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How Competitive Will NFC East be in 2018?

Since 2005, no team has won back-to-back division titles in the East. More often than not, the race comes down to the last week or two of the season. Odds are that in 2018, the , New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins will produce another dogfight on the way to the playoffs.

Over the last 13 seasons, the and Eagles have each won four NFC East titles. The Giants have won three, and Washington is unsurprisingly last with two.

2018 comes with the additional intrigue of the Eagles being the defending Champions. If the NFC East’s wasn’t scary enough, the history of how teams fare in the season after winning the big one isn’t pretty.

All this points to the usual reality that the NFC East is wide open. 2017 was an unusually down year; Philadelphia won the division by four games. But Dallas, New York, and Washington are all poised to improve and hopefully make things much more interesting.

With the Eagles kicking off the season later tonight, let’s examine the Cowboys’ division rivals and how they’re looking heading into the season.

Saquon Barkley, Giants
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley

New York Giants

Last year was a disaster for the G-Men. Losing and general disarray under the misguidance of Ben McAdoo sent them into a 3-13 spiral.

For their suffering, the Giants got the second pick in this year’s draft and used it on Saquon Barkley. Since the Cowboys took fourth overall in 2016, a new trend of top RB prospects going high in the draft has begun. New York is hoping that Barkley can have the same impact on their that Zeke brought to Dallas.

The decision to stick with 37-year-old Eli Manning at wasn’t a slam dunk, and the Barkley pick had a lot to do with trying to take pressure off their aged passer. New York has been diligent in adding offensive weapons with Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, but it’s been a while since they had a which could carry the offensive load.

To that end, the Giants did a lot this to work on their offensive line. They signed Patrick Omameh and Nate Solder, then spent a second-round pick on Will Hernandez. But even with that work, they still have their own Chaz Green at in Ereck Flowers.

is a question mark as well. There are still some great pieces like and DT , but DE is gone and Oliver Vernon enters the season injured. Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins are a solid but beatable tandem at .

Last year the Giants were dysfunctional, but they booted McAdoo and are hoping Pat Shurmur will provide both an offensive spark and better overall leadership. This is definitely not a 3-13 team given their talent, but did last year’s woes do lasting damage? If they struggle early, will New York fall apart again?

3 Things Cowboys Should Learn From the Super Bowl Champs
Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles

Philadelphia Eagles

There is no doubt that the Eagles are still ’ team, but when will he return to duty? Until then, Super Bowl Nick Foles will try to continue last year’s run.

Philly has done a good job of avoiding a true QB controversy. No matter what Foles does to start the year, it is clear that Wentz will get his job back when he’s healthy. If anything, the Eagles have an incredible luxury of allowing Carson to heal fully and not feeling much pressure to rush him back.

What could change that is if an offseason of praise and raised expectations have an adverse effect on Foles. Throughout his career, Nick has performed well as the underdog but not when teams counted on him to carry over his success.

Unlike some defending champions, though, the Eagles have been able to bring back nearly all of their talent from last year. Philly remains a young, dangerous team with both established stars and emerging talent. They are well-equipped to keep competing at a high level.

You could say this about any NFL team, but it really will come down to quarterback. Can Foles keep producing? If not, how quickly can they get Wentz back out there?

Last year, Philadelphia had an unusually easy road in the NFC East. The Cowboys were held back by and the Ezekiel Elliott situation. The Giants plummeted from the issues we’ve already discussed. And Washington was their typical middling selves.

2018 won’t be so easy. The Cowboys and Giants should definitely be better, and we’ll discuss Washington more in a moment. Along with that, Philly now faces the huge challenge of trying repeat as Super Bowl Champions. The underdog status is over.

Alex Smith, Redskins
Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith

Washington Redskins

The financial war with Kirk Cousins finally ended, and Washington decided to try to keep things afloat with veteran Alex Smith instead of going into a full rebuild. How will that decision pan out in 2018?

Smith is one of the underappreciated quarterbacks in the NFL. He is efficient and provides a dual threat with mobility, even at age 34. But he’s not an electric passer in an increasingly high-scoring, pass-focused league.

Alex has flourished with Andy Reid in Kansas City, but now he joins a much less proven coach in . Will Gruden’s system work for Smith the same way it did for Cousins, or will we find out that the QB was carrying the coach?

Hurting the chance for success is a lack of offensive weaponry. Their best one, , can’t stay healthy. Failed experiments at receiver and a lack of investment at running back has left them without much firepower. Things were bad enough that they’re now kicking the tires on Adrian Peterson.

Like the Giants, Washington has some great players on defense but also several holes. and Zach Brown are studs at . has a big reputation and mouth, but is he still an elite corner at age 30?

Washington went 7-9 last year, so even minor improvement could put them into contention. But the change at quarterback just might be a downgrade, and improvement from the Giants could drive Washington back down into the NFC East basement.

~ ~ ~

In the end, the unexpected and unpredictable will likely decide the NFC East. September’s favorites can easily wind up with next April’s high draft picks if a few things go wrong. The difference between 10-6 and 6-10 is much slimmer than most people realize.

After going 9-7 last year despite their own issues, the Dallas Cowboys are poised to return to contention. They have questions marks, just like most teams, but the potential is there for big things.

Coming out of the NFC East is its own challenge. It’s tough, competitive standard is why only two of the last 22 Super Bowl winners have come from our division. NFC East teams don’t get to waltz into the playoffs every year like the Patriots, Steelers, and some others do.

But that said, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Part of what makes every season so exciting is knowing how much every game counts, and that’s truer in our division than others.

2018 is looking like another tough, competitive year in the NFC East. All of our rivals have a case to be contenders this year.

Did we expect anything less?

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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