With Elliott Sidelined Are Cowboys Still the Favorites to win NFC East
With the looming suspension of starting running back Ezekiel Elliott, can the Dallas Cowboys still live up to their status as prohibitive favorites to win the NFC East?
With the clock ticking on his career, can Eli Manning take the New York Giants on another postseason run for the ages?
Can the Philadelphia Eagles surprise all of their division rivals in Year 2 of the Carson Wentz/Doug Pederson era or will the Washington Redskins challenge for division supremacy after altering their roster this offseason?
If you’ve got questions, then I’ve got answers as I offer up my expert look on the NFC East division odds.
What Are The 2017 Odds To Win The NFC East?
Dallas Cowboys +155
The Cowboys stunned everyone by going 13-3 a year ago as rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott led the team into a new era while ranking second in rushing (149.8 ypg) and fifth in scoring (26.3 ppg).
Despite ranking fifth in points allowed last season, the Cowboys needed to improve a pass defense that ranked in the bottom third of the league. Unfortunately, I don;t think that’s going to happen in 2017 with Dallas losing three starters in the secondary in cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne and safety J.J. Wilcox.
The Cowboys also will be without their star running back with Elliott getting suspended for the first six games of the season because of a domestic violence issue. Right now, it looks like the Cowboys could take a sizable step backward after their jaw-dropping campaign a year ago.
NY Giants +225
The New York Giants were outstanding defensively as they finished second in points allowed (17.8 ppg), but Eli Manning and the offense were underwhelming at best a year ago and New York’s rushing attack was non-existent as they finished 29th overall (88.2 ypg).
Still, I like the Giants heading into 2017, mostly because of their powerful defense, but also, because of some improvements, I believe they made to their offense. New York added veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall in free agency and drafted sure-handed tight end Evan Engram in the first round.
New York’s rushing attack should be a bit better as well with Paul Perkins now being a year older and the G-Men nabbing former Clemson product Wayne Gallman in the fourth round. The Giants also drafted defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and defensive end Avery Moss in the second and third rounds respectively and have one of the best secondaries in all of football.
Philadelphia Eagles +370
The Philadelphia Eagles went 7-9 last season in Year 1 under new head coach Doug Pederson and new franchise signal-caller Carson Wentz and things look like they could only get better in the City of Brotherly Love moving forward. The Eagles clearly got it right by drafting Wentz with the second overall pick in last year’s draft and I believe the Birds could be a lot better on both sides of the ball after finishing 2016 ranked a respectable 16th in scoring (22.9 ppg) and even more impressive 12th in points allowed (20.7 ppg).
Philly addressed it offensive issues of not having any good wide receiver for Wentz to throw to by signing veteran free agent wideouts Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith in free agency while adding to their rushing attack by signing former Patriots star LeGarrette Blount. On the other side of the ball Philadelphia lost edge rusher Connor Barwin in free agency but signed veteran end Chris Long and drafted speed-rushing defensive end Derek Barnet in the first round of the draft.
Philadelphia will have a new pair of starting cornerbacks after Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin bolted in free agency, but the pair weren’t considered elite by any stretch of the imagination, so their losses aren’t expected to impact Philadelphia very much with veteran Patrick Robinson coming in and the Birds nabbing two cornerbacks in the second and third rounds of the draft.
Washington Redskins +510
Washington recorded a winning 8-7-1 record last season but missed out on the playoffs as Dallas and New York both won double-digit games. The Skins finished the 2016 campaign ranked a solid 12th in scoring (24.8 ppg), but they need to improve a defense that finished 28th overall in total defense (377.9 ypg) and 19th in points allowed (23.9 ppg).
Washington parted ways with both of its starting wide receivers as DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both bolted in free agency, but they added former Browns wideout Terrelle Pryor in free agency and will have 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson on the field after an injury-filled rookie season a year ago.
To address their defensive issues, Washington drafted defensive lineman Jonathan Allen in the first round, defensive end Ryan Anderson in the second round and cornerback Fabian Moreau in the third round while signing veteran linebackers Stacy McGee and Terrell McCain in free agency. Last but not least, I also love Washington’s addition of former Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine in the fourth round.
NFC East Winner Pick
For me, I love the value that Eli Manning and the New York Giants are offering as a +225 pick to win the NFC East. The Giants should once again have the best defense in the division and I believe an improved offense this coming season will be enough for them to get the division title they’re looking for.
However, let me also say that I expect the NFC East to be one of the tightest divisions in the NFL this coming season, so there’s that as well. Still, the Giants are the pick for me to get the division ‘upset’ over the favored Cowboys.
Pick: New York Giants