One. More. Day.
Until the predictable craziness of the 2020 NFL season kicks off with a primetime matchup between the Texans and Chiefs. However, another game that will receive nationwide attention is the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams at the grand (but empty) SoFi Stadium. Even when you say the word “cowboy,” it’s primed for clickbait joy.
The NFC East is the equivalent of the bloated but thoroughly entertaining three-hour run time of Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street.”
You just never know what will happen in this division, so start humming and beating your chest like Matthew McConaughey in his five minutes of screen time.
It’s time to break down the NFC East.
Will the Cowboys Be Super Bowl or Bust?
- Division Odds: -121
- Over/Under: 9.5 wins. Bet with the over.
Happy to say that I’m glad the Jason Garrett era is over in Dallas, but also why I’m strangely excited for the Mike McCarthy era to start on Sunday. His world-famous adoption of the high-flying, high scoring west coast offense will be a change of pace for the Cowboy faithful. During his tenure in Green Bay, he was 125-77-2 with a 10-8 playoff record. While he only had one Super Bowl, he knew how to give the Packers a fighting chance. Something that Dallas would love to have, they have not been to an NFC Championship game since 1995 and the last time they won the Super Bowl.
There is no shortage of weapons for quarterback Dak “bet on himself” Prescott. Starting with wideout Amari Cooper who signed a $100 million dollar deal over the offseason. Though Cooper seems like a risk with his history of injuries, he has a high ceiling. In 2019, he had 79 catches for nearly 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns. No doubt he will try to eclipse those numbers in 2020. Along with a spry Michael Gallup who also had 1000-plus receiving yards and six scores. In the 2020 NFL draft, they watched Big-12 speedster CeeDee Lamb fall into their lap at pick 17. Lamb’s numbers at the University of Oklahoma are astronomical, his yards after the catch average 21 yards, and was known as a deep-ball specialist.
Oh, yeah. There is this running back you may have heard of. Ezekiel Elliott. McCarthy never had a consistent year-by-year running back in Green Bay, but in Dallas, he will. Experts have believed that Elliott is not living up to his 90 million dollar deal.
Ah, clickbait. Good to see you again.
In 2019, he scored 12 times, rushed for almost 1,360 yards, and for the third time in his career he rushed for 300 or more times in a season. All of that accomplished on a team that had no captain to steer the S.S. Jerry Jones.
Questions do lie with the defense. They made some moves over the offseason, mainly on the defensive line ranging from Dontari Poe, Everson Griffen, and Gerald McCoy. Unfortunately, McCoy will miss the season after tearing his quadriceps tendon and the team released him (under an injury waiver). Griffen was given six million for a year, but his numbers improved in 2019 with eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, this front seven could be the efficient remake of the “Doomsday Defense.” If they can keep that secondary from falling apart.
Fantasy Pick: TE Blake Jarwin. This kid is destined to be a successor to Jason Witten (whom he spent his first two years with). Heading into his fourth year, it is time for Jarwin to prove himself and score big. While he has only played 11 games, he has shown sparks of being the “top dog” for the Cowboys. Low risk, high ceiling tight end.
Can the Eagles Stay Healthy Enough to Win?
- Division Odds: +150
- Over/Under: 9.5 wins. Under, this injury bug needs to go extinct.
Every time I have hope in the Eagles. Disappointment and injuries follow. It’s no different in 2020, but this time I want them to prove me wrong.
In 2018, it was the cornerbacks. In 2019, it was the wide receivers and in 2020, it is the offensive line now ravaged with injuries. Three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks and left tackle Andre Dillard is out of the year. Luckily, Jason Peters agreed to move back to left tackle to protect quarterback Carson Wentz‘s “blind side.”
Let’s talk about Mr. Wentz, shall we? He has all the makings of a top-10 NFL quarterback. Great arm, accuracy, ability to stay calm as blitzing pass rushers come at him. It’s the injury bug that continues to sting. He dealt with groin tightness throughout the last couple of weeks. But, in 2019 he was dynamic (even with a depleted wide receiver corp) completing 64 percent of his passes, 27 touchdowns and seven picks. While the health of DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery is like a coin flip. Greg Ward Jr. was a blessing in disguise and will have more game reps under his belt in 2020. Keep an eye out though on the Plan B blueprint that is rookie Jalen Hurts who will back up Wentz. He is the embodiment of cherishing his second chance and you could see him be part of Doug Pederson’s bag of offensive tricks.
As for the running game. It’s another by-committee year in the backfield. Miles Sanders was to get the bulk of the carries but he’s dealing with a hamstring injury. Boston Scott, Corey Clement will be having a share of running the ball while Sanders is “day to day.”
On the other side of the ball is potentially a nasty and quick front seven led by Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox. Graham had a big year in 2019 with 15 tackles for loss and eight and a half sacks. Be on the lookout for the underrated Javon Hargrave (if healthy) who could be that missing piece in the interior of the defensive line. The secondary will once again by shadowed by question marks. The pass defense was ranked 19th last year. They waived Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones but traded for Lions cornerback Darius Slay. I would not be surprised if the safety position becomes a carousel. They kept six safeties on the roster. For now, it’s Jalen Mills (who moved from corner) and Rodney McLeod‘s job to lose.
Fantasy Pick: TE Dallas Goedert. We already know Zach Ertz will have another great year of 90 or more receptions and a 6-8 touchdown kind of year. Goedert though could be that second tight end who will be productive. In 2019, he had 5 touchdowns and 607 yards.
The Giants Will Either Take a Step Forward or Backwards
- Division Odds: +1100
- Over/Under: 6 wins. Take the over.
Here’s a team that could rise to the occasion or gets stuck in its old school philosophy. The Giants hired another fresh apple off the Belichick coaching tree in Joe Judge. Judge has already commanded discipline, forced players to run laps for being late. It’s similar to Tom Coughlin’s fining players for being “on time.”
Now can that discipline translate to the field?
We saw a potential star-in-the-making with quarterback Daniel Jones. Jones completed 62 percent of his passes, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions in 12 games. I’m here to say there are solid weapons in this wide receiver group. Jones has a rejuvenated Sterling Shepard to throw to. Shepard averages 80 to 100 receptions per year and could have a solid year. At the tight end spot is Evan Engram who needs a big season after regressing the last two years in receptions and touchdown catches. There is hope that Jones will also stay in the pocket comfortably with the Giants drafting Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas, trading for former Browns guard Kevin Zeitler. “Hope” is the key word.
Under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett (I promised not to laugh) he will go from Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas to superstar back Saquon Barkley. Back to back 1000-plus rushing yards, 17 touchdowns in two years. Though he regressed slightly last year, let’s be honest. The Giants were a disaster last year and still, he scored six touchdowns? Expect him to be one of the top ten players in the league again.
Now, let’s get to the de…hang on I have to speak to my editor. Okay, I have to talk about the Giants defense. This was one of the worst defenses last year and again it feels like they will still have “under construction” signs around. Their “big” signings were Panthers cornerback James Bradberry and Packers linebacker Blake Martinez. Martinez was a tackling machine, but if he’s trying to stop the run. There is a reason why the Packers were happy to move on from him. Defy the odds. Be a good defense.
Fantasy Pick: WR Darius Slayton. When Shepard missed the rest of season, the rookie from Auburn stepped up and made the Giants passing game tolerable. Slayton had 740 receptions and eight scores. Expect his reps on the field to increase and be an “under-the-radar” wideout.
Washington Football Team: In Search of a Foundation
- Division Odds: +1300
- Over/Under: 5 wins. Under, this is a mess.
I’m not going to talk about the offseason…I’m not going to talk about the offseason.
Oh, who am I kidding?
Washington does not have a nickname, a culture. They are rock bottom. It’s a whole new foundation. This franchise had to revamp the radio play-by-play team, the front office, and coaching staff. All thanks to a damning but effective article in the Washington Post about decades of sexual misconduct towards female employees. However, with the hiring of the discipline-heavy Ron Rivera and putting former NFL player/businessman Jason Wright as the president of the team is a good starting point.
As for the team. I will wish good luck to Dwayne Haskins this season. I do believe he will take a step forward this season, but he is going to be running for his life. His offensive line on the left side will see a huge drop off without All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, but they have solidarity on the right side. Their running game is going to be a free-for-all in carries with J.D. McKissic, rookies Bryce Love and Antonio Gibson. It’s going to take time for the running game to find consistency. Hear me out, but keep an eye on their wide receiver core led by second-year wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Steven Sims Jr. They have star-in-the-making potential for those two players. The tight end position is also going to be by-committee with Logan Thomas and Jeremy Sprinkle.
I’m not going to lie but I really can’t wait to watch this defense grow. The Washington Football Team drafted Chase Young, the versatile, can’t miss linebacker out of Ohio State. He was the player I made it a goal to watch last season. Young has been pro-ready since he was a freshman. In his junior year, he had 21 tackles for loss, nearly 17 sacks and his speed off the snap is spectacular to watch. This could be a fun defensive line to watch with Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, and Da’Ron Payne. As for the linebackers and secondary, there will be a lot of change coming.
Fantasy Pick: RB Bryce Love and Antonio Gibson. J.D. McKissic will not hang on to the number one running back spot for long. He’s more of a back that can help move the chains off the swing pass. Love and Gibson had exceptional college careers. Both commanded the Stanford and Memphis offenses with their versatility, speed, and playmaker ability.