By Dylan MacKinnon
Last year the NFC East was by far the worst division in the NFL. All 4 teams had losing records, and we came close to a 6-10 division winner. This year, they got better, I guess. It would be hard to get worse. Dak is back and healthy, Washington may still have questions on offense, but their defense is legit, the JJEagles have a new coach and a young promising QB, and the Giants… well they can’t all be winners.
But how do they stack up against each other? Every Thursday before the new week of games, we will take a look around the state of each NFC East team. Who is looking good? Who has fallen on their face? And whose coach embarrassingly tried to challenge something they aren’t allowed to challenge on a play the refs obviously got right, costing his team a timeout? You know, the usual questions. Without further ado, here is the state of the NFC East.
4) New York Giants (0-1)
The Giants were a terrible team last year. Yea they were in the playoff mix at the end of the year, but they were 6-10. If they had made it that wouldn’t be an accomplishment, it would be a glorified participation trophy. It doesn’t matter how much them or their fans whine about the Eagles tanking the final game, the only reason they missed the playoffs is because they were a bad team, and them making the playoffs would have been embarrassing for everyone involved.
So have they improved? Maybe. They have Saquon Barkley back, who when healthy is an elite RB. But elite RBs don’t win games anymore. Their o line is still somehow bad, despite them trying to fix it for what feels like a decade. Daniel Jones is still at best a mediocre QB. And their head coach has thus far been a bigger source of jokes than wins. Not only did this guy cry about the Eagles “disrespecting the game” last year after his 6-10 team was eliminated. But he also is the type of guy who makes grown men run laps in practice. His “tough guy” routine led to several players retiring before the season even started. They also have Jason “The Clapper” Garret as the offensive coordinator.
They started the season picking up where they were last year, by losing. This time to the Broncos by a score of 27-13. Jones looked average, and Barkley struggled. To be fair he is returning from a major injury and it could take time for him to get back to form. Melvin Gordon gashed the Giants run D to the tune of 9.2 yards per carry (11 for 101) and a TD. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 2 more TDS, and 264 yards.
The Giants look bad. Maybe if Barkley finds his form that can change, but for now, they are the worst NFC East Team. At least their head coach has a good grasp on how challenges work.
3) Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
Some will argue that being the only East team to win week 1 means they deserve to be higher. And that is fair. The Eagles looked amazing in week 1. Hurts gave one of the best performances in the NFL. The Running game was stellar. And the defense put the clamps on Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Offense. But I want to temper my expectations, for now.
The Falcons may be the worst team in the league this year. Outside of a few skill players, and an aging Matt Ryan, they have nothing going for them. Their defensive backfield is patchwork at best, and their o line has more in common with a revolving door than it does an offensive line. Especially the interior which we saw Javon Hargrave and Hassan Ridgeway prey on late in the game.
But on the other hand, there are things legitimately impressive to takeaway. After a rough couple of drives, the Eagles defense shut down the skill players on the Falcons who are genuinely good players, like Calvin Ridley. Also even though they were not facing a great pass rush, the Eagles Offensive line is stacked and should fare well even when facing NFL defensive fronts, such as they will face vs the 49ers this week. And while yes, Hurts was playing against a bad secondary, he still made several impressive throws into tight windows.
For now, I don’t want to overreact to one week. But a similar performance vs the 49ers may change my mind. If Hurts can play like that every week, behind this O-line, with some very fast skill players, they can make noise.
2) Dallas Cowboys (0-1)
The Cowboys were mostly exactly what we expected them to be in week 1. This offense is going to put up big numbers. Dak Prescott can sling it, and he has perhaps the best group of WRS to sling it to. Amari Cooper has been among the most productive WRS in the NFL, and Cee Dee Lamb may be ready to break put in year 2. Meanwhile, their defense is going to be bad. It was bad last year. And yes, they tried to address it in the draft, but relying on a bunch of rookies to fix your terrible defense isn’t always the best of ideas.
I suppose in fairness, going up against the Bucs and Tom Brady is a tough way to start. Brady shredded them for 4 TDS, but he can do that to good defenses too. But I find it hard to give them that excuse when the expectations were the defense would be bad. If everyone thought they fixed that issue, and they had a rough week one, maybe I give them a pass for getting torched by a great offense. But this was likely a case of a great offense beating up on a bad defense.
The #Cowboys defense has allowed 38.2 PPG in Dak Prescott's last five starts.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 10, 2021
Another concern will be how bad Zeke Elliot looked. Only 11 carries for 33 yards. And don’t give me “Oh he was a really good blocker.” They are paying him $12.4 million this year. You don’t pay a guy that much to rush for 3 yards per carry and block. Any team could sign Jordan Howard to the minimum contract to do the same thing.
And now, they will be without RT La’el Collins after he was suspended 5 games and will be without 3rd WR Michael Gallupuntil at least week 5 after being placed on the IR. At least for their sake, they only have the 2nd least embarrassing coach in the NFC East. This is a team that is going to put up a lot of points, but also give up a lot as well. They will likely be right there with a chance to win it in the final week. They have the best QB in the division and that can go a long way. But I do not like Mike McCarthy as a head coach a little bit. And his poor coaching will cost them at some point just like it used to cost the Packers, and the Packers had an even better QB with a slightly less bad defense.
1) Washington Football Team (0-1)
My pick to win the division going into the year, they took a big hit in week 1. Literally. Ryan Fitzpatrick took a hard hit, and now will miss several weeks, leading the Football Team to rely on Taylor Heinicke. He came in vs the Chargers and performed pretty well, so maybe it won’t be the end of the world. But losing your expected QB in week 1 is a bad way to start. It’s not like he is replacing an elite QB though, he is replacing Fitzpatrick. Who I will give credit, has made a name for himself jumping around teams and filling in here and there, but he is what he is. It is not like the Cowboys losing Dak Prescott last year.
If Washington wins it will be because of their defense. It is probably one of the best in the NFL, with a downright frightening front 7. I find it funny that them giving up 20 pts to the reigning Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert is considered a “rough start” for this defense.
Off the field, the organization is an embarrassment. Like their Owner Daniel Snyder getting a slap on the wrist for the organization’s abuse scandal. Or a pipe breaking and raining sewage onto fans at Fed Ex Field, in what seems like a perfect metaphor for being a Washington fan. Or it taking them this long to finally ditch a team name that is a genuine slur directed at an entire race of people. All of that is embarrassing for the organization. But as a team on the field? They have the best defense in the division and the best head coach. They played a semi-competitive game vs what should be a good team in week 1 despite losing their starter. Washington may not be contenders overall, but for now, I still see them as the best team in the NFC East. If Heinicke looks bad, maybe that will change. But I saw nothing in week 1 yet that changes my mind about that.