2016 NFC East Best/Worst Case Scenarios

The NFC East is not what it once was. It used to be the division where two teams made the playoffs almost every year. The Giants were winning Super Bowls while the Eagles were making it to the NFC Championship Game consistently. Although things are different now, the potential for success is there. Any of the four teams could win the division, if things go well, and make a playoff run. On the other hand, each team could win six games and that would not shock too many people outside of each team’s fan base. With many players acquired via free agency and the NFL Draft, and other players already missing time due to injuries or suspensions, this division is up for grabs yet again.

2016 NFC East Best/Worst Case Scenarios

Dallas Cowboys

Best Case Scenario

Everyone on the offense stays healthy and meets expectations. If that happens, the Cowboys could be scary. With proven players at each position other than running back, the Dallas offense could carry this team to success. The best offensive line in football, a star wideout, a playmaking quarterback and a consistent tight end adds up to likely success. Ezekiel Elliott will need to be the star he is being hyped up to be. Keeping this team’s defense off the field with long drives will be a key component for success. Looking for at least 250 carries and potentially over 300 carries, the rookie will have to acclimate himself quickly. A great offense can hide many defensive liabilities, just ask Peyton Manning’s Colts.

Worst Case Scenario

The offense may not be able to keep up with how poorly their defense will be. The front seven only has three returning starters. Greg Hardy was not re-signed, Rolando McClain will miss the first 10 games, and Randy Gregory will miss at least the first 10 games. With Sean Lee always one play away from injury, this defense could be atrocious if things are not going well.

If Ezekiel Elliott cannot get accustomed to the NFL game quickly enough, the offense may not be able to hide the poor defense. Having already tweaked his hamstring this training camp, Elliott will need to get his mental reps in during any time he misses. The Cowboys will be careful to keep their future bell-cow healthy and sit him until he is 100% ready to return.

Tony Romo must stay healthy. The backup quarterback situation in Dallas has never been good and only got worse this week. With Kellen Moore having broken his foot, the Cowboys will look to sign another veteran quarterback. Rookie Dak Prescott does not want to be thrown into the fire if Romo goes down.

There is a very high ceiling for this Dallas team, but a very low floor as well.

Best Case Scenario Record: 11-5

Worst Case Scenario Record: 5-11

New York Giants

Best Case Scenario:

The New York Giants made the biggest (and most expensive) off-season moves this spring. The acquisitions of Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison, and Olivier Vernon should help this defense improve. A newly-motivated Jason Pierre-Paul will also contribute to Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.

Eli Manning has had two of his best seasons over the last two years thanks to Ben McAdoo and Odell Beckham Jr. The offensive additions of rookies Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins have the Giants and their fans excited for new, young talent. The offensive line began to play better towards the end of last season, which led to Rashad Jennings having most of his success late in the year.

Nine of the Giants 10 losses in 2015 came by a total of 18 points, usually with the Giants having lost the lead with under two minutes left. The three major additions on defense should help to minimize or eliminate those types of losses.

Worst Case Scenario:

The loss of Tom Coughlin will be more difficult to overcome than most people think. Although Ben McAdoo has proven himself to be a very good offensive coordinator, he has proven nothing as a head coach. The less time he puts into the team’s offense could mean a decline in that area for the Giants.

What happens if the free agents don’t mesh? Teams that build through free agency rather than the draft have a difficult time finding success. Although it is hard to see why the additions would not fit, it is certainly possible.

There are several positions where the Giants are unsure of their starters. These questions need to be answered in training camp. With very little depth, it is hard to see how this team will get passed an injury or two.

Best Case Scenario Record: 10-6

Worst Case Scenario Record: 6-10

Philadelphia Eagles

Best Case Scenario:

Giving rookie quarterback Carson Wentz a season or two to learn is the ideal situation for Philadelphia. If Sam Bradford is able to play to the value of his contract, the Eagles might be okay this season. A healthy Bradford, back in his type of offense, could mean good things for this team. He will be looking for Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor to have breakout years and take some pressure off of their mediocre running game. Although talented, there were seven games last season in which Matthews had less than 50 receiving yards. That will not cut it for a number one receiver. If Matthews and Agholor can improve on creating space and making things easier for Bradford, they will have tremendous impacts on the Eagles season.

Ryan Mathews will have to finally stay healthy to form an effective 1-2 punch with Darren Sproles. Mathews has already missed some time this training camp and has not played a full season since 2013, which was the only year he has done that. The Chip Kelly system was not the best for this running back committee last season, so hopefully the change will be a good one.

The defensive front will have to hide some of the faults of the secondary. Fletcher Cox has a new contract and now needs to remain dominant. With Cox leading the way, the front seven for the Eagles are nasty. Continuing to be tough, strong, and fast will be the keys for success for this defense. The secondary is not great, so they will need to take some chances and create turnovers. The pressure coming from their front seven should allow them to do that.

Worst Case Scenario:

Although Sproles is effective and still has playmaking ability, he cannot be counted on to be the bell-cow. Ryan Matthews having already missed several practices is certainly something to be concerned with considering his injury history. With the running game already taking hits, the passing game is directly affected.

Although statistically better, Jordan Matthews did not meet his sophomore year expectations. As a true number one, he will need to be the go-to player for Bradford. Matthews does have big play capabilities, but his inconsistencies are certainly there. If he does not make strides this season, Agholor will need to pick up his slack. Agholor had a lot of hype going into his rookie season but again, that did not go as planned. With only 23 receptions for 283 yards over 12 starts, calling last season a disappointment is an understatement. Agholor never seemed to find his rhythm last season and will need every rep in training camp to develop some. Without these two, Zach Ertz is the only viable option for Bradford and he will not be enough to sustain success.

Although removing Chip Kelly was probably a good idea, this team still has to learn a new offense, defense, and special teams. Combining that with high injury risk players, a weak running back unit, and a poor secondary, the Eagles have a long road ahead yet again.

Best Case Scenario Record: 9-7

Worst Case Scenario Record: 4-12

Washington Redskins

Best Case Scenario:

The defending NFC East champions may be the first team to repeat as division winners in over a decade. With the least amount of moving parts and players hungrier than ever, Washington has a high potential for success. Kirk Cousins is now playing for a long-term contract and is feeling great coming off of last season. The success Cousins and the Redskins offense had was not expected, but was crucial in turning the Redskins season around. The dismissal of Robert Griffin III was the biggest, and best, decision coach Jay Gruden made. With Cousins leading the way, Washington is the favorite to win the NFC East.

Offensively speaking, the Redskins are good. With talent like Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, Pierre GarconJamison Crowder and rookie Josh Doctson, Cousins can throw the ball anywhere he wants. The only question mark on offense is second year running back Matt Jones. Although the potential is there for Jones, ball security has been an issue. If that can be fixed, Jones’ talent will be enough for this offense to keep scoring.

Worst Case Scenario:

Was last year an aberration for Cousins? If so, then obviously the outlook for this team is different. Even the Redskins have their doubts, only giving Cousins a one-year deal with the franchise tag. Leading the league in completion percentage is a tough act to follow, and not something that is done very often. Drew Brees last completed the feat in 2010 and 2011; before him it was Kurt Warner in 2000 and 2001. Cousins is not quite at that level just yet. If his play diminishes for whatever reason, Washington could struggle to win tough games.

The biggest acquisition for the Redskins was not on the offensive side of the ball this off-season. Josh Norman made the move from the NFC South to the NFC East and will be challenged often. Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant would surely love to welcome Norman to the division. More of a zone coverage corner, Norman may struggle in one on one situations. If his transition goes anything like Nnamdi Asomugha’s, the Redskins could be vulnerable in the secondary.

It seems the Redskins do have the best chance at winning the division, although there are concerns. The highest ceiling and the highest floor likely have Washington to be at least .500 this season.

Best Case Scenario Record: 11-5

Worst Case Scenario Record: 7-9
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