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The Biggest 2010 NFC East "What Ifs"

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A little over a month ago, Vic Carucci penned an article on NFL.com in which he talked about the hype-machine surrounding the Eagles' Kevin Kolb, and how the lockout news vacuum has led to reporters and analysts ramping up the pressure for Kolb to be an instant star, and viewed as a major flop if he isn't.

Carucci has some interesting points of view on Kolb, but the thing that stood out to me in the article was an entirely different train of thought:

"[Kolb] is the what-if guy, as in, what if he hadn't suffered that concussion halfway through the 2010 season opener? And what if Michael Vick hadn't been so brilliant in Kolb's place?"

I found this a very interesting question, so after the break we'll look at some the biggest what ifs for each NFC East team for 2010. Chime in with your own what ifs in the comments section.

1. What if Kevin Kolb had remained the starter in Philly?

It's kind of hard to project what could have been for Kolb specifically. Technically, Kolb started five games last year and the Eagles lost three of those for a 2-3 record in games Kolb started. But he got knocked out early in the GB game and lost the season-ending game against the Cowboys, so you could argue he's 2-1 as a starter. Then again, he came into the Washington game late in the first quarter for an injured Vick and lost, so his record could be viewed as 2-2. Kind of hard to figure out what to make of him (except if you're an Eagles fan, then of course he's the greatest ever).

Carrucci also agree that there's not much to go on in evaluating Kolb:

It's fair to say that Kolb hasn't had much of an NFL career. He briefly held the Eagles' starting job, and he doesn't have enough of a body of work as a pro to be evaluated at a dramatically higher level than most of the quarterbacks drafted last month.

Anyway, after much back-and-forth by Andy Reid, the Eagles finally decided to go with Vick at QB, and Vick played very well. There was some talk about Vick as an MVP candidate last year, he put up tremendous stats, and as a starter had an 8-3 record, leading the Eagles to a 10-6 regular season record.

Had Reid stayed with Kolb as the starter it's easy to see at least a two-game swing compared to Vick, particularly given the Eagles'  young defense. The Eagles could have easily ended the season at 8-8 or worse.

2. What if Alex Barron hadn't been flagged for a hold on the last play of the season opener against Washington?

Three seconds left on the gameclock in the fourth quarter. Tony Romo had just led the Cowboys on an 11-play, 1:42 drive from the Dallas 19 to the Washington 13. Romo passes to Roy Williams on the right side. Touchdown! And a penalty flag. Offensive holding on Alex Barron, touchdown nullified by penalty, game over, Dallas loses 7-13.

Had the Cowboys won that game, it's hard to imagine the team would have gone into the 1-7 tailspin that it did. A win in the opener, a little bit more luck against the Bears and the Cowboys could have headed into the bye week at 3-0. How much that could have changed the way the team played the remaining season is anybody's guess, but a 6-10 record would have been unlikely. Then again, winning that first game might also mean that Wade might still be the coach in Dallas today ...

3. What if Giants Kicker Matt Dodge had simply kicked the ball out of bounds against the Eagles in week 15?

With 14 second left on the clock in the fourth quarter, the Giants punt the ball. But instead of punting it out of bounds, Matt Dodge punts it right into the arms of DeSean Jackson, who then returns the punt for a game-winning TD. The Eagles win 38-31. Of course, that punt return was just the final insult for a team that had led 31-10 in the fourth quarter before the Eagles scored 28 unanswered points in eight minutes.

Before that game, the Giants were on their way to their fifth playoff appearance in six years. Instead, they have now missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. Ironically, they were perhaps playing their best late season football in quite some time, and now have to deal with the recurring stigma of a December meltdown. Not that that makes me sad or anything. Far from it.

The Giants crumbled in the following week against the Packers, 17-45. Had they won the game against the Eagles, they may have won the game against the Packers, thereby eliminating Green Bay from the postseason altogether, and perhaps started a serious run of their own in the playoffs as the division winner.

4. What if the Redskins weren't a dysfunctional organization?

Three key organizational moves - Mike Shanahan, Bruce Allen and Donovan McNabb - were supposed to right the ship in Washington. Instead, it was complete anarchy: conditioning tests and an eventual suspension without pay for the highest paid player on the team, benching the starting QB just four weeks after signing him to a huge extension or taking a local paper to court over an article titled "The Cranky Redskins Guide to Dan Snyder". 

New names, new faces, same old Redskins.