We are less than two weeks away from the start of the NFL season. The anticipation is building. Some starting positions have been decided, while others are still up for grabs. Once those are all settled the teams can focus on the season and made that seventeen week push to the playoffs. Some will have more difficult roads than others, due in large part to where they play – which division. For example, the NFC West and AFC West appear to be down once again. But several other division races are sure to be exciting up until Week 17. After evaluating all of the divisions, I have decided that the NFC East is the overall best division in the NFL.
One element that makes this race interesting is that all four teams are in cities that are in the top 10 in television markets. These teams do not lack for attention and it sure helps that all four are competitive. I am not sure that you can look at any other division and realistically say “Any team in that division can make the playoffs.” Last year, the four teams all had at least a .500 record. The only other division that could say that was the NFC South.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who made the playoffs last year as a wild card and advanced to the NFC conference championship, return a strong nucleus. Granted, some of the stars like quarterback Donavan McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook are getting older. But they added some potential playmakers by drafting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and running back LeSean McCoy. Plus, you may have heard that they also picked up a backup quarterback. Some guy by the name of Michael Vick.
The New York Giants, the reigning division winner, struggled down the stretch without Plaxico Burress. I am not convinced they have addressed their offensive concerns in the offseason. Running back Derrick Ward left via free agency. The wide receiving core is young and inexperienced. Not to mention that last season’s defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, left to become head coach of the St. Louis Rams. With that said, the Giants are just two years removed from a championship, and they still have to be considered a threat to win the division. Eli Manning also has a new contract, so he will be itching to prove his worth and prove the critics wrong who say the Giants overpaid.
The Dallas Cowboys are America’s team, and this year they are America’s team without society’s newest reality TV star Terrell Owens. This is a big year for head coach Wade Phillips, too. Missing the playoffs is a real possibility, especially in this division. You know general manager Jerry Jones will be looking for a scapegoat if the Cowboys do not make the playoffs in their first year of playing in beautiful new Cowboys Stadium. Fortunately, plenty of weapons return. The key to the Cowboys is whether or not wide receiver Roy Williams can step up and become the number one receiver the Cowboys expect him to be. The playoffs are a realistic goal.
The Washington Redskins, after getting off to a very strong start, limped to a 2-6 finish. We all know Redskins owner Daniel Snyder refuses to sit still, and he proved us right again by giving an extremely big contract to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Perhaps no quarterback in the league is facing more pressure than Jason Campbell. After flirting with acquiring Jay Cutler and trading up to draft Mark Sanchez, the Redskins decided to stick with Campbell who is entering a contract year. Campbell is popular in the clubhouse, but it is his responsibility to get the Redskins back to the playoffs. Finishing 8-8 was the worst record in the division, which says a lot about the strength and the parity in the division.
All four of these teams can realistically make the playoffs. Can any other division say that? Maybe the AFC East. Maybe!! But the NFC East has a much stronger case and overall, from top to bottom, the teams are better. The division is the class of the NFL!