Thursday, September 07, 2006

2006 NFL preview: NFC East

Terrell Owens left the Eagles, but stayed in the division with the Cowboys, everyone's bitter rival. The league's most egotistical receiver will now be governed by the league's most egotistical coach, Bill Parcells, who is governed by the league's most egotistical owner, Jerry Jones. We wouldn't have it any other way.
The Cowboys should be the most entertaining 9-7 team you've ever seen.

1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
I'd like to chalk this up to something more than a roll of the dice, but I can't. The Eagles and Cowboys are equals, but I'll give the edge to Philly based on the past postseason galvanizing of Donovan McNabb and coach Andy Reid.
The loss of T.O. throws the options around McNabb into a state of flux. Donte Stallworth was acquired, and might be the team's number one receiver. Brian Westbrook provides a solid option as a feature back when he's healthy, which is seldom.
Brodrick Bunkley arrives to help shore up a defensive line that still includes Jevon Kearse. The Eagles are starting to erode from their Super Bowl height of two years ago, but they are still a dangerous team in the weaker NFC.
The x-factor: McNabb. He has to stay healthy for the Eagles to realize any of their potential.

2. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
I don't know if this team is a legitimate playoff threat hiding behind a circus freak show, or just a circus freak show, period. What I do know is this team is a potent mix of idiosyncratic talents that could either blow up in the standings or blow up in the locker room.
Terrell Owens is already making sure all eyes are focused on him and whatever injury is ailing him at the moment. If he had a hangnail, he'd find a way to get it on ESPN. That's just the way he is. If you're going to try to comprehend the enigma that is T.O., you have to get past the shenanigans.
Lucky for the Cowboys, they have one of the few coaches in the league who can match Owens ego-to-ego.
While we were busy harping on T.O., we forgot that the Cowboys still need a running game and a quarterback. Drew Bledsoe is the starter, but Tony Romo is there the instant he slips. I smell a quarterback controversy brewing.
Feature back Julius Jones has to rebound from a so-so 2005 if the Cowboys are to have a running game.
The x-factor: team chemistry. Owens and Parcells are so good, yet so volatile.

3. New York Giants (8-8)
This team seems like bunch of talented, yet loose, pieces threaded together, which is why I am convinced of their mediocrity. QB Eli Manning needs to show more than his up-down 2005. The offense is a jumble of veterans (Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey, Plaxico Burress) and youngsters (Sinorice Moss, Manning).
Michael Strahan is still plugging away on the defensive line in his 14th season. He'll be joined by Redskins transplant LaVar Arrington.
The x-factor: Manning. He wanted the lights of New York. He got the lights of New York. Let's see him perform when the pressure is on.

4. Washington Redskins (6-10)
I think ESPN's Mr. Chuckles, Bill Simmons, put it best: the Redskins sink all this money into the offense, acquire Brandon Lloyd, T.J. Duckett and Antwaan Randle El, and then glue it all together with the creaky, 36-year-old arm of Mark Brunell? What am I missing here?
Oh, yeah. Dan Snyder owns the team. Nevermind.
The x-factor: bionic technology. What else is going to keep Brunell's body together?

Up next: the NFC South

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