This year, expectations have been elevated for the Washington Redskins. It's the second season for Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III, as well as his underrated workhorse running back, Alfred Morris. In addition, Pierre Garcon appears to be a full strength, and a healthy Brian Orakpo returns to the defense alongside Ryan Kerrigan.
The Giants also return key players from injuries, including Hakeem Nicks, who alongside Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Brandon Myers, givens Eli Manning a formidable receiving corps. And second-year back David Wilson gives the team a dynamic playmaker out of the backfield, so expect the Giants offense to be more explosive than 2012. Defensively, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck are looking for enjoy bounce-back seasons, which will determine how successful the unit can be.
In analyzing each team's respective schedule, I predict the Giants finishing 11-5 with a 5-1 divisional mark and the Skins finishing 10-6 with a 4-2 mark. And given the better win total and divisional record, it will be New York finishing atop the NFC East.
The NFC East faces the AFC West, NFC North and NFC South this season, but the most important contests -- as you may have guessed -- will be the ones in the division.
The biggest catalyst this season will be the Cowboys, a team that has a high enough ceiling to win the division but often does not play as it ought to on paper. I expect the Giants to sweep the series with Dallas, but the Skins to drop one on the road in Jerry's World. And that slip-up may be the loss that costs Washington the division title.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamSpiegs