The Dallas Cowboys had the best record in the NFC last season at 13-3, and the New York Giants produced a solid 11-5 season. But both teams lost to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. The division will be one of the toughest in the league this season, and all four teams have a chance to make the playoffs.
Cody Jinnette’s NFC East Predictions
A few words before I dig into this:
1. Personally, I would stay away from the over/unders in this division. I’m picking them anyway, but this is the hardest division to peg and it’s a stay away for me.
2. They cross with the AFC West, which I think is the best division in football. I have a hard time seeing anyone from the NFC East getting more than two wins against the AFC West this season.
3. Point No. 2 is why I took my stance on point No. 1. It’s hard to justify taking an over when there isn’t an easy win in the AFC cross-division, and there also isn’t an easy win in your own division.
1. Dallas Cowboys
The Ezekiel Elliott suspension is really, really scaring me from taking this over. The first six games aren’t easy anyway, and the absence of Elliott makes these games even tougher. They open the season at home against the Giants before back-to-back road games at the Broncos and Cardinals. They play the Rams and Packers at home before the bye week, and then they’re at the 49ers. With Zeke, they’re probably 4-2 in their first six games. Without him, it’s not crazy to think they come out 2-4. Yes, their offensive line is still really good after a few offseason changes. And yes, good offensive lines help quarterbacks stay upright and make the running game more effective. But Dallas is still going to miss Zeke a lot. Dallas ranked third in percentage of run plays on first down (38.9 percent last year), so the offense will rely more on Dak Prescott without Elliott. The first four defenses on the schedule are some of the toughest in the league, and if Prescott doesn’t figure it out without Elliott on first down, a 1-3 start will make reaching 10 wins really tough.
I think they’ll start 3-3 and find seven other wins somewhere along the way. They have a good offense and they had a great draft. Taco Charlton, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are all NFL-ready defensive draft picks which could bring a real spark to a defense that desperately needs one. I don’t think they’ll have the same record as last year’s 13-3 team, but they’ll be good enough to win the division (+190) and will have a chance at winning the NFC (+650). The Pick: Cowboys over 9.5 (even).
2. New York Giants
If you follow all my previews, you’ll see a lot of “I loved their draft,” “they really improved X side of the ball with this year’s draft,” and “they brought in some NFL-ready guys.” The 2017 NFL Draft class was a very good one, but the Giants still managed to not have a great draft. They didn’t make themselves better, and the only pick I liked was Wayne Gallman in the fourth round. The Gallman pick elevated the Giants’ running backs corps from “atrocious” to just “very bad.”
The good news for Giants fans: they still have the best wide receiver in the NFL in Odell Beckham Jr.(don’t @ me), an incredible defense, and they’ll be better than the Philadelphia Eagles. What you saw from last year’s team is what you’re getting with this year’s team, which is not always a bad thing. If you like their offense and believe in Eli Manning, then take the over. If you watched them a lot last year and thought they had a good team, take the over. Their schedule is a little tougher than last year, so I think the 11 wins from last year turns into somewhere between 8-10 this year, which is why I want nothing to do with this over/under. I think Vegas nailed it. I really like the push here, but if I had to chose, I’d take the under. The Pick: Giants under 9 (-115).
3. Washington Redskins
I originally had them at under 7.5 wins and last in the division, but I’ve talked myself into them over the last 30 minutes. They made some nice additions in free agency with receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. and linebacker Zach Brown, and they added four guys in the draft that will contribute this year. They also locked our Lord and Savior Kirk Cousins into yet another contract year. Contract year Kirk Cousins is a great QB, so it’s a really savvy front office move to keep him at that level in perpetuity. Their running game, led by Fat Rob Kelley and rookie Samaje Perine, should be really good this year and will provide the balance they were missing the first half of last season. This pick is more of a gut feeling than an objective look at who they are as a team, but I believe in Kirk Cousins, Julie believes in Kirk Cousins, and you should believe in Kirk Cousins. The Pick: Redskins over 7.5 (-115).
4. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles winning seven games last year was a fluke. They beat up on two terrible teams and somehow blew out the Steelers in the first three weeks; there was an eight game stretch in the middle of the season where their only win was against the Falcons; and they beat the Cowboys in Week 17 when the Dallas sat its starters for the majority of the game. The Eagles were not a seven-win team last year.
This year, the Eagles could be a legitimate seven-win team. They added a a receiver that would actually see the field for other teams in Alshon Jeffery, they traded for a good cornerback in Ronald Darby, and they drafted Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett, whom I love, in the first round. The problem with this team is that I see three games they should win, a lot of games they’ll be in, and a few more that they shouldn’t be in. There should be some improvement in the onfield product, but look for their record to still be aggressively mediocre. The Pick: Eagles under 8 (+120).
Player Prop: Terrelle Pryor Sr. +3300 for Most Receiving Yards
This may surprise some people, but the league leader in receiving yards last year was TY Hilton with 1,448 yards. Brandon Lloyd, David Boston, Mushin Muhammad, and Josh Gordon all have receiving yard titles. Weird things happen with receivers. Terrelle Pryor checks off everything on my made-up-in-the-last-15-minutes-prop-bet checklist:
1. Are they a 1,500-yard receiver? Once you break the 1,400 benchmark, you’re there. From that point on, you pass it by as much as you can and hope for a little help.
2. Is their team good enough to sit them at the end of the season? Will they blow out half the teams they play? Ask Julio Jones if this matters.
3. Do stats matter to them? This is the most resounding yes on this list. Pryor took a one-year gamble on himself. Kirk Cousins contract year + Terrelle Pryor contract year = sign me up now please.
Cole Frederick’s NFC East Predictions
1. New York Giants
The Giants have the best roster in the division on both sides of the ball. There are only two reasons to doubt this team: first, the schedule is brutal. It’s very unlikely they repeat last year’s 11-win season. Second, they still employ Eli Manning at quarterback. Look, I know I sound like a bitter Patriots fan, but I still have no freaking clue how Eli Manning has two Super Bowl MVPs. He’s not a top-10 quarterback, but even he won’t be able to completely hold back an offense that has Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and rookie Evan Engram. I’m with Cody on the belief that this ends up as a push, but I think nine wins will be enough to win the division. The Pick: Giants over 9 (-115).
2. Philadelphia Eagles
I’m much higher on the Eagles than Cody, and this is based on the belief that Carson Wentz makes a substantial leap and shows he is the quarterback of the future. Having Jeffery to throw to on the outside certainly helps, and I think this team will be improved on both sides of the ball. The schedule does them no favors, but I expect this team to be in the mix for the division title in December. Eight wins is probably where they end up, but I’ll take the over anyway. The Pick: Eagles over 8 (-150).
3. Dallas Cowboys
After last year’s 13-3 season, some regression is expected for the Cowboys. The schedule is much tougher, Ezekiel Elliott will miss the first season games, the offensive line probably won’t be as dominant and the defense is inexperienced. On the positive side, Dak Prescott was excellent as a rookie, and he is surrounded by playmakers at receiver and in the backfield. Once Elliott returns, this figures to be one of the best offenses in the league.
So why am I not bullish on the Cowboys? Well, the schedule has a lot to do with it. In those first six games without Elliott, the Cowboys will likely be underdogs in at least three games and possibly four. Even when Elliott returns, the schedule is still very difficult. The last half of the season includes road games at the Giants, Falcons and Raiders, as well as a home game against Seattle. I’m very skeptical of these Cowboys, and I think their ceiling is probably 10 wins. After everything went their way during the 2016 season, I think Dallas will regress to the mean and miss out on the postseason. The Pick: Cowboys under 9.5 (-130).
4. Washington Redskins
I feel the same way about the Redskins as I do the Saints. The offense will be good enough to keep them in every game this season, but I’m skeptical of the defense. Kirk Cousins is set for another big season, and he has weapons on the perimeter and in the backfield. I don’t think they’ll be a bad team, but they feel like a 7-9 team that’s a tough out each week. The Pick: Redskins under 7.5 (-115).