2006 NFC East: Preview and Predictions

I don’t know how else to say it, so I’ll keep it as simple as possible. In 2006, the NFC East could be the best division, from top to bottom, in all of football. Okay, so maybe I’m not exactly standing atop Mount Everest boldly predicting that the Houston Texans are going to win the next Super Bowl, but hey, for a division that, not too long ago, was a one pony show (Philadelphia Eagles), this division has bounced almost all the way back to the prominence that it once held decades ago.

Here are my thoughts on each team and predictions on how I believe they will fare in division play.

Philadelphia Eagles
This year’s Philadelphia team may resemble some of the Eagles teams that reached three consecutive NFC championship contests before the enigmatic Terrell Owens ever arrived in the “City of Brotherly Love.”

Expect head coach Andy Reid to come to his senses a little more this season and run the ball more than last season. Having said that, the Eagles had better run the ball more successfully because they will be without the services of Owens although they will have a healthy Donovan McNabb to start the 2006 season.

Those Eagles teams that reached those NFC championship tilts before Owens arrived were competitive and well coached and could count on five or six division wins almost automatically. However, the rest of the conference – and the division in particular – has improved by leaps and bounds. Will the Eagles fearsome receiving duo of Jabar Gaffney and Greg Lewis make anyone forget Owens or will they just remind everyone of Torrance Small and Charles Johnson?

I choose the latter. The Eagles will win their share of games, but another playmaker on offense is a necessity and until the Birds address it, they’ll be on the outside looking in. I think the Eagles will go 3-3 at the very best in the division and possibly, 2-4. Time will tell, but don’t expect any miracles.

Washington Redskins
I’ve always been a huge Joe Gibbs fan and it’s easy to see why the man is a Hall of Fame head coach with three Super Bowl championships. Gibbs knows football – and more importantly – he knows how to build a team. A lot of people aren’t saying it, but I believe the Skins could be downright scary this year. This is year three in Gibbs’ return to the NFL and it looks like he has the Redskins in prime position to surprise some teams this season.

New offensive coordinator, Al Saunders, should have a field day diagramming plays for several talented offensive weapons the Skins can go to both through the air and on the ground. I also have to say that defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams may not be suited for a head-coaching role, but the man possesses one of the best defensive minds in all of football. I think the Skins will go at least 4-2 in the division and who knows, maybe even five wins could be in the forecast.

Dallas Cowboys
I know a lot of Cowboys critics are focusing on the fact that Terrell Owens can’t solve all of the teams’ ailments all by himself, but I am going on record right now to say that the ‘Boys will probably be better than expected in 2006.
Like Gibbs, Parcells has been one of the best head coaches of his era and knows exactly how to build a team. The key question for the Cowboys could be their offensive line. If they can keep quarterback Drew Bledsoe upright, and open some holes for running back, Julius Jones, then Dallas could be in legitimate contention for the NFC championship. I’m thinking either 3-3 or 4-2 sounds about right for the Cowboys.

New York Giants
I think the Giants should be thanking their lucky stars that Tiki Barber is as good as he is. I like Eli Manning a lot, but he had better step up his learning curve in a hurry now. I’m also not sure how long head coach Tom Coughlin’s overbearing act is going to go over with the Giants’ veteran players either. Overall, I’d have to say the Giants have several questions that need to be answered in a hurry prior to this season. Is Manning the right guy? Are we overworking Barber? Is our secondary up to snuff? Oh yeah, the Giants have questions, and I’m not sure all the answers add up. They look like another 2-4 team, but could possibly eke out three or four division wins.

Whatever transpires between these four teams, I think the playing field amongst the teams is as even as it’s been in quite a few years. I don’t think there is a team in the division that is necessarily head-and-shoulders above any other team in the division. If nothing else, the similarity should provide for some entertaining football and in the end, maybe that’s all we can ask for in this salary-capped, parity-laden league these days.

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