2017 NFC East Previews & Predictions

Last year was unprecedented in NFL annals. Never before had we witnessed a team with a rookie QB (Dak Prescott) and a rookie RB (Ezekiel Elliot) lead a team to their division title. Elliot became the 1st rookie rushing champion (1,631 yds) since Edgerrin James in 1999. The Cowboys surprised many with a 13-3 record and a 1st round bye. The question is can the Cowboys repeat that performance now they have lost 2 members off The Great Wall II??

Keep in mind last year was the second time this line paved the way for the NFL’s rushing champion in the last 3 years. The last time The Chancellor can remember that happening dates back to the late 80’s with the LA Rams with Eric Dickerson and Charles White. That was so long ago the Rams left Anaheim, spent a generation in St Louis, and now returned to LA. RT Doug Free retired and LG Ron Leary signed with Denver.

With All Pro LT Tyron Smith an immovable object teams may flip their speed rushers against the Cowboys to go against La’el Collins. He’s taking over for Doug Free and is learning on the fly how to be an NFL tackle. Look for combo blitzes to the right probing for weakness in Collins. Also to see if a strong rush in Prescott’s face will cause him to pull the ball down disrupting the rhythm of their passing game.

Unlike any other unit in football, the offensive line has to learn to play together. Hence every unit practices their timing and explosion off the ball blocking on a 7 man sled. This could be a significant blow to Dallas offensive timing.

2017 NFC East Predictions

New York Giants 12-4**

Philadelphia Eagles 10-6

Dallas Cowboys 7-9

Washington Redskins 4-12

Do you realize the Giants are returning with last year’s 10th ranked defense, which held Dallas to 26 combined points, sweeping them in 2016?? Even though the Giants were 29th in offensive time of possession they were the NFL’s #3 defense against the run. Then they nabbed DT Dalvin Tomlinson in the 2nd round out of Alabama. This was a Giants strength not a statistic manipulated by scheme.

Casillas should be even better in his 2nd year in New York.

If they can get a stronger push inside, Olivier Vernon (8.5 sacks) and Jason Pierre Paul (7 sacks) should thrive crashing the pass pocket. This plays hand in hand with the Giants ability to cover with CBs Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. New York could field a lethal defense in 2017.

Did you know the Illadelphia Iggles were in every game last year?? Of their 9 losses, 7 of those were decided by a touchdown or less.. including two 1 point losses. What about their 6-2 home record and 1-7 record on the road?? With so much attention on the Cowboys and Giants last year, this is a team waiting to surprise with a little improvement.

The Eagles gambled in letting go of DE Conner Barwin and selecting Derek Barnett out of Tennessee in the 1st round. They needed to make a move to add pop to the defense instead of just a steady unspectacular roster.What they lose in experience they gain in explosion. In fact the Iggles spent the 1st 3 draft picks to improve a defense that ranked 13th last year. Although they have to hold their breath that both rookie CBs Sidney Jones (2nd / Washington) and Rasul Douglas (3rd / West Virginia) have to fill the void of last year’s starters being let go.

Wentz looks like the real deal and will have a breakout 2017.

If Carson Wentz can develop into the QB this pundit believes he can, he will take a step up here in year 2. The signing of wideout Alshon Jeffrey gives him the big intermediate target to move the chains. Lagarrette Blount was supposed to come in and lend power between the tackles. However he may lose out to Wendell Smallwood as the starting RB and Darren Sproles is still a weapon on 3rd downs. The Eagles are steady and will win very boring grind it out games this season… TBT thinks 10 boring games at the most.

Which brings us back to Dallas where the unfair suspension of Elliott still stands at 6 games. What many Cowboy fans are forgetting is if this suspension stands he cannot be at practice or attend any meetings for over a month and a half. That is a bad combination when you’re missing 40% of last year’s line and your touches are limited in the preseason. He may not get in synch with the OLine until the last few games of the season.

Dallas is still rebuilding a defense which ranked in the middle of the pack at 14th and rookie DE Taco Charlton has flashed brilliantly this preseason. LB Jaylon Smith looks like he has fully healed from his gruesome knee injury. We’ve only seen Smith sparingly but he looks as explosive as he was with the Fighting Irish.

Right now Dallas just needs progress out of a completely revamped secondary. Too many questions to bank on this year. Coupled with the Elliot suspension and the additional pressure on being “the hunted” the Cowboys will lose more than double the games they did last year. It will be interesting to see how Dak Prescott fares now that defensive coordinators have a year of game film on him. What happens if he doesn’t have the NFL’s best running game to lean on this year?? It’s 2018 where this Super Bowl plan will have to manifest itself.

Right now the Washington Redskins are in disarray. How do you have Kirk Cousins complete 68% of his passes for 9,083 yards and 54 touchdowns in the last 2 seasons and let all his receivers go?? Not signing him to a long term deal then allowing 2 – 1,000 yd receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon go. By setting him up to prove himself again after jettisoning off his weapons, you set yourself up to fail and i cant see where Washington is going.

Which brings us back to the Giants from Gotham City. They are easily the most intact and proven defense in the division and Eli Manning is due for a bounce back year. The acquisition of veteran wideout Brandon Marshall, a veteran starving for a title in the twilight of his career, could be the grounding that diva Odell Beckham needs as the playoffs near. With 101 receptions 1367 yards and 10 TDs, Beckham is still the dynamic playmaker for this team, he needs to grow up and make the game the focus come January and not his antics.

Aside from veterans in Beckham’s ear  what is forgotten is Eli Manning is now the grizzled veteran QB in the NFC East. He has weapons and a defense that will keep him in close games all year where Eli can win them in the end. Keep in mind Manning has thrown for the most yards (4,933 yards) and had the lowest ranked defense (27th) when he won his last Super Bowl. This year he might have the NFL’s best defense and if he improves on his 4,027 yards 26Tds and 16 interceptions of a year ago, a Super Bowl trip to Minnesota could be in the making. Now many writers and pundits have come to this blog for years and we have told you several times about Eli. Just remember…The Chancellor kept telling you he would get a 3rd Super Bowl and this looks like the year.

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NFL Week 2: NFC East: Where Are We??

An absolute question to ask as the NFL season is trying to get it’s sea legs as many teams are at early season crossroads. Alright raise your hand if you thought going into week 3, the Washington Redskins would be 1st in the NFC East?? Last night’s 28-16 win by the New York Giants was more a byproduct of the Rams ineptitude as a young team in the redzone, than it was a crisp Giant performance. Seriously, the mistake by Cadillac Williams not going after the lateral Giant Michael Boley scored with was the play of the game.  It took pressure off of Eli Manning, and allowed themselves to run Brandon Jacobs right at the Rams and control the flow of the game. However this week they get another crack at the Philadelphia Eagles. Who knocked them out of the playoffs after the “Miracle in the Meadowlands II” punt return by DeSean Jackson.

Right now the Giants look shaky on pass defense as well as passing the ball. Eli Manning looks at times as though he is unsure of where he wants to go with the football. He doesn’t pass the eyeball test and needs his receivers to catch the football so they gel as a unit over the course of the season. Manning is staring down some of his receivers which could swell his interception totals again. Careful Eli, old habits are east to  slip into.

National Football Conference
Washington 2 0 0 1.000 2-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 2-0-0 50 35 +15 Won 2
Philadelphia 1 1 0 .500 0-0-0 1-1-0 0-0-0 1-1-0 62 48 +14 Lost 1
Dallas 1 1 0 .500 0-0-0 1-1-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 51 51 0 Won 1
NY Giants 1 1 0 .500 1-0-0 0-1-0 0-1-0 1-1-0 42 44 -2 Won 1

Speaking of the Eagles, they are still smarting from the 35-31 last second loss to the Atlanta Falcons that dropped their record to 1-1. Also smarting is that of one Michael Vick, who was sandwiched between a Falcon player and one of his own linemen. For all his scrambling, he was knocked from the game with a concussion while in the pocket. We await the decision if Mike Kafka or Vince Young should start this game for the Eagles. It was Kafka’s play last year that made Kevin Kolb trade bait once he was succeeded by Vick. Each had played better during the pre season. Kafka, from Northwestern, showed moxie getting into his firs regular season play and Andy Reid should have enough confidence to play him. Vince Young couldn’t learn Tennessee’s playbook and should know one as complicated as Reid’s?? We don’t think so.

Speaking of thinking, isn’t it time Cowboy fans gave Tony Romo the benefit of the doubt?? Right, we know, after he’s won a Super Bowl. However that is beyond unfair. One week where we were considered to be Romo apologists for citing the team’s system wide meltdown while losing 31-24 to the New York Jets. We remind you he needs to grow as a leader of men as we expressed in our preseason magazine https://taylorblitztimes.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/2011-dallas-cowboys-preview/ . All he did was comeback from an early game hit where he broke a rib and punctured a lung and pass the Cowboys to an overtime win over San Francisco. One week after a bonehead late interception sealed his team’s fate, he marched his team to a win completing 13 for 17 down the stretch including overtime. Although the Cowboys are 1-1 on the season, those were giant steps taken by Romo in terms of maturing as a quarterback and a leader. Understand the Cowboys are a team that passes the ball 3-1. Right now Tony Romo is on pace for 5,496 yards, 32Tds and only 8 interceptions. He won’t be able to keep up that pace but he’ll be real close. The Cowboys need to take solace in the fact that they’re defense could be rounding into some shape.  After 2 weeks, new inside linebacker Sean Lee leads the NFL in tackles with 24 while DeMarcus Ware is leading the NFL in sacks with 4.  They need another defensive front member to help get after the quarterback along with Ware.

Rushing the passer would seriously be of some interest now that they have to take on the surprising 2-0 Washington Redskins and Rex Grossman. Who?? Yes the same Rex Grossman that was run out of town shortly after Super Bowl XLI for leading such an anemic offense is trying to be this season’s Kurt Warner. While not throwing for spectacular numbers, he has infused his team with some added zest while throwing for 596 yards, 4TDs and 2 picks. Not bad after the Donovan McNabb debacle and named the starter over John Beck as the week one starter. The acquisition for former Cardinals running back Tim Hightower is paying off. He’s a steady runner who has 168 yards and 1 touchdown on the young season. Steady play has come from Rocky McIntosh and the Redskins defense which has recorded 7 sacks so far. Can they keep  up this play when they take on Dallas this Monday Night??