Football Outsiders are buying what the Cowboys are selling, at least if you go by the latest win projections for 2017 published by ESPN.
Via ESPN In$ider, the fine folks at FO have the Cowboys repeating as NFC East champions by a wide margin. The Cowboys take the division with a 10-6 record while none of the remaining teams even manage a winning record.
1. Dallas Cowboys: 10-6 (9.7 mean wins; SOS: 2)
2. New York Giants: 8-8 (7.8 mean wins; SOS: 4)
3. Washington Redskins: 8-8 (7.5 mean wins; SOS: 3)
4. Philadelphia Eagles: 8-8 (7.3 mean wins; SOS: 1)
Last year, all four NFC East teams finished in the DVOA top 10, and this again looks like the strongest division in the NFL. Our projections are a little lower for Washington and Philadelphia in 2017, but the entire division still comes out as above-average in mean projected DVOA. 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. Right now in the NFC East, it isn't good enough to be good. You need to be great. With an easier schedule, an NFC South or West team doesn't have to play as well as an NFC East team to make the postseason as a wild card.
We still have Dallas repeating as the most likely scenario, although our projections may underrate the importance of their defensive losses because there may be a compound effect from losing so many players at the same position (defensive back). The Giants should be better on offense but may face regression on defense (where they went from 30th in 2015 to second in 2016). Philadelphia was better than its record in 2016 but has dropped slightly since our April forecast, while Washington has moved up a little bit. However, we still have Washington lower than last season, as the Redskins must adapt to a new offensive coordinator and overcome the loss of their top two wide receivers.
Fans of the Cowboys' division rivals will undoubtedly try to find solace in a historic quirk: the NFC East hasn't had a repeat winner for the last 14 years, which apparently means the Cowboys won't repeat as the NFC East division winners in 2017.
Be that as it may, ESPN and FO are not the only ones predicting the Cowboys as division winners, so FO's projection doesn't come as much of a surprise for Cowboys fans. A 10-6 record may be a little lower than most Cowboys fans would like, but so be it.
One interesting aspect of this win projection is that it's the second one ESPN and FO have published this year, after publishing the first one in mid-April. That initial projection showed the Cowboys with 9.5-wins, while their newest projection shows the Cowboys increasing to 9.7 wins.
A lot of factors go into these projections, and FO are still working towards their final projection (which they will publish in their Almanac sometime this summer). But given that ESPN billed these projections as "Post-Draft 2017 NFL Projections", it's probably fair to assume that the draft played a role in this new set of projections. And if we compare the April projections with the May projections, we can get an inkling of what FO thinks about each team's draft. Here's how the win totals for each NFC East team changed after the draft:
Washington Redskins: +0.3
Dallas Cowboys: +0.2
New York Giants: +- 0
Philadelphia Eagles: -0.3
That can't be good news for the Giants and Eagles. Giants fans at least realize their plight ("Did Jerry Reese get taken, again?"), Eagles fans seem to live in their own filter bubble ("Eagles got three of the biggest steals in the 2017 NFL Draft").
And the bad news continues for the rest of the division. Where the Cowboys are projected as the No. 3 seed in the NFC behind Seattle and Green Bay, the three other NFC East teams don't even make the playoffs.
Your turn BTB, is all of this a reasonable prediction for the NFC East?