There's no division in the NFL with more intrigue than the NFC East. Every time an intra-division game occurs, it's a rivalry game. Cowboys-Eagles? Check. Cowboys-Redskins? Check. Cowboys-Giants? Check. Redskins-Giants? Yep. Giants-Eagles? You better believe it. Redskins-Eagles? Now more than ever.
What should fans expect out of the NFC East this season? The usual -- drama, desperation and entertainment.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett will undoubtedly coach with an edge of desperation this season. If the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs, there's almost no chance that Jerry Jones will bring Garrett back to coach the Cowboys in 2015. Garrett is already fighting an uphill battle, as stalwart linebacker Sean Lee is already out for the season -- not to mention the fact that quarterback Tony Romo underwent his second major back surgery in as many years just months ago.
On the surface, the Cowboys look like a 6 or 7 win team -- which will mark them irrelevant by November. That leaves the Giants, Redskins and Eagles -- and all three teams could easily win the division.
Last year's defending NFC East champions, the Eagles, had an interesting offseason to say the least. Philadelphia released DeSean Jackson, coming off a career year, due to character concerns. On the surface, losing Jackson seems like it's a major blow to the Eagles' offense. If we've learned anything after watching Chip Kelly orchestrate Oregon's offense and then Philadelphia's last year, it's one thing -- don't doubt Kelly's ability to guide his offense and put plenty of points on the board.
Jeremy Maclin will be a year removed from an ACL injury, and will help fill Jackson's void. The Eagles traded for running back and jack of all trades Darren Sproles, who will be another exciting weapon for Nick Foles. Expect the Eagles to score and score plenty. Philadelphia's defense should be improved as well, after the team signed Malcolm Jenkins and drafted linebacker Marcus Smith.
Philadelphia isn't a shoe-in to win the NFC East -- and really, aside from the Patriots and Broncos, is anybody a lock to make the playoffs this season?
The Redskins should improve substantially from a lackluster 2013 season. Mike Shanahan is out as head coach and Jay Gruden is in -- which will only help Robert Griffin III blossom as a quarterback. The Redskins signed DeSean Jackson and RG3 will be another year removed from his major knee injry, but Washington did little to help its defense in the offseason.
Washington lost London Fletcher through free agency, but did add Tracy Porter and Jason Hatcher. The fact that Washington didn't have a first round pick after finishing 3-13 hurt the team's ability to address its defensive woes. Had Washington had its pick, the Redskins could have drafted Khalil Mack, but alas, the Redskins now pay the price for acquiring the rights to the pick used on RG3.
Expect the Redskins to be a fringe contender, but not a serious threat to the Eagles in 2014.
That brings us to Big Blue. The Giants missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season in 2013, and finished under .500 for the first time since 2004 -- when Kurt Warner was the starting quarterback.
New York's offseason was busy. The Giants lost wide receiver Hakeem Nicks through free agency, as well as Aaron Ross, Da'Rell Scott, Justin Tuck, David Diehl and many other familiar Giants. New York wasted little time replacing many of its players, signing Robert Ayers, Mario Manningham, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trindon Holliday and others. The Giants used their first-round draft pick on wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., giving Eli Manning another weapon on offense.
The Giants are still a flawed team -- like almost every team in the league. But the 2014 Giants should be much, much better than the 2013 Giants, and the addition of Rodgers-Cromartie could be enough to propel New York's defense back to respectability.
Look for the Giants to contend this season -- and don't be at all surprised if Big Blue ends up winning the NFC East.
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