference between Philadelphia finishing first or as the worst team in the NFC East.

X-Factor: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, New York Giants
Last season, Beckham had about as good of a rookie campaign as a wide receiver could ask in the NFL. The former LSU Tiger was good enough to earn the cover of Madden 2016 and a few endorsements as well. He’s likable, makes great catches, and gave Giants fans a reason to keep watching. Beckham was also a great wideout to have on your fantasy squad as well. Though he appeared in only 12 games, Beckham reeled in 91 catches for 1,305 yards and averaged 14.3 yards per catch. In other words, Beckham was good for a first down every time he touched the ball. Along with those numbers, he also caught 12 touchdowns and averaged almost 109 yards per game, thrusting himself into the conversation as one of the league best receivers. If Beckham can somehow exceed those numbers, the Giants will definitely be a threat in the division for the crown.

Best Team: Dallas Cowboys
With all the changes that have taken place in this division one thing is certain, the Cowboys still have Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Regardless of how you feel about either one, particularly Romo, they are one of the best QB/WR tandems in the league when they are clicking. The defense may not be as stout as it was last season due to some off the field issues from guys like Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy, but may be formidable enough to get by in a division that features the Washington Redskins offensive line. The only question will be the running game because of the loss of Murray. If the Cowboys continue to get positive production in the running game, expect the Cowboys to once again emerge as the best team in the NFC.

Team that could surprise: New York Giants
Tom Coughlin and the Giants struggled last year, eeking out only a 6-10 record. A lot of that had to do with a serious case of the injury bug. The theme in this division is change. All of the teams around the Giants have changed. One of the cool things about change though is it gives one the opportunity to heal. The Giants are healthy, the Cowboys no longer have the horse they rode last year in Murray, and the Eagles completed a questionable overhaul. All of this is the perfect storm for the Giants to rise from the ashes and snatch the crown. They still have Eli Manning and Victor Cruz, but now they have Beckham as well. There is no reason to be afraid to pick the Giants to win this division if they can stay healthy.

Bold Prediction: The Giants win the NFC East and make an appearance in the NFC title game
I am not going to go as far as to pick the Giants to go to the Super Bowl, but they have a knack for showing up in the big game when you least expect. With the Seattle Seahawks pretty much in tact, it’s hard to not pick them to go to the Super Bowl again. However, do not be surprised if the Seahawks have to go through the Giants to get there. The injury bug is kind of like lightning, it usually does not strike twice in the same spot, which was the only thing that put them out of the conversation last year. The other reason this could be the Giants’ year is that after last year’s campaign, Coughlin is on the hot seat, a seat he seems to work best from. Expect him to have the Giants more than ready to threaten in the league’s most entertaining division.

Offensive Player of the Year: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, New York Giants
Yeah, yeah, I know. Beckham again but the guy is special and he has a great QB to get him the ball. He also plays alongside Victor Cruz, who will look to bounce back as well. Having to play next to Cruz gives Beckham more opportunities to grow and for defenses to not focus solely on him. Beckham has a chance to be even better this season than last season. Of course, there is the possibility of the sophomore slump, but he should be able to avoid it.

Final Standings:
Although Giants fan would love to see their team back on top in the division, it’s just not going to happen this year. Dallas and Philadelphia are the favorites but I do think they will take a few hits along the way. At the end of the day, I have the Eagles coming out on top just based off the sheer craziness of their head coach Chip Kelly, but it will not be easy.

1. Philadelphia Eagles 11-5
2. Dallas Cowboys 10-6
3. New York Giants 7-9
4. Washington Redskins 5-11

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