With no sports and nothing but time, due to the global pandemic we’ve been living through, I have tried to figure out how to approach the 2020 NFL season. A part of me thought about ranking every team from 1-32, another wanted to rank each team per conference, but since we’re here I might as well just do every division in the league.
Part IV: NFC East
1. Dallas Cowboys
2019 record: 8-8
2020 over/under win total: 9.5
New head coach, apparently disgruntled quarterback, an expensive roster… what could go wrong? I’m biased against America’s Team as much as any other non-Cowboys fan, but it still kind of surprises me that they are favored to win the NFC East (at -105, no less).
Quarterback Dak Prescott has had a very public contract dispute against an owner, Jerry Jones, that apparently doesn’t want to pay him his market value. This after Jerry made running back Ezekial Elliot one of the highest paid players at his position, and after he made wide receiver Amari Cooper one of the highest paid players at his position. I think everyone expects Prescott to sign a whopper contract (and lead this team to a bunch of 8-8 seasons over the duration of it), but the fact they signed former Bengals QB Andy Dalton to be their backup gives me doubts.
Truthfully, the Cowboys were extreme underachievers last season. They probably should have won 10 or 11 games, given they had one of the league’s best offenses and a defense that was in the upper-third of the league in yards per play allowed (5.2). Former head coach Jason Gerritt got dragged through the mud non-stop, and mostly for good reason, but I don’t think swapping him out is going to be the game-changer many Cowboys fans believe.
Dallas added one of, if not the highest regarded wide receivers in the draft (CeeDee Lamb), meaning the Cowboys have every opportunity to have one of the league’s best offenses again. I lean under 9.5 wins because I think something may be wrong with this team internally, highlighted by the current situation surrounding their most important player.
2. New York Giants
2019 record: 4-12
2020 over/under: 6.5
The Giants are one of those teams that every year just seems to suck. Now that Eli Manning is removed from the picture this franchise can start anew, though I’m not the biggest cheerleader for their new franchise QB Daniel Jones. I think dark days still remain for the New York Football Giants.
On offense it’s really all about running back Saquan Barkley, a legit workhorse who is probably second to only Christian McCaffrey at his position. For the Giants to succeed it’s going to require about 20-25 touches a game for Barkely, and they are going to have to win games in the neighborhood of 20-17 or 23-20.
The problem is, like with other teams I have mentioned, the Giants have a new head coach and he is being baptized by fire at a time where cohesion is much to be desired. The coronavirus is going to take precious practice time to gel and get used to the new system. If Barkley runs wild all bets are off and this team could get close to .500. I think the opposite is going to happen, and they will get buried so much that it will force Daniel Jones to pass this team back into games. Something that has yet to be proven.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
2019 record: 9-7
2020 over/under: 9.5
Somehow the Eagles have the same win total as the Cowboys heading into 2020, yet to place a wager on them winning the division you are getting an additional 40 cents (+135 compared to Dallas’s -105). Strictly out of principle I would bet on the Eagles.
Most people expect the offense to take a huge leap forward this season, notably due to the fact that they had like a million injuries at wide receiver, running back and tight end, but are we sure that Carson Wentz is actually good? I currently have him ranked 7th on my (very subjective) list of quarterbacks — behind Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, DeShaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Dak Prescott — but I’m also using some intuition and giving him a generous benefit of the doubt.
My thing is, he might be closer to the 14th-ranked quarterback than the 7th, and I’d probably still like the Eagles to win the NFC East. While the offense might not be elite, I do think they are gritty. I think they know how to do enough to win football games. They won’t be as high-flying as the Cowboys, but they also won’t be burdened by having to score 30 or more points every week.
The East is a race to 9 wins, and the Eagles are my choice by default. The Giants and Redskins are still at least a year away, and from my outside perspective I believe the Cowboys are dealing with too much internal bullshit. Wentz might not be as good as I think he is, but he also doesn’t have to be.
4. Washington Redskins
2019 record: 3-13
2020 over/under: 5.5
They scooped up former Panthers head coach, Ron Rivera, who by all accounts is a player’s coach and a stand up guy. That’s a start. They also have Dwayne Haskins as their starting quarterback, a dude I don’t think will be in the league very long.
The bright spot of this team is their defense. They added who should be the best overall player in the draft, Chase Young, second overall, and they brought in Super Bowl-winning defensive back Kendall Fuller from the Chiefs. Along with Montez Sweat, and veterans Reuben Foster and Landon Collins, Washington should have a serious defense worthy of being in the top-third of the league.
This team’s problems will be on the offensive side of the ball. Last year they were one of the worst in the NFL at moving the ball — just 5 yards per play — and ranked last in the NFL in passing yards per game (175) and points per game (16.6). That’s just unacceptable in 2020, in a sport where offense is the name of the game. For this team to compete for a division crown they are going to need the offense to generate about a touchdown more per game, which is highly unlikely given their lack of talent at just about every offensive position.
The bright side is I do like this team to go over 5.5 wins, and who knows, maybe they can get close to .500. I’m a believer in Ron Rivera. If there’s a coach that can turn a team with a strong defense and no quarterback into a competitor (at least on a per-game basis), it would be him.
- Eagles: 10-6
- Cowboys: 8-8
- Redskins: 7-9
- Giants: 5-11