The division that featured three underachievers last year in the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys also boasted one of the big surprises of the 2012 season, the Washington Redskins. Always a competitive, hard-to-figure division, the NFC East appears to be quite the toss up with plenty of question marks heading into 2013.
New York Giants
- Odds to win NFC East: 2/1
After a 38-10 win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 12, the Giants looked primed to make the playoffs and defend their title, but losses in three of their final five games surprisingly kept the G-Men home for the postseason. RB David Wilson takes over as the starting back, former Raiders TE Brandon Myers replaces Martellus Bennett and rookie Justin Pugh slides in on the O-line. Dan Connor joins a defense that wasn’t the ferocious group we saw throughout the Super Bowl run the previous season. Star players Eli Manning and Jason Pierre-Paul will always keep the Giants a division favorite. A crossover with the AFC West helps the schedule, and New York gets last year’s playoff teams Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis, Green Bay and Minnesota all at home.
- Odds to win NFC East: 5/2
A three-game win streak in December allowed the Cowboys to vie for a playoff spot with a win in the final week of the season for the second year in a row … and for the third year in a row, Dallas watched the playoffs on the enormous HD Screen anchored atop JerryWorld. They were quiet in free agency, outside adding former Lions LB Justin Durant. The key for the Cowboys is staying healthy. Their offensive skill players of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten can compete with the top offenses in the league, but injuries have hit this unit hard. Romo tied his career-high with 19 picks last season, but signed a long-term contract this offseason. If he’s on and his teammates stay off the trainer’s tables, the Cowboys could get to double-digit wins for the first time since 2009 due to possessing the division’s easiest schedule.
- Odds to win NFC East: 5/2
With defensive starters Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker on injured reserve, a rookie quarterback and a suspect O-line, expectations were low, but the Redskins, led by QB Robert Griffin III, made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. RG3 and RB Alfred Morris ignited the league’s fourth-best scoring offense, but all eyes will be on Griffin’s surgically-repaired knee heading into 2013. Questions about whether or not he can start Day One at 100 percent will certainly sway bettors in the preseason. Washington’s “D” will get Orakpo and Carriker back, but it still lags behind the top defenses in the NFC. The ‘Skins have the division’s toughest schedule and have to travel to Green Bay, Atlanta and Denver. It could be tough to match last year’s stellar season, unless RG3 is healthy and ready to go from the start.
- Odds to win NFC East: 4/1
For two years in a row, the Eagles held the title of most disappointing team, culminating in last year’s 4-12 campaign that led to the ousting of long-time head coach Andy Reid. Few teams, if any, have more mystique heading into 2013 than the Eagles with new head coach Chip Kelly taking over the Brotherly Love reins. They are a boom-or-bust type team for bettors, and a perfect dark horse. Look at the talent on offense — Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, plus top pick Lane Johnson to help the O-line. On defense, the Eagles added six new starters via free agency: NT Isaac Sopoaga, LB Connor Barwin and the entire secondary: CBs Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips. If Kelly’s offense can work in the NFL and Vick — or whoever starts under center — takes advantage of the wealth of talent at the skill positions, the Eagles could return to the NFC East title conversation.