As is the case with most other divisions around the NFL, the team that wore the crown a year ago heads into the 2014 season as the favorite to do so again — last year, the 10-6 Eagles beat out the Cowboys and Giants for the NFC East division title, and Philadelphia is the frontrunner to take the division this year as well.
Few other divisions in football have been as balanced over the last decade than the NFC East, however. Within the last five seasons, all four teams have finished atop the East at least once, and in the last seven years, no club has won the division more than twice. While the Eagles, even without DeSean Jackson, are favored in 2014, their three challengers all have solid rosters, and could topple Philadelphia if things break right.
Last year’s runner-up – Dallas – has finished with an 8-8 record for three straight seasons, and the pressure will be on this season to improve upon that mark. The club had limited cap flexibility to make offseason upgrades, but made several signings on the defensive line, and added Zack Martin to a talented offensive line that already features multiple stars. There are question marks at a few areas on the field, particularly on the defensive side, where linebacker Sean Lee will miss the season. But the Cowboys have some upside.
So too do the Giants, who got off to a horrendous start in 2013 and couldn’t make it back to .500, as Eli Manning set a new career high in interceptions (27). With a new offensive coordinator and scheme in place, there’s optimism that Manning can limit the turnovers. And while there were plenty of veteran departures, the team was active in free agency adding replacements, including cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, running back Rashad Jennings, and guard Geoff Schwartz.
As for the Redskins, a 3-13 team a year ago, they aren’t viewed as a consensus cellar-dweller. Betting site Bovada.lv gives Washington 4:1 odds to win the East, just behind the Cowboys and Giants, and a healthy Robert Griffin III should singlehandedly boost the team’s win total. With receiving playmakers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts added to the mix, and a new coach and offensive coordinator on board, the Redskins’ offense could once again look like the exciting, dangerous unit we saw two years ago, during Griffin’s rookie season.
What do you think? Do any of last year’s non-playoff teams have the talent to take down the Eagles, or will Philadelphia become the NFC East’s first repeat division champion since 2004?