In the last few years, the NFC East has been known to be one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, and this year’s teams are keeping that tradition alive and well.
If the NFC East is not the best conference in the NFL, it most certainly is the deepest and most competitive from top to bottom. One can make the case that every single team in the division has a chance to make the playoffs. That being said, the team I think will ultimately win the division this year is the Washington Redskins.
Not only will the Redskins be a balanced team on both sides of the football, but they will be extremely well coached as well. On defense, the Redskins have solid players at just about every position; there is no position where the Redskin defense will have an opportunity to be exploited. However, if the Redskins plan on being one of the best defenses in the league, they will need production in the front seven. Albert Haynesworth will be a big key to success as the defensive unit transitions from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this season. If Haynesworth is capable of drawing double teams and can divert attention from the Redskins’ athletic, pass-rushing outside linebackers, such as Brian Orakpo, the defense should have a successful season.
In the secondary, Pro Bowl–caliber safety LaRon Landry should provide leadership to a group that won’t blow you away with talent, but has the ability to hold its own against any team. With experienced inside linebacker London Fletcher acting as the glue that holds the unit together, it’s hard to see how the Redskin defense won’t be among the best in football.
The biggest question for Washington is how the offense will perform this season. With a new starting quarterback in Donovan McNabb and a new head coach in Mike Shanahan, the Redskins hope they will be able to achieve the same amount of success this year as the two have achieved throughout their illustrious careers.
With the help of his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Mike Shanahan has shown he is able to draw every bit of offensive production from his players. He will need that ability, as the Redskins have a lack of talent in the offensive-skilled positions, especially in their receiving corps. McNabb will surely get steady play from Chris Cooley, one of the elite tight ends in the league. I don’t think the Redskins’ poor receivers should slow them down too much, especially considering speedy Santana Moss is still a deep threat and a solid No. 1 receiver.
The Cowboys will be the biggest threat to Washington and are most people’s pick to win the division. They are among the most talented teams in football, but considering there have been questions about their mental toughness the last couple of years, I don’t think they will be able to rise to the challenge. The Cowboys will be followed by the Giants, a team with questions in both the secondary and linebacker positions. Finally, the Eagles, led by Kevin Kolb—a quarterback with only two career starts—won’t contend for the division crown.