Four months from today, on September 13, the Cowboys will kick off the regular season against the New York Giants. And ESPN, with the help of Football Outsiders, already know how that regular season will end.
Interestingly, the projections see the Giants finishing ahead of the Eagles in the division. Though both are projected as 9-7 teams, the specific win projection has the Giants at 7.8 wins, while the Eagles come in with 7.6 wins.
The Redskins are projected to win seven games, and the projection sees them as the worst team in the NFC.
Here's how the statisticians at Football Outsiders explain their projection for the Cowboys and the rest of the NFC East:
1. Dallas Cowboys: 10-6 (9.5 mean wins; SOS: 1)
2. New York Giants: 8-8 (7.8 mean wins; SOS: 7)
3. Philadelphia Eagles: 8-8 (7.6 mean wins; SOS: 5)
4. Washington Redskins: 7-9 (7.2 mean wins; SOS: 2)
This is the strongest division in the NFL, where last season all four teams finished in the DVOA top 10, but an arduous schedule might leave three of the four teams out of the postseason. The problem isn't just these teams beating up on each other for six games. The NFC East also draws the two West divisions, which means facing many of the league's top defenses.
We end up with Dallas repeating as the most likely scenario, although our projections might underrate the importance of its defensive losses, because there could be a compound effect from losing so many players at the same position (defensive back). The Eagles were better than their record in 2016, but our system expects regression to the mean from their defense. The same goes for the Giants' defense; but their offense should improve with the addition of Brandon Marshall. Washington will have to weather the loss of two starting receivers and an offensive coordinator, but the Redskins are still more likely to be an average team than a bad one.
And while of that is nice and good, keep in mind that this was the Football Outsiders projection for last season:
1. Dallas Cowboys: 10-6 (9.6 mean wins, SOS: 30)
2. New York Giants: 6-10 (6.3 mean wins, SOS: 17)
3. Philadelphia Eagles: 6-10 (6.3 mean wins, SOS: 11)
4. Washington Redskins: 6-10 (6.0 mean wins, SOS: 9)
Last year, every single team in the NFC East outperformed its win expectation, with the division as a whole coming in 11 wins ahead of the projection. Assuming there could be a similar upside for the "strongest division n the NFL", Let's hope that the Cowboys maintain a two-game lead over the rest of the division.
Your turn BTB, is this a reasonable prediction for the NFC East?