Jul 21, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) talks with tackle Tyron Smith (77) at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFC East Preview: Can Dallas Win It All?

After three games in the books for the Dallas Cowboys and two for the rest of the divisional foes, I thought now would be a great time for a preview of the division for the upcoming season.  The last few years have not been kind to the Cowboys, especially within the division.  In each of the last three seasons, a different team, besides Dallas has won the NFC East.  To make matters worse, Dallas has played the final game of the season the last two years with a “win and in” scenario and lost to a divisional foe.  The first time to the New York Giants and last year to the Washington Redskins both on the road.  Can 2013 be the Cowboys year?  Well, if that last game is any indication, the answer is a quite possible yes.  This year, Dallas plays their final game in front of the home crowd against the Philadelphia Eagles.  Speaking of Philly, they lead off this divisional preview as we start the look down the road to the playoffs.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) returns a fumble for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports


2012 Record/Finish – 4-12, 4th in NFC East
Key Additions - Coach Chip Kelly, OT Lane Johnson (draft), LB Connor Barwin (FA), CB Cary Williams (FA), S Patrick Chung (FA)
Key Subtractions - Coach Andy Reid, WR Jeremy Maclin (IR), CB Nnamdi Asomugha, DT Cullen Jenkins
Offensive Ranks - 29th (scoring), 18th (total yards), 13th (passing), 13th (rushing)
Defensive Ranks - 29th (scoring), 15th (total yards), 9th (passing), 23rd (rushing)

2012 was a nightmare of a season for the Eagles. Their offensive line was decimated by injuries while their high-priced, big name defense was shredded week after week. All of this saw Philadelphia finish with their worst record in 14 years leading to massive overhauls throughout the organization. The new year will see a new coach and probably six new starters on the defensive end. Is it enough to get out of the cellar? I don’t think so. For one, the injury bug has already bitten the Eagles hard as they have lost their best receiver in Jeremy Maclin for the year and another back up in Arrelious Benn both to blown ACL’s. Another receiver gave us the controversy of the offseason and there seems to be a circus around which of the three quarterbacks on the roster will be the full-time guy. While Philadelphia certainly needed to change the look of their squad, I think the first year of all this upheaval and a strong division will once again seal their fate.

Predicted Order of Finish 6-10, 4th place

NEW YORK GIANTS

Oct 28, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) fights for the goal line after a catch in the third quarter against New York Giants safety Stevie Brown (27) and linebacker Keith Rivers (55) at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports


2012 Record/Finish – 9-7, 2nd in NFC East
Key Additions - TE Brandon Myers (FA), OT Justin Pugh (draft), DT Cullen Jenkins (FA)
Key Subtractions - RB Ahmad Bradshaw, DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Chris Canty, LB Chase Blackburn
Offensive Ranks - 6th (scoring), 14th (total yards), 12th (passing), 14th (rushing)
Defensive Ranks - 12th (scoring), 31st (total yards), 28th (passing), 25th (rushing)

Last year marked the third season in the last four that the Giants missed the playoffs. Amazing what a Super Bowl victory can do for your perception, right? The 2012 Giants were largely done in by their defensive ineptitude, allowing 67 total points in back to back late season losses and an inability to win away from home, posting a 3-5 road record. The offense was typically mediocre to good and certainly not flashy statistically. In 2013, the Giants hope to improve their defense by going much younger at the linebacker spot but they did nothing to improve their secondary which was the biggest issue from last year. Offensively, they allowed their best running back to walk, thinking that last year’s rookie David Wilson is ready for the full-time load. While the Giants are clearly making an attempt at getting younger, while still trying to be a playoff contender, that is a difficult balance to achieve.

Predicted Order of Finish – 8-8, 3rd place

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

December 30, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) carries the ball as Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) chases in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 28-18. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports


2012 Record/Finish – 10-6, 1st in NFC East
Key Additions - S Bacarri Rambo (draft), S Phillip Thomas (draft)
Key Subtractions - TE Chris Cooley
Offensive Ranks - 4th (scoring), 5th (total yards), 20th (passing), 1st (rushing)
Defensive Ranks - 22nd (scoring), 28th (total yards), 30th (passing), 5th (rushing)

Washington came out of nowhere to surprise everyone and win the division in 2012, largely due to two rookies who exceeded expectations and powered their league best rushing attack. QB Robert Griffin, III and RB Alfred Morris combined for over 2,400 yards and 20 touchdowns to give the Redskins their first winning season in five years and their first division title since 1999. The only black cloud that emerged from their season was the torn ACL that Griffin suffered in their home playoff loss to the Seahawks. This will undoubtedly be the story of their 2013 season. Can Griffin be as dynamic and dangerous as last year? Washington is banking on this, along with the additions of players lost to injury last year as they were very quiet in the free agent process. The same team, by and large, is returning from last year, will they see similar results? I think Washington can contend but ultimately they will fall short of last year’s success.

Predicted Order of Finish – 8-8, 2nd place

DALLAS COWBOYS
2012 Record/Finish – 8-8, 3rd in NFC East
Key Additions - C Travis Frederick (draft), S Will Allen (FA)
Key Subtractions - RB Felix Jones
Offensive Ranks - 15th (scoring), 6th (total yards), 3rd (passing), 31st (rushing)
Defensive Ranks - 24th (scoring), 19th (total yards), 19th (passing), 22nd (rushing)

The Cowboys finished 8-8 for the second straight season, losing yet another opportunity to get into the playoffs on the last day of the year.  The 2012 version of this team was racked with injuries and futility in the run game.  The defense did the best they could do but lost six starters to season ending injuries and could not hold down the fort.  Their 2013 season will likely come down to health as well.  If Dallas can stay healthy across their offensive line and get any success running the football, this offense could be unstoppable.  As for the defense, a change in philosophy and coordinators could be the answer to providing the potent offense with an equal capable running mate.  The main question for the defense will be whether the inexperience in the defensive backfield will hold it back.

Aug 4, 2013; Canton, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) during the 2013 Hall of Fame Game against the Miami Dolphins at Fawcett Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As previously stated, I really feel like it’s the Cowboys turn in this division.  The Eagles are a couple of years away.  The Giants seem to be on the decline and the Redskins have health issues with their most electrifying player.  The only thing left to do is to get out on the field and prove it.

Predicted Order of Finish – 10-6, 1st place

Tags: Dallas Cowboys New York Giants Philadelphia Eagles Travis Frederick Washington Redskins Will Allen

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