By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN NFL Previews: Scouting The NFC East
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — After expounding on the AFC over the last four days, BASN continues its 2006 NFL previews and switches over to look at all the division races in the NFC. Today, we begin with a look at the NFC East.
There are some that think the Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, and Redskins compose the most balanced division not only in the NFC, but of the NFL as well. While that remains to be seen, there’s certain been enough media hype surrounding the race.
With all the endless stories about a certain wide out from newspapers in Dallas to Philly, the media scrutiny of a Gotham-based quarterback, and everything in between the nation’s capital, there could be more action in print than on the field in 2006.
Lets take a look.
NEW YORK GIANTS
How do you spoil an 11-5 season and a division title? By playing the like the Washington Generals against the Panthers in an ugly home playoff loss. While the loss exposed many of the team’s flaws, management didn’t stand pat and made an effort to improve. Bringing in free agents like LB LaVar Arrington and DB Will Demps to the defense while also drafting DE Mathias Kiwanuka and WR Sinorce Moss will add depth to a solid team. As long as complacency doesn’t become a factor, this team will still be a major force in 2006.
What To Look For: Other than a certain third baseman in the Bronx, the only other athlete in the Big Apple that’s under a bigger microscope is Lil’ Eli. With all the offensive weapons at his disposal to go along with an already solid defense, the fortunes of Big Blue rest in his hands. Manning struggled in the second half of 2005 (four TDs, 10 INTs) and it all came to a head in the playoff loss against Carolina. That being said, it’s still not a stretch to say that Eli will reach the Super Bowl before big brother Peyton.
Outlook: Plain and simple, New York is still the team to beat in this division. The bitter taste of the Carolina loss should stand as constant motivation throughout the entire season. No doubt “Mr. Warmth” (other wise known as Coach Coughlin) has and will beat them with it to death every day at practice. Who knows, if Big Blue makes it to the Super Bowl, we might even see the old coach crack a smile. Well, we can only hope.
Yes, that’s the Eagles you see sitting in second ahead of both the Cowboys and Redskins (we’ll get to them later). As for the Philadelphia story, last year was as bad as could get for the Birds. Bigger than the whole T.O. stuff was the fact that they had a whopping 13 players (including Donovan McNabb) on injured reserve throughout last year. When you factor in that and other details, the fact that they finished 6-10 makes me think that they really don’t have that far to rise. Two more wins and they would have finished at .500. Me thinks they’ll improve the win total by more than that which would put them squarely in the division race. The main thing they must do is improve on a defense that dropped from 47 sacks in 2004 to 29 last year.
What To Look For: The quiet acquisition of former Saint WR Donte Stallworth (70 catches, 7 TDs) along with the continued development of last year’s first round pick Reggie Brown (43 catches, 4 TDs) will be some thing scrutinized the entire season because of obvious reasons. Are we saying that they’ll make up for the loss of T.O.? No, but at least they’ll focus more on the field and won’t play the whining diva role Outlook: Plain and simple, the Birds will be much better and a helluva lot less annoying than people think this year. A healthy Donovan McNabb on offense and a defense whose reputation was tarnished will just the fuel to put Philly back into title contention.
When Bill Parcells took over the Dallas job in 2003, he reached the playoffs with a mobile Quincy Carter under center. Since then, he has proceed to play the immobile Vinny Testaverde and even less immobile (is that a word?) Drew Bledsoe under center. Thrown in a mouthy new wide out and an offensive line that is in need of repair and you have just en capsuled what will be a long season for the Tuna Helpers. Under my better judgment, I don’t by the notion that this is a Super Bowl caliber team. Given the many obstacles and questions on both sides of the line, the p-word in Big D this year will be pissed off instead of playoffs.
What To Look For: Okay, I can’t avoid the issue any longer. In my opinion, the acquisition of T.O. is akin to when ESPN signed Rush Limbaugh as a studio “analyst”.Quite simply, you get what you pay for. If you truly thought that either person wouldn’t bring more undue drama to the table, congratulations you now qualify this year’s “Idiot of the Year” award. Please pickup your copy of T.O.’s “autobiography” and your dunce cap from President Bush and move on. Which is just what will likely happen to No. 81 after the Tuna gets tired of T.O.’s tired old act.
Outlook: There will be more drama in Dallas this year than anything on network TV. This team seems to be more suited for “WWE Smackdown” than “Monday Night Football”. Oh yeah, they’ll play some football along the way. It’s too bad that this once decent team will be reduced to poor man’s “Playmakers” in real life. As we mentioned before, when you lie with dogs, you usually get a serious case of fleas.
The fact that we have the Redskins at the bottom of the East is no reflection on the job Grandpa Gibbs did in Washington last year. In many ways, it may be more respective of the strength of this division. But like we mention previously in respect to their division rival Cowboys, I’m just not buying into the Super Bowl hype surrounding them. Yes they went out and made some major moves, but I seem to remember Daniel Snyder doing this a few years ago with Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, and others and that team barely finished 8-8. The element of surprise will not be on the side of this year’s version of the Fun Bunch.
What To Look For: Mark Brunell is coming off a career season (23 TD passes) after many (yours truly included) wrote him off. However at age 36, there’s no doubt that all of his numbers will take a decided dip in 2006. Really I’m not trying to be stubborn, but No. 8 hasn’t turned into Jim Plunkett overnight.
Outlook: The early season injury of Clinton Portis necessitated the acquisition of former Falcon fullback T.J. Duckett. Washington will need to rely even more so on the running game early on. In a stretch between Oct. 22 and a home date five weeks later against NFC runner-up Carolina, they meet the Colts in Indy. In between, they’ll also host Dallas, and visit Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.
Predictions 1. Giants 2. Eagles 3. Cowboys 4. Redskins Tommorrow: The NFC North.