Today it's time for Part 2 of our NFC East Roundtable. Let's hear from JasonB at Bleeding Green Nation, our Philadelphia Eagles blog.
I know, I know. You guys are dying for the Dallas version of the roundtable. I like to keep you coming back, though, so I'm going to make you wait at least another day for those.
Anyway, on with the answers from BGN.
1. Big Blue View: The NFC East is brutal in terms of the depth and quality of its teams. Can you think of another conference that is even close in terms of talent and competitiveness?
I think the AFC South is a tougher division than the NFC East. Record wise last year and as far as teams sent to the postseason they're very similar. The Colts are likely the best team in either division and I think the Houston Texans have the potential to be the most improved team in either division. Plus, they're playing in a tougher conference overall... The NFC East is probably #2, but I have to give the nod to the AFC South.
2. BBV: Considering the fierceness of the rivalries within the division, how tough was it to watch the Giants win the Super Bowl last season?
Depends on what you call a fluke. Was it a fluke in the sense that they were not the best team in the league yet won anyway? Yes. However, I don't really think it was that big a fluke that they got there. I told everyone that when they drew Dallas it was the best possible matchup they could have hoped for and that they'd win that one. Basically, if you make the playoffs in the NFL I don't think it can ever really be considered a fluke if you end up winning it all. Funny enough, the Patriots were bigger underdogs when they beat the Rams then the Giants were when they beat the Pats... and NO ONE looks back on that Pat/Rams superbowl and thinks it was a fluke.
3. BBV: What new player on any of the teams -- draft pick, free agent or trade acquisition -- will make the biggest impact within the division this season?
I'll say Asante Samuel for one simple reason. Last year the Eagles were tied for the fewest INTs in the NFL. So they go add the NFL INT leader over the past 2 years. I heard Sal Palontonio say recently that the Eagles lost more games by 8 points or less(or one score) than any other team in football last year. There's no way you can tell me that a few extra turnovers here and there could not have swung at least a few games the Eagles way and therefore put them in the postseason. So this year, having that guy with a knack for turnovers playing with the guys we missed due to injury last year(Brian Dawkins and Lito Sheppard) should be a tremendous boost to our chances.
4. BBV: Your team will win the division, and possibly the Super Bowl, if ...
Same answer to this one it is every year... If McNabb can stay healthy and if he can't whether we can get good QB play in his absence. Last year, he was still getting over the knee surgery all year and did miss a few games... In those games AJ Feeley threw about 3 picks a game. Two years ago, when the Eagles actually won this division last, McNabb went down and we ended up getting fantastic play from Jeff Garcia. So, if McNabb stays healthy then we should have as good a shot as anyone in this conference... if not, we pray that Kevin Kolb is the real deal...
5. BBV: Your team will finish last in the division if ...
See the opposite of #4. I'll also include turnovers here. The Eagles defense was actually quite stout last year. Thy didn't surrender many points, they were one of the better teams against the run, and I believe ended up as the #8 ranked D in the leauge... but they were woeful in forcing turnovers. So if the additon of Asante Samuel and the return of Lito and Dawkins does not solve that lack of turnovers, we could be in trouble.
6. BBV: What team in the NFC has the best shot at keeping an NFC East team out of the Super Bowl?
The Vikes are the sexy pick this year... but until Tarvaris Jackson proves he's an NFL QB they can't be for real. So I guess by process of elimination I'll say the Saints, but honestly I'm not very confident in them either. It's really not a very good conference.
7. BBV: Give me one player on your team everyone else might not know about, but who could wind up making a name for himself this season.
Stewart Bradley. The Eagles 4th round pick from a year ago out of Nebraska has won the starting middle linebacker job and so far has looked absolutely fantastic. He started 2 games at the end of last year as rookie and had a sack and an INT. He's a big guy that moves well and seems to have his nose in every play. I think he could be poised to be a real impact player.
8. BBV: Rank the starting quarterbacks within the division.
I'll still maintain that Donovan McNabb is the most talented QB with the best physical tools in this division. I think his numbers are record speak for itself... however, this isn't 2004 anymore I can't deny his inability to stay healthy over the past fews years. That said, last year when most Eagles fans thought he looked horrible trying to get over his knee injury from the previous year... McNabb threw 19 TDs and just 7 picks in 14 games while completing over 60% of his passes. Not a bad year for most QBs, but it goes toshow the high standard he's set.
As for the other guys, you gotta give Manning credit. He got the Giants the superbowl he was drafted to bring them. He's still an interception machine and has steadily gotten worse in that dept so that has to change... Romo hasn't prven he can win a big game and ultimately that's how you measure a QB. In that dept(playoff.big game success), there's just no deying that he's well behind Manning and McNabb. Campbell has all the tools to be very very good, we just need to see him actually do it.
9. BBV: Rank the coaches within the division.
The fact that Andy Reid has been in the NFC East for 10 years and has had so much success means he remains at the top of my list. Sure, we could look at last year only and say Tom Couglin won the superbowl so he must be the best coach... but if you take a wider view I think it's hard to argue that Reid is still the top guy for now. He's won this division what? 6 or 7 times? Plus, let's not forget that his coaching tree includes the catalyst for the Giants success last year, Steve Spagnulo. The Vikings are everyone's sexy pick this year and they're coached by a former Reid guy, the Ravens hired one of Reid's long time assistants this year... When other coaches and owners in the division and around the NFL are looking to your staff to improve themselves, that speaks volumes about the kind of success you've had and the esteem you're held in.
At least Jim Zorn hasn't proven he can't win in the postseason yet, unlike Bum's boy.
10. BBV: Finally, what is your predicted order of finish in the NFC East? Why?
This was actually what I predicted last year and it didn't happen... so I'm going to give it another shot this time around.
I actually am predicting that the Eagles and 'Boys will have identical records... The Skins, all I can say is taht I just have a feeling. I think Campbell will put it together this year. The Giants have lost too much and haven't done enough to replace it to keep up. Although, I thought losing Tiki last year would be a death blow... so Giants fans shouldn't loose sleep over that pick... Finally, I think Dallas has a much tougher schedule than last year and it really seemed that teams got them figured out offensively by the end of last year.
Thanks, Jason! Remember, head to BGN any time you need Eagles news -- though we aren't sure why you would need it.