Doc's 2007 NFC East Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 08/28/2007
The NFC East is one of the few divisions in the NFL that actually boasts two preseason Super Bowl contenders. Granted, it's the NFC and anyone from Arizona to Atlanta has a shot of doing some damage in this featherweight conference. But with Dallas and Philadelphia loaded up on both sides of the ball I think that the winner of this division will find its way into the NFC Title game.
But they won't win it.
Dallas and Philly are two tough customers. But much like the AFC North these teams simply demolish one another during their six divisional games. As a result it's incredibly difficult to secure home-field advantage, or even a bye in the opening round of the playoffs, and that all conspires against these teams when we get into January. This year should be no different. There doesn't appear to be a clear disparity in the level of talent from the No. 1 to the No. 4 team in the East. Each has its clear strengths and weaknesses and, to be honest, I could say that I wouldn't be surprised if at the end of the year the final standings were the exact opposite of what I've predicted here.
Here's Doc's 2007 NFC East Preview:
1) DALLAS COWBOYS
2006 Record: 9-8 (4-4 home, 5-4 road)
2006 Against the Spread: 9-7-1 (2-6 home, 4-3-1 road); 10-5-2 vs. total (3-5 h, 3-3-1 r)
2006 Rankings: 5th offense (5th pass, 13th rush); 13th defense (24th pass, 10th rush)
2007 Odds: 20/1 to win SB, 8/1 to win NFC, 9/5 to win NFC East, 9.5 wins O/U
Outlook: In my original rankings I had the Cowboys rated as the No. 2 team in the East, behind Philly, and was incredibly skeptical about all of the proclamations that this was a Super Bowl team. Not any more. The Cowboys have been the most impressive team I've seen in the preseason and their blend of talent, experience, and athleticism gives them the edge over the aging Eagles.
The Terrible T's - Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn and Tony Romo - form an exceptional trio. But the true strength of this team comes from its ability to whale away at an opponent with an improved offensive line, two outstanding running backs, and Jason Witten in the seams. They can attack in so many ways that they should be tough to stop. I think their defense has some holes, and I wonder if they can get a big stop when Dallas is behind, but Wade Phillips excels at teaching the 3-4 and has the Cowboys in full-out attack mode.
The Cowboys are going to be a tough bet this year for a few reasons. First, they are going to be faced with a ton of inflated lines. That's the price you pay for backing America's Team. But the Cowboys are perennially overrated and could be a decent fade option. They are 0-5-1 against the spread against the Giants (Week 1), 1-3 ATS at Chicago (Week 3), 1-3 ATS vs. St. Louis (Week 4) and 0-5 ATS against Minnesota (Week 7). Be wary of the thick lines and also keep an eye on how an unorthodox schedule (three of their last six games are on either Thursday or Saturday) affects this team.
2) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
2006 Record: 11-7 (6-3 home, 5-4 road)
2006 Against the Spread: 10-7-1 (4-5 home, 8-2 road); 9-7-2 vs. total (3-6 h, 5-5 r)
2006 Rankings: 2nd offense (3rd pass, 11th rush); 15th defense (9th pass, 26th rush)
2007 Odds: 25/1 to win SB, 8/1 to win NFC, 2/1 to win NFC East, 9.0 wins O/U
Outlook: Back in May each handicapper at Doc's Sports was asked to predict the Super Bowl representatives from each conference. My NFC pick was the Eagles - which further displays how ridiculous it is to make predictions nine months in advance. The Eagles are still solid - exactly what you would expect from an Andy Reid team - but injuries, age, the threat of injury from brittle players, and an ever-improving division are each conspiring against the Nasty Birds.
Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, the heart and liver of the Eagles offense, are both injury prone. McNabb has missed 14 games in the past three seasons while Westbrook has been wayward in eight. If either goes down for any extended period of time this team's Super Bowl dreams will dematerialize. Also, I would like to see them revert back to the post-McNabb 2006 offense where they were running the ball equal to the amount that they passed it. They have the top offensive line in the division and I think their receiving corps is as underrated as any in the league. Philly will score a lot of points, but will McNabb show the ability to manage and harness their offensive firepower to support the defense in the manner that Peyton Manning or Drew Brees have?
Defensively, as long as they have Jim Johnson they have a chance. The Blitzing Bandit will continue to bombard the opposition with inventive and intrusive attack packages. They were 26th against the rush last year due in part to their bend-but-don't-break philosophy. But they still need to be stronger up the center, especially to counter the power running games of their division rivals.
3) WASHINGTON REDSKINS
2006 Record: 5-11 (3-5 home, 2-6 road)
2006 Against the Spread: 10-6 (2-6 home, 4-4 road); 9-7 vs. total (3-5 h, 5-2 r)
2006 Rankings: 13th offense (21st pass, 4th rush); 31st defense (23rd pass, 27th rush)
2007 Odds: 50/1 to win SB, 20/1 to win NFC, 7/2 to win NFC East, 7.0 wins O/U
Outlook: Mark it down right now - and I am one of the first in the country to say it - the Redskins are going to be very, very good this year. So good, that if injury issues do creep up on the Eagles or Cowboys I think the Redskins have a chance to win the division. No, that's not a joke. This team is tough, motivated, and well coached. I'm a big Jason Campbell fan, and if he can bounce back from that knee setback I think this team can be dangerous.
Offensively, the line is stellar. And that was before they picked up Pete Kendall. They have as good a one-two running back punch as anyone in the league, and if Santana Moss can stay healthy for the whole season he will be a poor man's Steve Smith for the Washington offense. I mean, you can't tell me that any of the other teams in the division have skill players that are THAT much better than Washington's. That is, other than at the QB position. But in the second year of the Al Saunders System I think that the Redskins have the potential to be a very efficient and effective scoring team.
But what I really love is the nasty streak that this defense has. They've impressed me in the preseason with their physical play. Their first team has outscored their last two opponents' first team 20-10 in their last two games. Their opponents: Pittsburgh and Baltimore, two of the angrier teams in the league. I know it's just the preseason, but that is impressive. I'm telling you, this is going to be a sneaky ATS team this year and they'll come up big more than once.
4) NEW YORK GIANTS
2006 Record: 8-9 (4-4 home, 4-5 road)
2006 Against the Spread: 7-9-1 (3-5 home, 4-4 road); 9-6-2 vs. total (4-4 h, 3-3-2 r)
2006 Rankings: 14th offense (19th pass, 7th rush); 25th defense (28th pass, 14th rush)
2007 Odds: 30/1 to win SB, 15/1 to win NFC, 5/2 to win NFC East, 8.0 wins O/U
Outlook: I have to hand it to the Giants; they've put off the inevitable for over a year. They've fought and scraped and clawed and bit and scratched and begged their way to back-to-back playoff appearances despite tough injuries, glaring weaknesses, and the added pressure of playing in The Big Apple. But it's time to pay the piper. This team isn't very good and they are bound to be exposed en route to a last-place finish in the East.
Needless to say, I'm not a big believer in the Manning Magic. The retarded, autistic younger brother of the goofy, funny, everybody-thinks-he's-nice Homecoming King simply isn't good enough to carry a team. Could Eli Manning be a strong quarterback on a team that was solid everywhere else? Well, no to that either. He's just too inaccurate and too inconsistent to be anything other than a B-/C+ quarterback. And with brooding, erratic skill position players like Plex and Shock denoted as the "leaders" I don't predict good things. Hell, they're more worried about what Tiki is saying about them and more focused on what happened last year than they are the fact that they have the a lame duck coach the lowest talent level in an improving division.
The Giants are always an easy team to cap: bet against them when everyone expects them to win and bet on them when everyone expects them to lose. They are 13-8 as an underdog of 7.0 or less under Tom Coughlin and 8-14 over the past 10 years as a favorite of -6.0 or greater. I'm looking for similar results this year. They'll be a tough team to topple as an underdog but you'll want to stay far, far away from them as a favorite.
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