- NFC EAST YEAR IN REVIEW
By Billy Fallon
In this wild year of professional football, almost nothing is the same as it was in years prior. But the one thing staying constant is the NFC East remaining the punchline of all divisions in the NFL. Last year, the winner of the NFC East was the 9-7 Eagles, who immediately proceeded to lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Seahawks. Many people laughed then at the fact that a division winner was 9-7, but this year looks to be even worse, as there is a very good chance that the winner of this once prestigious division finishes at or below a .500 winning percentage.
The Washington Football Team
Let’s begin with the division winner, the 7-9 Washington Football Team, yes you read that right. A team called the football team has a losing record, yet is still in position to make the playoffs. This team has been a mess on offense, as they have a carousel of quarterbacks, with three quarterbacks starting this year. The year started with Dwayne Haskins, the former first round pick commanding the offense, before Ron Rivera benched and moved him to the third-string job after a 1-3 start where he put up solid numbers, but ultimately was not the right fit.He then proved why he deserved to be a third string as he came back in to start later in the year, as in week 15 he came back against the Seahawks, threw 2 interceptions and then promptly got cut after he was found partying with no mask on in a club. Then they moved on to Kyle Allen, who in his starts went 1-3 before he suffered a gruesome leg injury that led him to be out for the season. This led the Football Team to start Alex Smith, yes, the Alex Smith who had 17 surgeries to repair a horrific leg injury suffered in 2018, who many people thought would never step on a field again. Also later in the year, Taylor Heinicke was given the start in their only playoff game and played great in his little opportunities, and no he has a great shot to be the starter next year.But quite possibly the most shocking of all, Alex Smith got his offense going and has led the Football Team to a 5-1 record since taking over and being their starter. While he has done much better than what was expected of him, Alex was not the only reason as to why the Football Team is winning, those props go to their defense. Their defense is headlined by a fierce pass rush attack with guys like Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, and Montez Sweat leading the charge. This defense is one of the best in the league, and has mostly carried the Football Team to their record right now. However, their defense is great, but, I have to also give some props to Terry Mclaurin, who has carried the offense by hauling in over 1,000 yards in the season, and another to antonio gibson, the rookie running back converted from a wide receiver at Memphis, who has rushed for 11 touchdowns. Even with all the talent on their hands, they still hold a 7-9 record, which would not be good enough elsewhere, but they find themselves holding first place in the NFC East.
New York Giants
Next onto the second place team in the 6-10 New York Giants. One word describes the Giants offense the whole year: inconsistency. During the first eight games of the year, the giants had almost no running game after Saquon Barkley went down for the year, as for the majority of the season, Daniel Jones was the leading rusher.Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris turned into a productive 1-2 punch being the main force of the offense. Speaking of Jones, his turnovers and at times really sloppy quarterback play lead the Giants to lose way more games than they should have. Without those two problems costing them multiple close games, the G-Men would probably have a commanding lead of the division, but alas, here they are, second place in a division they probably should be easily leading. I say this because they do have one thing going for them, or at least most of the time, which is their defense. With an intimidating and great front seven consisting of guys like Blake Martinez, Leonard Williams having a career year,and Dexter Lawrence. Now their secondary is also inconsistent at times, with the exception of one man, James Bradberry. Bradberry has locked up pretty much everybody he has lined up against, most notably DK Metcalf, who he held to only 3 receptions while guarding him, with two of his bigger yardage catches coming while Bradberry was not defending him. Bradberry has arguably been the best man-to-man coverage guy in the league, and him along with the resurging Logan Ryan, him having a fantastic year in his own right after switching over to free safety and being the anchor of their defense help their case. One more player contributes to the success of their secondary, which is Jabrill Peppers, who has played fantastic at times, especially guarding tight ends and running backs from his strong safety position as well as in run defense, where he covers the entire field and is great at working downhill to make many tackles to help the front 7. That being said, he has at times struggled covering number one wideouts as well as occasionally struggling in zone coverage. For the rest of the secondary, they can look like the best unit in the league one week and a sub-par one the next, it is a toss up. Now back to the topic of Daniel Jones, who had many people in the media calling for his removal from his starting position until he almost magically fixed all of his problems and led the team to 3 straight wins after an abysmal 1-7 start to the year. But in week 12 against the bengals, that all came to a halt as he injured his hamstring after playing a great game, but this led to him missing week 13, where backup colt McCoy and their defense had a statement win against the Seahawks. Jones returned against the Cardinals in week 14, only to revert to his old turnover ways after such a good run of turnover-free football, before eventually suffering an ankle injury that was discovered after the embarrassing loss. The loss dropped the Giants to second place in the division. Unfortunately, with two bad games against the Ravens and Browns, they were on the outside looking in, and despite a win in a great game against the Cowboys, they lost out on the playoffs with only having Doug Pederson to blame for benching Jalen Hurts.
Now onto the 3rd place team, the 6-10 Dallas Cowboys. To be honest, I don’t know how this team got to six wins. This isn’t like the Giants though, as they were plagued with inconsistent play, but the cowboys suffered from injuries and complete regression of some of the players they counted on. The year started on a bad note as their defense was quickly exposed for being one of the worst in the league by teams like the Browns and Seahawks, but the biggest blow came in Week 5, when Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome leg injury that left him out for the year. This all left us wondering with one question however, Just how good is Dak Prescott? I say this because not only have the Cowboys’ offense regressed a bit, but they looked completely lost for half the season. Their backup was Andy Dalton as well, and he was considered maybe the best backup in the league because many thought he could be the starter for multiple teams. Even then, Dalton got hurt after failing to produce, leading them to start Ben Dinucci in week 8, and Garrett Gilbert in week 9. This all led to guys like Ceedee Lamb and Michael Gallup slowing down, especially after the hot start lamb got off to. The one player that actually stayed consistent this year was Amari Cooper, who finished with 1,114 yards. But the biggest regression in my opinion was that of Ezekiel Elliot, who outright proved he was not as good as everyone thought him to be, as the entire year that famous Dallas oline was depleted by injuries, and Elliot’s numbers went way down. For instance, his yards per carry dropping half a yards from the year prior, and in most games he just proved to be ineffective, and his best games coming against the Eagles and the Vikings, I will get into the eagles a bit later but also know the vikings defense let Alvin Kamara run for 6 touchdowns, so you can draw your own conclusions from that. Onto their defense, and honestly, the less said the better. I mean they have Jaylon Smith? Trevon Diggs showed some promise? It’s just grasping at straws, they were outright terrible, I’m not going to waste any more time on them. Ultimately, a very weird year for the Cowboys led to a 3rd place finish and a record of 6-10.
Where to start on this Eagles team that finished with a 4-11-1 record. Carson Wentz suddenly forgot how to throw a football this year and lead the league in interceptions despite only playing twelve games. They passed on Justin Jefferson in the draft which would’ve helped the fact that they basically had no receivers besides Travis Fulgham who seemingly came out of nowhere and was their leading receiver despite only playing 13 games. Miles Sanders was great when he played, averaging over 5 yards per carry, but he only played twelve games. They also finally came to their senses and started Jalen Hurts in week 14 after realizing Carson Wentz just wasn’t the right player anymore. In his games Hurts played well,winning against the Saints, having great games against Arizona and Dallas, but then in the final game he was benched for Nate Sudfeld despite scoring 2 rushing touchdowns and having a somewhat productive game. Now onto the defense, they were below average. Their big acquisition in Darius Slay flopped as it was proven he couldn’t cover top receivers anymore, most notably when Dk Metcalf torched him for 177 yards. When healthy, their front four headlined by Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham were good, but not the rest of their defense. In particular, their secondary was not good and their linebackers just seemed to be a revolving door, as multiple guys were used at spots in different games, as they really did not have a main staple of the core. While they played well at times, they could not stay consistent and that led them to some losses.So it was pretty clear after the first few weeks of the season how this team would end up finishing, and they only have themselves to thank. However, the biggest question going into this offseason will be who is returning. Will Pederson get the boot? Will Carson Wentz be traded? Will Jalen Hurts truly become the leader of this team? Only time will tell.