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Thursday, September 1, 2011

NFC Power Rankings - NFC East

We've finally come to an end, wrapping up the NFL Power Rankings for the preseason with the very strong NFC East. I've spoke with numerous experts and avid football fans and everyone seems to have a different team coming out on top in this division. Let me break down the lineups for you and show you where I have each team finishing up and who will go on to the playoffs.

4. Washington Redskins - "The Redskins will win the East this year!" A bold prediction from QB Rex Grossman, who may not even start when the regular season begins. We obviously know that Grossman is in no position to throw out such lofty expectations, especially coming off a dismal first season for Mike Shanahan and his son calling plays. It will take some time, but Shanahan will get the pieces in place for this team to be successful. He already brought in Tim Hightower from Arizona, who has looked very strong in the preseason. We all know how much Shanahan likes to run the ball and what he did to guys careers in Denver like Clinton Portis, Rueben Droughns, Mike Anderson, and many others. Once he gets the system implemented that he wants, he will have Hightower running for 1300 yards a season. It does take a talented franchise QB in today's league to win, and I'm not sure if the Redskins have that on their roster. They are between journeyman Rex Grossman and an inexperienced John Beck to lead this team into the season. All signs point to Beck being the starter for the opener, but both have played pretty equal during the preseason. Too many slip ups by either will open the door for the backup to come in and create an ongoing competition. As far as the rest of the offense goes, Jabar Gaffney is really not exciting me as a starting receiver, and Santana Moss still has some big plays in him, but they really lack the big receiver that can run routes over the middle of the field. Chris Cooley has battled some injuries so look for him to redeem himself from last years dismal season if he can stay on the field.
Defensively, this looks like a solid unit on paper. Barry Cofield will be a huge addition at nose tackle, and will give them more heart and stability than Haynesworth gave them. London Fletcher is a great linebacker, and is teamed up with Rocky McIntosh and Ryan Karrigan, so they should be a solid group. DeAngelo Hall came back to form last season by putting up good numbers, so look for him to build off that success. This will be an improved team from a year ago, but lack on consistency at the quarterback position will plague them. I have them finishing up 7-9 in 2011.

3. Dallas Cowboys - The rest of this division can go any of three ways. We're going to put the Dallas Cowboys in the third spot...for now. Everyone thinks this is one of the most talented teams on paper, but I don't really see it yet. Sure they have talent, but they are young and inexperienced at key positions on the field. The Cowboys have always been known for running the football, and this year they are going in with Felix Jones as the starter. Jones can break a big play any time he touches the ball, but history has proven that he can also break a leg and be out for most of the season. This will leave the Boys with Tashard Choice and rookie DeMarco Murray. Dez Bryant is still an immature kid who needs to grow up quick if he wants to wear number 88 in Dallas much longer. He can be very talented, but he also has injury issues and character issues that can keep him off the field. Miles Austin had a huge year two years ago, but really failed to live up to expectations last season. Tony Romo is back and is already reminding us in the preseason who his favorite target is. Jasen Witten should have a solid year with Romo back in the lineup and throwing him the rock.
Outside Linebacker DeMarcus Ware may be the best at his position, as he anchors a solid defensive front. The secondary has been an issue, so Rob Ryan brought Abram Elam over from Cleveland to help out. Gerald Sensabaugh and Mike Jenkins are decent players, but this unit will give up a lot of passing yards again this year.
I look for Romo to be healthy and put up good numbers like he's done in the past, but this team still doesn't know how to win big games, and I think that will hurt them in a very competitive division. If they can keep Felix Jones and Dez Bryant on the field, they may move up on this list. If not, they will be fighting it out with the Redskins for the bottom of the barrel. I have them finishing 9-7 this year. A winning record, but not enough to win this division or get into the playoffs.

2. Philadelphia Eagles - Most people already have this team in the Super Bowl based on off season moves they made, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Bringing in the top free agent in Nnamdi Asomugha was a huge surprise, and an even bigger surprise was getting Dominique Rogers-Cromartie from Arizona and keeping Asante Samuel. These three have yet to prove that they can coexist effectively on the field together. That showed when Pittsburgh torched them for three first half touchdown passes in week two of the preseason. This unit has a lot of depth on the defensive front so they should be able to swap out those hogs and keep a fresh attack coming at opposing QB's.
Michael Vick was the most pleasant surprise in the NFL last year, rejuvenating his career when Kolb went down with an early injury. Vick took advantage of the situation and put up career numbers across the board. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are one of the most explosive receiver tandems in the NFL, but the receiver I like most on this roster is Riley Cooper. Him and Vick seem to be on the same page and he isn't scared to go over the middle and pluck those balls out of the air in traffic. Brent Celek is healthy and should provide a nice check down target for Vick. LeSean McCoy is poised to have a breakout year, and has looked crisp in the preseason. Ronnie Brown signed a one year deal, but I'm not sure what role he's going to play in this offense. Personally, I think it may have been career suicide coming to Philly. He could have shined more going somewhere like Arizona or Seattle where he could have been featured more often. This team can be the best in the NFC, but they need to come together and prove it on the field week after week before they move up this list. A lighter schedule playing the NFC West will help, so I give them a 10-6 mark.

1. New York Giants - I almost ranked this team third in the division. That's how close all these teams stack up. The Giants have been disappointing in the preseason, and that's really putting it lightly. Eli Manning has struggled, and is yet to throw a TD pass. If you're going to make comparison comments to Tom Brady, you need to go out and play as such. Right now you're making all the critics look right in their comments about you. Giving the fact that Eli plays like we know he can, this will be one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Kevin Boss was a huge loss, but they have some young guys at that position that they like. Hakeem Nicks should have a huge season, and Mario Manningham and a healthy Dominick Hixon will be good targets for Manning. Brandon Jacobs is still a beast, as he's proved this preseason rumbling over defenders for long touchdown runs. Resigning Bradshaw was a great move for the Giants, as he is a shifty change of pace back that has a knack for finding the hole and hitting it quickly. The G-Men are deep at RB, so even if one of these guys goes down, they shouldn't miss a beat with Ware and Brown coming off the bench.
Defensively, this could be one of the best units in the league. Injuries, primarily in the secondary, have killed them this preseason, with big name players like Terrell Thomas suffering season ending injuries. Prince Amukamara is the highly toted rookie CB from Nebraska that will be out for the beginning of the season, but should be back to full form by week 3 or 4. They still have Corey Webster and Aaron Ross at the corners, so I think they will still be a solid unit.
If Eli can manage to get it together this year and throw more TD's than his brother, who hasn't suited up yet for the Colts, I think the Giants will be just fine. This team will win 10 games this year, but win the tie breaker over the Eagles to win the division. Both teams may make it into the playoffs, but look for the football Giants to finish on top.

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