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2008-2009 NFC EAST PREVIEW

 

The NFC East has always been a tough, rugged, competitive division. When two NFC East teams hook up to play, you can count on a tough, close game more times than not. If you're looking for some betting value, perhaps the Giants at Odds of 3-1 to win the division is as good as it gets. The Super Bowl Champs certainly aren't getting much respect with those odds. Looking ahead to the 2008-2009 season, it looks to us as though it may be a two horse race between the Cowboys and Giants. Both are stable as far as the coaching staff and the bulk of the players from a year ago. Both had their successes a year ago, with the Cowboys going 13-3 and the Giants, well, winning the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, we have the Redskins with a new coach and in more of a rebuilding mode, while the Eagles woes continue with Any Reid and his personal problems, not to mention hold outs, Donovan Mcnabb complaining, and so on. So let's take a look at each of the 4 NFC East teams along with their current odds and point spread records from a year ago.

 

New York Giants: Odds 3-1

Head Coach: Tom Coughlin (5th yr. in N.Y.)

Off. Coord: Kevin Gilbride; Def. Coord: Steve Spagnuolo

2007 Record: SUR 14-6, Point Spread Record 14-6, O-U 9-10-1

What do you do for an encore after winning the big game? Well, you make very intelligent drafts and that is what the Giants accomplished.

We love Mario Manningham WR 6-0 181 drafted in the third round out of Michigan. Manningham, a controversial selection because of a troubled past, will join what should be a very competitive battle for playing time at receiver this summer behind starters Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. Second-year pro Steve Smith figures to be the odds-on favorite for the third receiver spot, leaving Manningham to battle Sinorice Moss for the fourth spot in the rotation. Meanwhile, young pinball RB Ahmad Bradshaw emerged late in the season to complement pounding Brandon Jacobs (1009 YR) and slashing Derrick Ward (602 YR). The road-grading OL led by RG Chris Snee (Coughlin’s son-in-law) returns intact. Lost in all the Super Bowl glitz with the defense mauling its way through opponents is the fact that Eli posted 24+ total TDs for the 3rd straight year. In fact, in his last 5 games including the playoffs he threw 10 TD passes and only 2 INTs. He reminded people why the Giants traded away their 2004 1st & 3rd-round picks plus their 2005 1st-rounder to acquire him from San Diego as the #1 overall pick.

There’s no reason the defense shouldn’t be nasty again, although DE Michael Strahan has retired. But Strahan or not, there might not be a better group of young pass rushers than DEs Osi Umenyiora & Justin Tuck and LB Matthias Kiwanuka.

 

Dallas Cowboys: Odds 10-11

Head Coach: Wade Phillips (2nd yr. in Dallas)

Off. Coord: Jason Garrett; Def. Coord: Brian Stewart

2007 Record: SUR 13-4, Pointspread Record 9-8, O-U 10-7

The Cowboys made some acquisitions in the winter to fill in some holes. However, there’s enough talent to rectify that early playoff exit and to extend the ’08 postseason a bit further.

The Cowboys signed S Ken Hamlin, their franchise player, to a 6-year deal worth $29 million. He gets $15m of it guaranteed. Dallas has now locked up Hamlin, LT Flozell Adams, WR Terrell Owens, CB Terence Newman, and RB Marion Barber to long-term deals compiling over $80 million in guaranteed money. Kosier's a weak link. Colombo was finally healthy. Leonard Davis' move from tackle to guard was startlingly successful. Adams is really becoming a monster. They applaud Strahan retiring.  / Romo threw for 4,211 yards and 36 TDs, breaking Danny White’s club records. Troy Aikman’s career highs were 3,445 yards and 23 TDs. The Cowboys also won 12 of their first 13 for the first time in club history. However, they exited early in the playoffs again and Romo was not sharp (many blamed it on his dizziness over Jessica Simpson… we can’t fault him for that). The Giants beat them 21-17 and Romo was 18-of-36 for 201 yards and 1 TD. He *averaged* 263 yards And 2.25 TD passes in the regular season. Not a technician like Peyton Manning, Romo is a Favre close who is streaky and loose. The Eagles exposed Romo in week 15 when they blitzed recklessly, causing 4 sacks and 3 INTs. He’ll have to be crisper this season because everyone will throw the book at him now. Barber, this 220-lb hell beast rushed for 975 yards and 10 TDs, adding another 44 receptions and 2 TD catches to complete a terrific season. He scored in 8 different games and scored 2+ TDs in 3 games. Barber is a human punishing machine, running into and over defenders for 60 minutes every Sunday. It’s like he’s still angry from that time Bill Parcells told him to “take the high heels off.” However, he needs to learn to go out of bounds sometimes. Emmitt Smith even said “Marion, my gosh son, you can’t absorb that kind of contact on every play” on ESPN NFL Countdown. He’s right.

Former Dolphin MLB Zach Thomas is one of the game’s best tacklers. However, the undersized Thomas has mostly played behind a pair of DTs in a 4-3 and might be more vulnerable in a 3-4 vs. often “uncovered” offensive guards. The secondary is less settled, and there are rumors Jerry Jones is ready to finally dump poor-covering SS Roy Williams.

 

Philadelphia Eagles: Odds 11-4

Head Coach: Andy Reid (10th year)

Off. Coord: Marty Mornhinweg; Def. Coord: Jim Johnson

2007 Record: SUR 8-8, Point Spread Record 8-7-1, O-U 7-9

Scattered talent to go with players that are getting up there in age, and harsh words by McNaabb about drafting a quarterback will be their excuse for missing the playoffs this season.

Brian Westbrook was awesome last year. He tallied a league-best 2,104 yards from scrimmage, breaking the Eagles’ team record of 2,005 set by Wilbert Montgomery set in 1979. He carried 278 times for 1,333 yards and added another 90 receptions for a career-high 368 touches. Westbrook either had 130+ total yards or at least 1 TD in 12 of 15 games! He also became the first Eagles RB to record back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Duce Staley ('98 & '99). His right knee, the one we were so afraid of, held up nicely. He did miss one game in week 4 when it locked up on him in Thursday’s practice – but he had it drained and played through the pain all season. We’re still paranoid about his health, as Westbrook's already landed on IR twice with a torn triceps & broken foot. McNabb is coming off yet another season with less than 16 games, his 5th in 6 years. Last year it was a high ankle sprain suffered against Miami that cost him 2 games. Overall he was efficient though les than stellar. McNabb threw 19 TDs and hit 61.5% of his passes. The 19 TDs look even thinner when you consider 8 of them came in two games against Detroit and Washington.

The release of vet Takeo Spikes shouldn’t hurt an emerging LB corps that uncovered a star in third-year MLB Omar Gaither. Cagey d.c. Jim Johnson has high hopes for 2nd-round DT Trevor Laws (Notre Dame), a runstuffer who has physical qualities similar to those of productive DT starter Mike Patterson.

 

Washington Redskins: Odds 6-1

Head Coach: Jim Zorn (1st year)

Off. Coord: Sherman Smith; Def. Coord: Greg Blache

2007 Record: SUR 9-8, Pointspread Record 7-8-2, O-U 8-8-1

An aging team with an inconsistent offense indicates the start of a rebuilding era for Washington.

Jansen's body is scarred from surgeries but he's a warrior. Rabach is an able line-caller. Samuels is very good. Brittle group but lots of veteran depth layered in. New coach Jim Zorn brings a hybrid West Coast offense which uses the run to set up big pass plays downfield, sorta like Denver’s modified WCO. Santana Moss is healthy, Chris Cooley is peaking as an elite TE, and rookie WRs Devin Thomas & Malcolm Kelly were picked in the 2nd round. Clinton Portis is coming off a 1,262-yard season. Last year the Redskins only allowed 29 sacks and will always be efficient pass-blockers as long as tackles Jon Jansen & Chris Samuels are healthy.

Similar age/injury concerns exists for the front seven on defense, where top tackler (MLB London Fletcher) is 33 and in his 11th season, top sacker (DE Andre Carter) is 29 and in his 8th, and top CB (Shawn Springs) is 33 and in his 12th.

 

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