The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2015 season looking to become the first team to defend their division crown since the Philadelphia Eagles won four straight from 2001 through 2005. The task will not be an easy one (it never is when you face your biggest rivals twice in a season) but the Cowboys could e an improved team from the 12-4 squad of last year. They could be a better team and still not finish with as good of a record, thanks to the "reward" of playing a first-place schedule this season. Such is life in the National Football League.
Without further ado, here is how I see the NFC East shaping up for 2015:
Projected Record 11-5
Some of the more interesting match ups that Dallas will face this season will come from playoff teams. That is to be expected. Both Super Bowl combatants will pay visits to AT&T Stadium early this season. That will give us a litmus test of how good the Cowboys really are. A split of these two games or better will be a positive sign. A return engagement at Lambeau field will provide the Dallas faithful with a mid-December measuring stick as the season winds down.
Throw in six games against the division, where anything can and often does happen, and the Cowboys face a challenging path to repeat as NFC East Champions, but not one that is insurmountable. Unless home field advantage is on the line when the Redskins come to town for a week 17 contest, I suspect that the starters will be resting for the playoffs and we might get to see the first start of Dustin Vaughan's career.
New York Giants
Projected Record 9-7
A second season under Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator and the addition of Steve Spagnuolo as his counterpart on defense plus some youth in the secondary will help the Giants leapfrog the Eagles this year. The team will also benefit from playing a third place schedule. There will still be rough stretches as the G-man will have to face the likes of the New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints, and of course the Cowboys. Brady, Brees, and Romo will test the revamped secondary. The team will also be likely to split the season series against the team from down the road in Philly. The Giants are going to be much improved, but they are still at least a season away from being a serious threat to contend for the division.
Projected Record 8-8
The battle for second and third in the NFC East will come down to the final game of the season. The Eagles are headed for an interesting season under Chip Kelly. Philadelphia has had a ton of turnover in personnel and has some aging or injury-prone players, that could serve to derail the City of Brotherly Love. Mediocrity at quarterback will make things tougher for the feathered flock.
There are some pretty good football teams on the Eagles schedule this year; the Patriots and Saints highlight the list but the Lions and a few others will also factor in as well. The division schedule will add four challenging games against Dallas and the resurgent New York Giants. Unfortunately for their fanbase, Philadelphia just is not going to be good enough.
Projected Record 6-10
For the first time since the glimmer of hope during Robert Griffin III's rookie season, there is reason to believe that Washington may be on its way to earning some respectability. Jay Gruden enters his second season with the team, and now he has some help from the front office. Washington hired Scot McCloughan as general manager and there actually seems to be a process taking shape that will build for the future. The biggest question will be at quarterback. This is the year that Washington will have to decide if RGIII is the future or not. This will not be a miracle year for the Skins, but progress will be seen. Washington's best hope to make a statement will be the two games in a month's time against the Cowboys at the end of the season. As this team gets better they would love nothing more than to serve up a dish of reality for their bitter rival.