It seems like only yesterday that our Sunday afternoons in the fall were filled with classic NFC East battles that included great names like Simms, Taylor, O.J. Anderson, Art Monk, The Hogs, Reggie Brown, Jerome Brown, Reggie White, Randall Cunningham, Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, and Tom Landry. It, however, wasn’t just yesterday. It was over a decade and a half ago when the best division in football was inevitably brought to us on the NFL on CBS, with the soundtrack brought to us by Madden and Summerall. In my mind, these were the glory days of the NFL. The NFC was king, the NFC East was the best division in football, and the 49er’s were the only obstacle between the NFC East Champion and a Super Bowl ring. Well, I’m here to tell you that after all these years, those days are back. Well, not exactly. The 49er’s are awful, but the NFC East is again the best division in football. This time around, however, it’s even better than it was back in the glory days. Back in the day, only the Eagles, Giants, and Skins were contenders, and the Cowboys were the odd man out. But now, all four teams enter the 2006-07 season believing they are the best team in the East, and believe it or not, they all have a legitimate argument. Don’t believe me? Well, allow me to take you team by team and tell you why you might want to think again:
Eagles - I don’t think I have to tell you that the Eagles are solid on D. It’s one of those things that simply goes without saying, kind of like Jessica Simpson looked better before the lip injections or “Two-a-Days” is the greatest show on television right now. The questions, of course, all surround the Eagles’ offense. Well, with a healthy McNabb, Westbrook, Buckhalter, and Pinkston, this team has weapons. And, don’t forget about former UGA Bulldog, Reggie Brown, as an emerging downfield threat for McNabb. Oh, and one other thing…no T.O. drama this year. What I’m saying here is that between injuries and off field drama, the Eagles never had a chance last year. With those obstacles out of the way, the Eagles should be a force to be reckoned with again.
Cowboys - Speaking of T.O. drama! As far as I’m concerned, the Cowboys’ season breaks down this simply: If T.O. shows up to play and doesn’t rip the team apart, Drew Bledsoe will make the Pro Bowl, Julius Jones will explode, and we will have to read thousands of stories in January about the genius of the Tuna.
Giants - I must come clean from the start and say that the Giants are the closest I’ve ever come to sports bigamy in my life. While the Falcons have always been my undisputed favorite NFL team (i.e. the only NFL team that has ever made me cry tears of joy and pain), I have always been a “casual” fan of the Giants. That being said, with the trio of Eli, Tiki, and Plaxico, they are stacked with playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Unlike the other three teams in the division, however, the huge question mark for the Giants is their defense. With Strahan and Umenyiora applying pressure from the ends, Lavar Arrington doing everything in his power to prove Joe Gibbs and the Skins wrong, and Webster and Madison on the corners, I think they will be just fine. I’m expecting huge things out of the Meadowlands, and I’m certainly not talking about the Jets.
Redskins - How sick is this defense? Specifically, how sick is this secondary? With Carlos Rogers and Shawn Springs on the corners, and Archuleta and Sean “thank God I’m not getting the Ralphie Treatment” Taylor at the safeties, it is going to be impossible to throw the ball against these guys. Seriously, with the coverage these guys provide, Philip Daniels could play with a prosthetic leg and rack up 15 sacks. So, the defense is definitely sound. What about the offense? Well, let’s see…Portis and Duckett in the backfield, Moss and Brandon Lloyd burning on the outside, Randel-El working the middle from the slot, and Chris Cooley picking up first downs, let’s just say that you should definitely expect much more production than last year’s abysmal performance. Sure, Mark Brunell is 114 years old and needs a cortisone shot in his hips and knees between quarters, but in today’s NFL, that’s just not a problem. With the exception of the Mannings, Brady, Palmer, and McNabb from time to time, there are no quarterbacks left in this league that you can count on to win you a game. Instead, you just ask them to “manage” the game and not get you beat. Well, if Brunell can avoid being embalmed at some point this season, he should be able to accomplish that. Oh, one more thing…Joe Gibbs is the greatest NFL coach of our lifetime. Don’t even think about arguing this one. And, on that note, think about this for a minute: Joe Gibbs has won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks that were arguably worse than Brunell (Theisman, Williams, and Rypien).
So, what does all this mean? Go ahead and prepare yourself, there are some bold prediction coming….are you ready? Okay, here we go:
1) Three of the four NFC East teams will make the playoffs. They only have to play six games in the division. So, if each team can hold serve at home, they can still lose three out of division games and finish 10-6. Could you imagine a division with four teams with at least 10 wins?
2) On February 4, 2007 in Miami Florida, the Washington Redskins will be crowned Super Bowl Champions, and Joe Gibbs will hoist his 4th Lombardi Trophy after they defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 34 - 27.