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NFC East Division Winners: Are the Cowboys the Only Threat to the Eagles?

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Nick Makowitz

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Now more than ever, the fantasy and betting landscapes are providing a year-round experience for fans, especially when it comes to the NFL. With the advent of best ball and growth of dynasty leagues – plus the explosion of legal sports betting options – casual fantasy players and bettors are no longer waiting until the late summer to catch up and get involved.

 

Still, summer brings with it an enhanced focus on NFL content. Talk shows, podcasts and Twitter timelines are zeroing in on the upcoming season, fantasy drafts and competitions are ubiquitous, and sportsbooks are taking bets on futures like division, conference and Super Bowl champions.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll attempt to satisfy your craving for NFL content by previewing every division. I’ll cover key division storylines, provide a breakdown for each team and give out my pick to win each division.

Check out the division previews so far: AFC East

NFC East Preview

The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East last season by two games over the Dallas Cowboys, finishing with a dominant 14-3 record. Dallas kept pace for the Eagles for much of the season, but Philadelphia’s 13-1 start was too much to overcome for America’s Team. Somewhat surprisingly, Daniel Jones and the Giants went 9-7-1 and earned their first playoff berth since 2016. Even the Commanders, who finished last in the division, mustered a .500 record despite shaky quarterback play all season long.

As of early June, FanDuel projects the NFC East to shape up exactly as it did last season, with the Eagles listed as the favorites (-105) followed by the Cowboys (+175), Giants (+700) and Commanders (+1000). All indications are that this will be a two-horse race at the top of the division with the Giants and Commanders fighting for a possible Wild Card spot. Are the Cowboys the only threat to the Eagles or can one of the longshots make a push? And is the second-place team guaranteed an NFC Wild Card berth? Let’s see whose offseason put them in the best position to win the NFC East.

Philadelphia Eagles

(FanDuel Sportsbook division title odds: -105)

The Eagles exceeded the hype in 2022 even though they entered the year with a loaded roster on paper. Jalen Hurts took a major leap forward and could’ve been the MVP had he not gotten hurt and missed two games late in the season, the offensive line was elite, and the defense wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Now, there’s a new backfield in Philadelphia, as they acquired D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny while letting Miles Sanders go, but otherwise there haven’t been too many shakeups for the defending NFC champs.

Some would even argue the Eagles won the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft after they selected Georgia’s Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith, adding to an already-stacked front seven on defense. Outside of injury, it feels like the Eagles’ worst-case scenario is letting the division slip away while still clinching a playoff berth. The best-case scenario is building on last year’s success and getting over the Super Bowl hump on the back of Hurts, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert and a dominant defense.

Dallas Cowboys

(FanDuel odds: +175)

Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys Fantasy Football NFC East Preview

The Cowboys put together another solid regular season in 2022 but once again failed to get past the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Dak Prescott had an up-and-down season, leading one of the league’s highest scoring offenses but struggling mightily with turnovers at the same time. Dallas got Dak some more help this offseason by trading for veteran wideout Brandin Cooks, but they also let Dalton Schultz walk in free agency and cut longtime starting running back Ezekiel Elliott

Behind what is still one of the better offensive lines in the league, the big three of Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard should again power one of the league’s best offenses, even without offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. If the Cowboys’ defense can regenerate last season’s fearsome pass rush and improve in the secondary, this will be a complete team, and trading for former All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore should certainly help the cause. If Dallas puts it all together, they have the talent to knock off Philadelphia in the NFC East and compete for a Super Bowl. However, the Cowboys have shown a tendency to come up short in epic fashion in recent seasons.

New York Giants

(FanDuel odds: +700)

In Brian Daboll’s first season as head coach, the Giants went 9-7-1 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Daniel Jones earned himself a new contract after having his best season as a pro, and Saquon Barkley looked healthy and explosive all year. This offseason, New York bolstered their overachieving offense by trading for former Raiders tight end Darren Waller, drafting receiver Jalin Hyatt and signing free agents Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder.

The Giants’ defense, however, graded out as the third worst in the NFL according to PFF, and the club didn’t do much to improve that. With such a poor defense and an offense that was only marginally better, New York can’t afford any setbacks, especially considering they won just one game by double-digits last season. The best-case scenario for the Giants is that Daniel Jones doesn’t take a step back and the team grinds out more close victories en route to another Wild Card berth. Unfortunately, the worst case might be more pessimistic than the best case is optimistic. On paper, this team doesn’t impress, and finishing last in the division and toward the bottom of the conference isn’t crazy. But anything is possible in a wide-open NFC.

Washington Commanders

(FanDuel odds: +1000)

Jahan Dotson Washington Commanders Fantasy Football NFC East Preview

Despite another step back from their defense and below-average quarterback play, the Commanders scrapped their way to an 8-8-1 record. It wasn’t enough to get into the postseason and, as a result, Washington cut Carson Wentz and let Taylor Heinicke walk in free agency. This year, they’ll let the freshly signed Jacoby Brissett and former fifth-round pick Sam Howell compete for the starting quarterback job. Whoever wins it will be working with two starting caliber running backs (Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson) and three explosive receivers (Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel).

On defense, the Commanders still have a ton of players – Chase Young, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat – who had huge roles in 2020, when Washington had one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL. The best-case scenario for the Commanders is that the defense returns just a bit closer to 2020 form and that Sam Howell turns out to be the guy who was once projected to be the first overall pick and not the guy who fell to the fifth round. The worst case is that the defense is average yet again and neither Howell nor Brissett can unlock the Washington weapons, leaving them to scrap their way to another early offseason.

 

The Pick: Philadelphia Eagles (-105)

The Eagles simply have too much talent for me to pick against them. They lost just two total games that Jalen Hurts played in last season, including the playoffs, and it’s reasonable to say they improved this offseason. The Cowboys can certainly push them again, but I don’t know if they have a distinct advantage over Philly in any area.

Wild Card: Dallas Cowboys (+175)

It’s chalky to pick the favorite to win the division and the second favorite as the wild card, but I don’t see any way these teams don’t finish top-two in the division outside of a quarterback injury. The talent disparity from the Eagles to the Cowboy is fairly small, but the gap is much larger going from the Cowboys to either of the other two teams in the division. With a well-rounded offense, an elite pass rush and a potentially improved secondary, Dallas should be able to stay head and shoulders above the Giants and Commanders while challenging the Eagles.

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