The Cowboys road to the playoffs goes through New York and Philadelphia and maybe Washington DC. Last season, the Cowboys split with each of their division rivals winning one and losing one. Each team took steps to improve in the offseason. Did the Cowboys manage to keep pace?
The NFC East is arguably the toughest division in the NFL. The rivalry between the four teams is intense. While the NFC East teams relish beating up on each other, they do a good job of beating up on the rest of the league as well. No team in the NFC East has had a losing regular-season record since 2006.
Here's a brief rundown on the Cowboy's division rivals (click the link below the poll):
New York Giants - Justin Tuck stepped up when Osi Umenyiora got hurt last year and their rush should only get stronger with Osi's return added to FA pickups Chris Canty and Rocky Benard. The Giants linebackers and DBs are adequate and combined with that lightning rush the Giants defense should be formidable once again.
On offense can they recover from the loss of Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer? They spent a first round pick on WR Hakeem Nicks to try to plug that gap. Their three-headed running monster is now missing Derrick Ward. Eli Manning has shown he can take his team to the big show and win and I think this has made him more confident. New York is a strong contender for NFC East Champs but there are chinks in the Giant's armor.
For more on the Giants, visit Big Blue View.
Philadelphia Eagles - I was jealous at the way the Eagles came together as a team toward the end of last season while the Cowboys disintegrated. That cohesion was a factor in the beatdown the Eagles put on the Cowboys to earn a spot in the playoffs. DeSean Jackson made some bonehead rookie mistakes last season but it is clear that he is a talent on the rise. McNabb has been provided with some upgrades on the O-Line through free agency with Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews. Draft pick Jeremy Maclin will pair with Jackson to give McNabb more pass catching weapons. However, McNabb isn't getting any younger and his history of injuries are always looming over the Eagles. Brian Westbrook's current injury situation and his constant nagging-injury history is a large concern for the Eagles.
On the defense I believe the Eagles have lost two leaders, Brian Dawkins and coordinator Jim Johnson who is battling cancer. Sean McDermott will be the acting DC and he has been a Johnson protégé for 11 years so we can expect the same aggressive Eagles D we've seen in the past. Still, he's standing in for the master and has to prove himself.
For more on the Eagles, visit Bleeding Green Nation.
Washington Redskins - The Redskins should be a force on defense. They drafted Brian Orakpo from Texas as a rusher to pair with Albert Haynesworth in the middle. LaRon Landry is a stud safety and even though they lost Shawn Springs the ‘Skins have an adequate defensive backfield.
On offense last year, QB Jason Campbell started strong by playing mistake free ball. It looked to me like the Redskins were going to build his confidence by giving him easy calls and reads, then build around him as he matured. The team went after Jay Cutler pretty hard and one has to wonder how much that undermined Campbell's security. He has decent receivers in Chris Cooley, Santana Moss and Antwann Randle El but it doesn't appear the team has full confidence in Campbell.
For more on the Redskins, visit Hogs Haven.
Will the Cowboys beat the oddsmakers? I don't know, but it's just one more reason to look forward to opening day.