America’s team has not exactly lived up to its title as of late, a few 8-8 seasons, a couple of low ranked defenses, and 1 playoff win in the last decade works against you. This is a division that is usually won by the first team to 9,10 wins. Outside of their two almost accidental Super bowl runs, the Giants have been an enigma, and recipe for disaster in the east. Eli continues to have up and down seasons and provides no consistency at the most important position. The Eagles have been heavily marketed as the elite team in this division headed into this season, but lets pump the brakes on a Quarterback in Nick Foles who I doubt will only throw 2 interceptions this year. The Washington [Racial Slurs] have been under scrutiny as of late in regards to their team name, this type of dark cloud can shadow over a team throughout a season. But with additions on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball, RG3 and new Coach Gruden will have all the opportunities to return to prominence.
Washington Redskins (10-6)
Jay Gruden has the magic needed to take this team to new heights, but he will have to magically manage the ego’s of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Deangelo Hall, and not to mention RG3. A lot of egos, a boatload of talent, but will everyone buy in? What happens when DeSean doesn’t get enough touches? Is Ryan Clark at this age a liability? Jay Gruden has another good problem on his hands in his highly touted backup in Kirk Cousins. There are many teams favoring for the backup from Michigan State, so Gruden will need to decide if he’s content moving forward with RG3 or whether he should retain Cousins for one more year. The defense looks scary good so far in preseason. I expect Brian Orakpo to contend for defensive MVP, and as long as Brandon Meriweather can stay off the leagues radar for illegal hits I fully expect the Washington DC Football club to win this division.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Chip Kelly entered the NFL last year as a first year coach with a reinvented version of his collegiate offense. As a result Nick Foles threw 20 touchdowns and only a mere 2 interceptions, impressive to say the least but I’m not convinced he can repeat that performance. Teams will be prepared for anything Nick has to offer, and with Jeremy Maclin returning from a torn-up knee, and the absence of playmaker Desean Jackson, much will be placed on the shoulders of Lesean McCoy. Along with McCoy newcomer Darren Sproles will replace some of electricity lost from Jackson. If Chips' success with former small scat-back type of players; LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner is any indication, then Sproles will pick up right where he left off in New Orleans. The Eagles have been trying to build the defense for the past 4 seasons, and expect them to be a solid group this year. If they can learn to force opponents off the field on 3rd down, and shore up the pass defense in a pass happy division, then Philly may be set for another playoff visit. I doubt it though, especially in a deep NFC.
Dallas Cowboys (7-9)
Despite what media outlets may highlight, the Dallas Cowboys may be a tad better than expected. Jerry Jones has been on record saying that his primary interest is in making the Cowboys “box office” then to be a winning ball club. Although he may have not used those exact words, it remains that the Cowboys are staring a losing season dead in the face. Demarco Murray looks poised to be a top 5 rusher, and Dez looks great thus far in the preseason. The opposite side of the football is a totally different story, ranking dead last in defense, and historically one of the worst defenses of all time. Unfortunately the defense only got worse, losing cornerback Mike Jenkins and long time staple Demarcus Ware. Don’t expect Dallas to lose every game, but don’t hold your breath waiting on 8 wins.
New York Giants (4-12)
This very well could be the last season for Tom Coughlin as the Head Coach for the Giants. Regardless of the previous Super Bowl victories, this is a “what have you done for me lately” league, and Tom has not done much. Only producing 1 playoff appearance in the past 5 years will not cut it in the NFC east. Eli has to bounce back after ranking among the top 3 in interceptions thrown. Losing target Hakeem Nicks will not make a big difference in production being that Coughlin went out and drafted Odell Beckham Jr to replace him. Justin Tuck has left town, and Pierre is the only legitimate threat remaining from their Championship squads. The defensive line unit that has anchored the Giants for the last several years could now be the weak link. Look on the bright side, whenever Eli has led the league in interceptions he follows it up with a Super Bowl campaign.
The 6’2’’, 237 pound speedster at tight end is the piece that will take the Washington DC football team to the next level. In his rookie season, with a hobbled Robert behind center, he still managed to haul in 45 catches and 499 yards. Both of those stats were league leading for rookies last year. In addition to his solid contribution, he has the tangible assets in his game similar to Jimmy Graham which enables him to split out or line up in the slot especially in the red zone. If anyone will keep Gruden’s attack balanced, it will be Jordan Reed.
Odell Beckham Jr
The LSU receiver has been impressive in preseason practices. He hasn’t been able to put it together on the field, but with scouting focus primarily on Victor Cruz. Look for Beckham to be a breath of fresh air at slot for Eli Manning. Giants offensively have struggled running the ball which has forced Tom Coughlin to rev up the passing attack and allowed the emergence of Victor Cruz an Rueben Randle. There is nothing that will keep Beckham Jr. for making a name for himself with the 2 time super bowl winning Quarterback.
Possibly the 2nd toughest division after the NFC West, the NFC south features the likes of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton. Although Brees is the only leader who has eclipsed NFL supremacy winning the Superbowl in 2008, Matt Ryan has thoroughly dominated the division for many years up until last season. And until Atlanta discovers some dominance defensively they will always be considered a team on the “cusp” but never achieving greatness. Cam Newton’s Panthers will look very similar to last year’s Cleveland Browns, highly touted defense and 1 or 2 pieces on the offensive end. Cam will be better but it will not result in more wins are a deeper playoff run, sorry but I don’t think that even the great Tom Brady could turn this team around. Tampa Bay’s success hinges on the health of Doug Martin being able to carry the load for McCown all season. Analysts are so high on Lovie because he finally has the right personnel who are fitted to run his defensive scheme. Lovie’s Bears’ front line had always been menacing and if he can get McCoy and Michael Johnson to enter their prime then Tampa cannot be ignored as a team on the brink for that final wildcard spot.
New Orleans Saints (11-5)
Assuming that Drew Brees does not stub his toe going down the stairs, or throws his back out lifting his son, the Saints are poised for another deep playoff run. In recent years it has been their inconsistent play on the road that has kept them from dominating the NFC. The Saints have upgraded a defensive unit that was already top 10. The running back by committee with Pierre, Mark Ingram, and Robinson will continue to salvage the shelf life of Thomas and allow Ingram to extend his career as well. The hype surrounding Brandon Cooks is real, and will fill the explosive playmaking that has departed with Darren Sproles. As long as the essential pieces of this team stay healthy look for them to have another productive season among the elite in the NFL.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)
Lovie Smith has already established an attitude in camp, in the few months he has been there, the tone in the locker room is much improved. This Tampa team has an awful lot of similar characteristics to Gruden’s 2002 team--who ended up winning the Superbowl. Top 5 defense, tall, skilled receivers (Keyshawn Johnson) in Evans and Vincent, and above average special teams. McCown is another one of my “implementation specialist” and his game plan will be very much predicated off of running between the tackles and play action passes. Doug Martin returns from injury and will be looking to return to elite form. If the Bucs' can establish an early identity against this brutal schedule, they may be able to squeeze out 10 wins.
Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
The Falcons imploded last year after losing both Roddy White and Julio Jones to injuries. Stephen Jackson has proven that after turning 30 years of age, running backs are truly serviceable. Not to mention there has still not been a decent cover corner on this roster in years. Fortunately a healthy Roddy and Julio can guarantee you 8 wins, but after that wins will come few and far between. Stephen Jackson’s skeletal frame just can’t be trusted at this stage in his career. His body took a severe punishment throughout his career in St. Louis and he has little to nothing left to add to the “physical” run game that Mike Smith was attempting to implement. There is just not enough defensively for Atlanta to hang their hat on. Its a collection of old veterans past their primes trying to gel, which will accumulate another middle of the 1st round draft pick. Let’s hope this talented team can pick up some much needed help on the other side of the football.
Carolina Panthers (6-10)
With all due respect to Cam Newton, who I personally think is a beast, I find the Panther’s success last season to be blip and not a trend. From my vantage point, this team is in Phase 3 of a rebuild. They have their franchise quarterback in tact, they have what is now should be a solid offensive line. The defensive front seven are vicious led by Luke Kuechly at linebacker and Hardy on the pass rush. I am concerned however by the addition of the aging veteran Roman Harper. Obviously, his experience may be invaluable to the defensive back crew, but there is a reason why Rob Ryan did not want to bring him back after all this time. He gets beat early and often and does not have the speed required to be elite, especially with Colston, Brandon Cooks, Roddy and Julio as elite wideouts in this division. Look for the Panthers to be a low scoring team, ground and pound, with occasional great flashes from Cam. If the Panthers get down early they will struggle immensely and does not have the catch up talent on the outside. This team is one or two players away from being consistently top 5 in the league.
In his 2nd season, he nearly reached 80 tackles playing in 14 games. He anchored a top 10 Saints defense and showed premature “Ed Reed” ability on a number of plays. The Texas native will look to cement himself among this new look secondary, and with the addition of Champ Bailey, Kenny may be able to hone in on the mental side of being the defensive captain. If he can match the football IQ needed with his physically freakish measurables, in January he will be in Honolulu--that’s if he doesn’t end up in Arizona.
The BCS national championship running back has already made a name for himself due to ‘HBO’s Hard Knocks’ exposure. Although his running style is similar to Jacquizz, he may be equipped to swap carries with Jacquizz Rodgers assuming Stephen Jackson has another injury plagued season. He has narrow hips and quick feet similar to LeSean McCoy. He has shown the ability to burst through arm tackles and to run between the tackles as well. Preseason aside he is averaging 5.1 yards a carry, and he is one of those running backs who never loses a yard on a run.
Created Hiphop and Home Runs in 2014 out of his broadcasting studio in Queens, NY. Visit daily to find updates and breaking news in the urban sports community
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