We’ll be providing a look at each NFL division this week leading up to the first set of full games on Sunday. We start today with the NFC East. Click here for a list of all the major offseason moves by each NFC East team.
Last year, for the first time ever (in a non-strike-shortened season), it didn’t take at least 10 wins to be crowned NFC East champion.
Forty-one years, and 40 times it’s required a double-digit win total to come out on top, illustrating how competitive and intriguing this division can be on a year-to-year basis.
The Philadelphia Eagles are again the betting favorite this season, despite a disappointing 8-8 finish a year ago as heavy favorites. The Eagles still have loads of talent from an aggressive offseason in 2011, but the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys are both legitimate threats to win as well. Even as 12-to-1 longshots, the Washington Redskins have a renewed sense of hope with Robert Griffin III at quarterback.
Since 2006, the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys have all won this division twice apiece.
Yep, the NFC East is up for grabs yet again, just like it is every year.
The NFC East’s divisional futures odds listed at 5Dimes:
Most value: The Eagles are Phil Steele’s No. 1 team in his preseason power ratings, and they enjoy a schedule advantage over all three other teams. The question, of course, is can they stay healthy? Most folks are predicting a trip back to reality for New York after the surprise Super Bowl run, but they’re the type of team that plays up or down to its competition. At nearly 2-to-1, the Giants are worth a stab.
Eagles: 10 (over +125)
Giants: 9 (over -125)
Cowboys: 8.5 (over -135)
Redskins: 6.5 (over -105)
Best bet: This is really tough to call, but Dallas finishing 8-8 or worse with such a difficult schedule is at least an intriguing bet at plus money. They could be a mess on the offensive line, and all of Tony Romo’s main receiving targets are entering the season with either off-the-field drama (Dez Bryant) or bumps and bruises (Jason Witten and Miles Austin).
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Only one team finished above .500 ATS last season, and that was the Giants with a ho-hum 8-7-1 mark. The Redskins are among the worst ATS teams in the league over the past six seasons, covering just 46 percent of the time.
Here’s a look at each team’s record ATS since 2006 (with last year’s record in parentheses):
Eagles: 50-45-1 (8-8)
Cowboys: 45-49-2 (5-10-1)
Giants: 50-43-3 (8-7-1)
Redskins: 39-47-10 (7-9)
The NFC East is matched up with the NFC South and the AFC North, leaving one opponent each from the NFC North and NFC West as the only differences in the schedule.
Here are the two “swing games” on each team’s schedule:
Eagles: at Arizona, vs. Detroit
Giants: at San Francisco, vs. Green Bay
Cowboys: at Seattle, vs. Chicago
Redskins: at St. Louis, vs. Minnesota
Analysis: Washington has the clear edge, but as stated above, the Eagles have a leg up on both New York and Dallas by drawing the awful Cardinals and a Lions team that has traditionally struggled away from home. You could actually argue that the Cowboys have the roughest draw, considering the NFC West opponent is at Seattle, one of the few teams left in the league with an enormous home-field advantage. (Hopefully that game doesn’t come down to an extra point with Tony Romo as the holder.)
WHO TO FOLLOW
A Twitter follow list for beat writers covering each team.