Posts Tagged ‘Washington Redskins’

NFL: Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints

Over the last week, I’ve been working up division by division predictions across the NFL.  But today, on the verge of full-scale NFL action breaking out, it’s time to finish the job and put it all on the line. After all, what are 32 predictions if you don’t run them down to one? So here it is, who’s going to New York City for the Super Bowl, in the order they’d play out via the standings I arrived at. As a bonus, I’ll throw in a few awards for a few guys as well, for good measure.

But before we take it there, here a recap on how it all should shake out:

NFC East                                                           NFC North

  1. Redskins (10-6)                                 1. Packers (11-5)
  2. Cowboys (9-7)                                   2. Bears (10-6)*
  3. Giants (8-8)                                        3. Vikings (7-9)
  4. Eagles (4-12)                                      4. Lions (5-11)

NFC South                                                           NFC West

  1. Falcons (13-3)                                   1. Niners (12-4)
  2. Saints (8-8)                                         2. Seahawks (11-5)*
  3. Buccaneers (6-10)                            3. Rams (7-9)
  4. Panthers (5-11)                                 4. Cardinals (5-11)

AFC East                                                             AFC North

  1. Patriots (11-5)                                   1. Ravens (11-5)
  2. Dolphins (7-9)                                    2. Bengals (10-6)*
  3. Jets (5-11)                                            3. Steelers (10-6)*
  4. Bills (4-12)                                           4. Browns (7-9)

AFC South                                                        AFC West

  1. Houston (11-5)                                 1. Broncos (13-3)
  2. Colts (8-8)                                           2. Chiefs (7-9)
  3. Titans (6-10)                                       3. Chargers (5-11)
  4. Jaguars (2-14)                                    4. Raiders (3-13)

 

WILD CARD ROUND PLAYOFFS

Green Bay Packers over Chicago Bears

Seattle Seahawks over Washington Redskins

Cincinnati Bengals over Baltimore Ravens

Houston Texans over Pittsburgh Steelers

DIVISIONAL ROUND PLAYOFFS

Seattle Seahawks over Atlanta Falcons

San Francisco 49ers over Green Bay Packers

Denver Broncos over Cincinnati Bengals

Houston Texans over New England Patriots

NFC/AFC CHAMPIONSHIPS

San Francisco 49ers over Seattle Seahawks

Houston Texans over Denver Broncos

 

The MVP from two years back has as much of a load on his shoulders as ever before. And if he delivers on promise for the Pack again, an addition to his trophy case will be well deserved.

The MVP from two years back has as much of a load on his shoulders as ever before. And if he delivers on promise for the Pack again, an addition to his trophy case will be well deserved.

AWARD TOUR

Now before throwing it all on the line with the Super Bowl picks, let me back up and get some award picks for the season. It is impossibly difficult to select an MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive/Offensive Player of the Year before the season begins. So much goes into it, and it can change on a week to week basis. But, it’s Kickoff, so why not.

MVP—Aaron Rodgers: The Packers are leaning on him more than ever, and really, the team just behind him in the North via Chicago is the better overall team. But all things considered, the Pack will still take the North and it should come via a virtuoso performance from the league’s best QB.

Offensive Player of the Year—Peyton Manning: It is going to be a close call over Rodgers, Adrian Peterson and Andrew Luck, but there’s a chance that Peyton pulls off one of the great offensive efforts in league history. He’s got the tools, the right division and a pretty decent head start to do it all. 50-45 touchdowns should be in his sights.

Defensive Player of the Year—Richard Sherman: Doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that the Seahawks will have the best defense in the NFL. And Sherman is not only the ringleader on the microphone, but also the catalyst of the entire attack. QBs have no choice but to challenge him due to the depth of the team around him. And he will make the most of it in some pretty big games.

Offensive Rookie of the Year—Tavon Austin: The impact may not be immediate…but then again maybe it will be. With a home run threat like Austin, there is no telling when or where he may make an impact from for the Rams. And in a style similar to what Percy Harvin did a few years back, Austin could be on par for a huge debut.

Defensive Rookie of the Year—Kenny Vaccaro: The Saints defense will be challenged yet again, but this time they’ll be met by a legitimate threat to bring the ball right back at them. Vaccaro was the perfect addition to a team that needs to keep its pass happy QB schedule honest.

And finally…

SUPER BOWL XLVIII –HOUSTON TEXANS vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers

The Texans have been on the verge for a few years, while the Niners have rapidly reinvented themselves underneath Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick. With both teams touting strong defenses and rushing attacks, it could come down to who can find room to make the big play first. When it comes to that element, the Texans have the biggest threat in Andre Johnson, but the Niners have the most options to find room for one between Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and by that time, Michael Crabtree.

It will be tight and February in New York may not have the best conditions for a highwire act, and that’s where it favors the road options of the Niners with the ball in their hands, as well as the best linebacker group in football getting plenty of shots on Arian Foster and Ben Tate. This favors San Francisco, and it nets them their first Super Bowl since 1994.

The NFC East is always a fight. Whether it is among the fans or on the field, it will never be claimed easily. Last season, it was taken via heist on the field, when a new arrival in Washington DC took the previous season’s bottom feeders to a level the organization had not reached in 13 years, and in a fashion they’d never seen before.

But staying on top has much more struggle than reaching it, and Robert Griffin III and his Redskins are primed to discover this. The battle to hold the crown will be highlighted by a brand new approach in Philadelphia, a coach that’s likely pushing to hold onto his livelihood in Dallas and a Giants team that’s search for a new identity with familiar faces.

There were some gutsy wins a year ago, such as the Redskins sweeping the season series from Dallas, and the Eagles pulling out their last win in what would prove to be in nearly a two month span over the Giants, which ultimately ended up costing New York a playoff shot. There’s not many division that break down the middle closer than the NFC East does, and once again there may very well be only one ticket to the Playoffs provided from this division. So there will be no love lost once again, not as if there ever was any in the first place.

All-Division Team

QB: Robert Griffin III, RB: LeSean McCoy, Alfred Morris, WR: Dez Bryant, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, TE: Jason Witten, OT: Jason Peters, Trent Williams, OG: Todd Herremans, Kory Litchensteiger, C: David Baas

DE: DeMarcus Ware, Jason Pierre-Paul, DT/NT: Jay Ratliff, Issac Sopoaga, OLB: Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, MLB: Sean Lee, Demeco Ryans, CB: Morris Claiborne, Brandon Flowers, FS: Nate Allen, SS: Brandon Merriweather

K: Dan Bailey, P: Donnie Jones, KR: David Wilson, PR: Desean Jackson

Coming off his second consecutive 8-8 year, Romo is facing a season where a corner is needed to be turned.

Coming off his second consecutive 8-8 year, Romo is facing the task of leading the way for what needs to be turning the corner season, as well as a return to the playoffs for the first time in four years.

DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8 in 2012)

The Good: It finally clicked for Dez last year, and he began to deliver on the warehouse full of talent that he’s had for years. In his breakout season, he posted totals of 1,382 yards on 92 catches and 12 touchdowns, and became a regular playmaker in an offense full of steady, but not game breaking talents. 16 games of him playing at the level he finished 2012 at could change everything about the potential of this offense, and yes, even Tony Romo.

The Bad: Are they ready to play hardnosed football yet up front? Two of their previous three first round picks have been dedicated to bettering the offensive line, between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, so the effort is on. But with the perennially fragile Demarco Murray and an immediate need to keep Romo upright to deliver to the plethora of targets on offense, the difference between a run for the division or not starts with the development upfront paying out.

X-Factor—Sean Lee: The rangy, tackling machine in the middle of defense is the key to the success of the unit. He ran up big games of 10 and 14 tackles early in the year, before heading the PUP list after a toe injury in week 7 a year ago. His health and availability is a non-negotiable element of the success of a team whose linebacker corps are young and now without DeMarcus Ware, who moves to defensive end.

Record: NYG (W), @KC (W), STL (W), @SD (W), DEN (L), WSH (L), @PHI (L), @DET (W), MIN (W), @NO (W), @NYG (L), OAK (W), @CHI (L), GB (L), @WSH (L), PHI (W)

Prediction: There’s always going to be questions about the Cowboy’s consistency as long as Romo is calling the shots, but the biggest issue for them is finding consistency within the division. Jason Garrett is likely running short on opportunities to produce this, and health of his defensive unit will likely be the deciding factor for the season. A tough late season run with trips to Chicago and Washington, as well as hosting Green Bay will call the difference in a division title or the mud of a wild card push, with the former being more likely. 9-7

 

Cruz topped 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season, and has found the endzone 19 times in the previous two years.

Cruz topped 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season, and has found the endzone 19 times in the previous two years. He returns to be responsible for more of the production in NY than ever before.

NEW YORK GIANTS (9-7 in 2012)

The Good: They have undergone a steady change over the past few years, and it has returned several promising offensive tools. Between Rueben Randle, Brandon Myers and Ramses Barden, the offensive unit has a lot of breakthrough potential this season. Add in the luxury of staying in complimentary roles around Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks leading the way, along with Eli Manning, who has an underrated ability to bring out the best in young receivers, calling the shots for them.

The Bad: Will the defense have found its identity this time around? Osi Umenyiora is gone, Jason Pierre-Paul is rebounding from back surgery and the secondary is in transition. In a division with the type of offense that the NFC East, not to mention dates with Green Bay, Seattle and Detroit, the will be tested often. There will have to be a unit that overachieves to help steady the team’s outlook.

X-Factor—David Wilson: Wilson showed his big play potential in open space last year, with an NFL-best 1,533 kick return yards, but never quite figured out the nuances of running between, off or anywhere near the tackles. But with Ahmad Bradshaw gone, he’ll be leaned on heavily to be the same type of all-purpose back that his predecessor was. Picking up the details in year two will be a must.

Record: —@DAL (L), DEN (L), @CAR (W), @KC (L), PHI (W), @CHI (L), MIN (L), @PHI (W), OAK (W), GB (L), DAL (W), @WSH (L), @SD (W), SEA (L), @DET (W), WSH (W)

Prediction: They certainly could factor into the mostly even landscape of the NFC East, via the points potential of the best QB/receiver combo in the NFC alone. But they are thin on proven depth, as well as exactly what type of production they can count on from the defense week in and out. If everything goes right, they could steal the division. Yet if one unit lags, they could just as easily slide out of the playoff picture complete. This is likely a team that has stretches with both and has a record that reflects it. Record: 8-8.

McCoy has had at least 250 touches in each of the past three seasons, and is in line to be among the busiest backs in football in Philly's new scheme.

McCoy has had at least 250 touches in each of the past three seasons, and is in line to be among the busiest backs in football in Philly’s new scheme.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-12 in 2012)

The Good: The new scheme certainly fits the pieces. It’s still not completely certain how Chip Kelly’s up tempo offense will be translated into the NFL, but he certainly has the right pieces to make it go. Desean Jackson, Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick can be instant offense, and the return of Jason Peters, coupled with massive first round pick Lane Johnson gives them the right bookends to build a persistent threat on offense.

The Bad: Defensively, there’s been a major turnover in the secondary, and it could be a target early on often for Romo, Manning and RGIII for the majority of the season. Without a promise of consistent pass rush (a team total of 30 in 2012), nor much change that would change the league-worse 13 turnovers they scrounged together, they could still be among the worst units in the League.

X-Factor—Michael Vick: The enigma that is Vick continues to take on new faces. Ideally, he is the perfect option for the type of offense that is being installed. However, he hasn’t been the most flexible decision maker on the run, especially standing up to the constant pressure that he has been subjected to the last few years. If he can play within himself and put to bed the rumors of the looming Nick Foles (again), the entire picture for the team could change.

Record—@WSH (L), SD (L), KC (L), @DEN (L), @NYG (L), @TB (W), DAL (W), NYG (L), @OAK (W), @GB (L), WSH (L), ARI (W), DET (L), @MIN (L), CHI (L), @DAL (L)

Prediction: There are a lot of elements going on at once that are not point towards much of a step forward in Philly. There is unrest at quarterback, a completely new offensive scheme under a rookie head coach, an offensive line bookended by a comeback attempt and a rookie, as well as a thin defense. Add in the usual brutality of the NFC East, and you have another long season in PA. Record: 4-12.

 

Griffin lead the Redskins to heights they hadn't reached in over a decade in route to becoming Offensive Rookie of the Year. But how much of a price did he pay?

Griffin lead the Redskins to heights they hadn’t reached in over a decade in route to becoming Offensive Rookie of the Year. But how much of a price did he pay?

Washington Redskins (10-6 in 2012)

The Good: For all of the steps forward that the Skins took last year with RGIII at the helm, they were never truly at full strength. Pierre Garcon, Fred Davis, Trent Williams and Brian Orakpo all spent significant time off the field. All are slated to be back and in the fold from day one this year, which along with a miraculously ready (we think) Griffin back from knee surgery, this could be one of the most explosive teams in the NFL, both again and on a new level.

The Bad: Is the defense ready to carry their part of the bargain? They return much of the same unit as last year, and didn’t have many early draft picks to get creative with to infuse new life into the mix. The team won last year in spite of a bland pass rush and porous secondary. The pass rush will be improved with Orakpo back, but there have to be more elements than himself and Ryan Kerrigan to it.

X-Factor—Fred Davis: When he tore his ACL in week 7 last year, he was averaging just over 13 yards per catch and was a major target over the middle for Griffin as defensive were stuck between guarding the run and fearing the bomb. If he stays healthy and still has his unique mix of size and separation speed, he could be one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL.

Record: PHI (W), @GB (L), DET (W), @OAK (W), @DAL (W), CHI (W), @DEN (L), SD (W), @MIN (L), @PHI (W), SF (W), NYG (W), KC (L), @ATL (L), DAL (W), @NYG (L)

Prediction: RGIII may be the biggest difference maker in the NFL, for any team. Regardless of how he is deployed this year, having his full selection of tools around him this year makes him that much more dangerous and primed for an even better season. Combined with a strong complimentary threat in Alfred Morris and the bonus of the division’s best linebacker group in Orakpo, Fletcher and Kerrigan, and the Skins look to be able to repeat what could be a regular position atop the East. Record: 10-6.

Stay locked over the next week, as the previews keep coming and I walk the prediction plank. Either I look dumb, great or like the Giants. For the real-time development, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

The NFC East loves to beat on itself. Each fan base has a rivalry that spills directly from what the teams leave on the field for them to feed off of. All of this is for good reason as well, as competition stays at a premium here. No team has repeated as division champion since the Eagles in 2004; and for anyone handing them the division this year, pay close attention to this fact.

A year ago, the return to prominence of Michael Vick took the NFL by storm. He was the final piece needed to push the Eagles back to the top of a division they have won more times in the last ten years than any other club. However, does it carry over again as seamlessly? The Cowboys offense woke up late last season, and the return of Tony Romo will put them in position to take a shot back at the top of a division they won just two years ago. The Giants are always in the mix, and despite a rash of injuries, still are arguably the most balanced team of the four. The Redskins are rebuilding, but offer the potential of an upset towards any of the division’s more celebrated squads.

As said last year in this same column, the NFC East will be the traditional battlefield it always has been.

 

ALL-DIVISION TEAM

QB: Michael Vick RB: Ahmad Bradshaw, LeSean McCoy FB: Leonard Weaver WR: Miles Austin, DeSean Jackson, Hakeem Nicks TE: Jason Witten OT: Jason Peters, Doug Free OG: Chris Snee, Todd Herremans C: Jamaal Jackson

DE: Justin Tuck, Trent Cole DT: Jay Ratliff, Mike Patterson OLB: DeMarcus Ware, Brian Orakpo MLB: London Fletcher, Bradie James CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel S: LaRon Landry, OJ Atogwe

K: Lawrence Tynes P: Mat McBriar Returner: DeSean Jackson

 

DALLAS COWBOYS (6-10 in 2010)

Offense: T. Romo-QB, M. Austin-WR, J. Witten-TE, D. Bryant-WR (B+)

Defense: D. Ware-OLB, J. Ratliff-NT, T. Newman-CB, G. Sensabaugh-S (C+)

 

The Good: For all that is said about the offense stalling out, it played better once Jason Garrett took control of the team last season. Also, it will get a boost with the return of Tony Romo, a healthy and more experienced Dez Bryant and using more of Felix Jones. The biggest difference here could be Rob Ryan taking over as Defensive Coordinator. His aggressive scheme should help a Dallas defense that had coverage like a broken dam downfield, while put for too little pressure on the quarterback outside of DeMarcus Ware.

The Bad: The offensive line is rebuilt, but still has a long way to go. Tyron Smith will take his lumps as the youngest player in the league while starting at right tackle. Add to that that they will be breaking in four new starters in front of Romo, and it could be a repeat of last year’s poor unit that gave up 30 sacks a year ago and could not field a 1000 yard rusher either.

Romo is Dallas' greatest asset. The sooner they start protecting him as such, the better.

X-Factor-Felix Jones: Jones is a definite candidate for biggest breakout player this fall. He could be called on more in the receiving game than any other running back in the league, especially if the line doesn’t hold up well. He’ll have the advantage of having his great speed to hit defenses that are busy guarding the multiple Cowboy receiving threats off guard quickly.

Fearless Prediction: @NYJ (L), @SF (W), WSH (W), DET (L), @NE (L), STL (W), @PHI (L), SEA (W), BUF (W), @WSH (L), MIA (W), @ARI (W), NYG (L), @TB (L), PHI (W), @NYG (W)

In The End: They’ll be better if they stay healthy, and that’s a big if. Miles Austin is hurting already and Romo has to stay upright for them to be much better at all. A mixture of a revived defensive approach, along with a more steady offense will make them better, but they still aren’t tough enough up front to push into the playoffs this year. Record: 9-7

 

NEW YORK GIANTS (10-6 in 2010)

Offense: E. Manning-QB, A. Bradshaw-RB, H. Nicks-WR, M. Manningham-WR (B+)

Defense: J. Tuck-DE, O. Umenyiora-DE, A. Rolle-S, C. Webster-CB (B-)

 

The Good: They can move the ball downfield. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are one of the more underrated receiving tandems in the game, despite combining for 1,996 yards and 20 TD in 2010. Eli Manning is far from the “elite” passer he fashioned himself as, but gets it done more often than he doesn’t. Ahmad Bradshaw’s breakout last season gave them the Tiki Barber like dual threat they had been lacking for years, and the Bradshaw-Jacobs backfield is capable of giving defenses multiple types of headaches being deployed together.

The Bad: They didn’t get much better at any critical area, and now they could be paying for it. The offensive line was already a problem, and now with the departure of Steve Smith and Kevin Boss, there is less talent for Eli to have bail out the rushed throws that will be even more common now. The defense was in position bail them out, but a plague of injury swept over that unit, claiming Osi Umenyiora, Terrell Thomas and first round pick Prince Amukamara.

After a pretty brash offseason on the interview circuit, Manning will have to show and prove like never before this year.

X-Factor-Jason Pierre-Paul: Placed in the middle of a deep defensive end rotation, the team’s 2010 first rounder had to make the best of his limited opportunities last season. He still managed 4.5 sacks, and with Umenyiora out for the beginning of the season, he will have an opportunity to be a priority for the first time. Even after Osi returns, he will have a chance to be one of the best third ends in the league.

Fearless Prediction: @WSH (L), STL (W), @PHI (L), WSH (W), SEA (W), BUF (W), @MIA (L), @NE (L), @SF (W), PHI (W), @NO (L), GB (L), @DAL (W), WSH (W), @NYJ (W), DAL (L)

Summary: It’s a roughly unsettled team that is battling injury, depth and a tough division. However, if any team has the tools to improve and pull out an upset divisional win it’s the G-Men, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards this year with a still unsettled offensive line and thin receiving and linebacker groups. Record: 9-7

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6 in 2010; Division Champs)

Offense: M. Vick-QB, D. Jackson-WR, L. McCoy-RB, J. Maclin-WR (A)

Defense: N. Asomugha-CB, T. Cole-DE, J. Babin-DE, A. Samuel-CB (B+)

 

The Good: It’s a track meet in Philly, with an offense that can score from anywhere. DeSean Jackson, Michael Vick, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy can finish a drive as soon as they touch the ball. But they had that last year. The biggest improvement in this team is that now, it’s going to be much harder to play catch up, because there are very few windows to throw the ball into. The additions of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie make avoiding Asante Samuel nowhere near as easy of a proposition, therefore letting Trent Cole and new additions Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin go blitz crazy without worrying about any repercussions. If the Eagles get ahead by 10, it may be over.

The Bad: The offensive line could derail all hopes of a high powered offense if they don’t keep Vick on his feet and give McCoy a chance to get in the open field. Vick could be well served to take fewer hits in the open field, but he has to be able to drop back and work at least. Keeping him healthy is the key to how far this team can go, and that responsibility is being given to a group he’s already been forced to protect, a bit of odd role reversal so soon.

The additions of Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha gives the Eagles' blitz Secret Service-like protection to do as they please.

X-Factor-Casey Matthews: The team’s third round pick is being thrust into the middle of a subpar linebacker corps, and is inheriting a world of responsibility immediately. Since teams will be more apprehensive about going deep against their corners, the attacking over the middle and with the run will be the plan to overcome Philly. Matthews will have to rise to the occasion in a hurry to bring this unit up to speed.

Fearless Prediction: @STL (W), @ATL (L), NYG (W), SF (W), @BUF (W), @WSH (W), DAL (W), CHI (W), ARI (W), @NYG (L), NE (L), @SEA (W), @MIA (W), NYJ (W), @DAL (L), @WSH (W)

Summary: There’s a world of expectation here, and for good reason. It is a team that showed great promise a year ago, and went out and seemingly signed every available impact player on the market to finish their ascent. There will be some bumps along the way, but they will once again be the class of the East and will push deeper towards Super Sunday this year…health permitting. Record: 12-4

 

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (6-10 in 2010)

Offense: S. Moss-WR, C. Cooley-TE, T. Williams-OT (C)

Defense: D. Hall-CB, B. Orakpo-LB, L. Landry-S, L. Fletcher-LB (D+)

 

The Good: For better or worse, most of the internal drama is moved out. Mike Shanahan vs. Donovan McNabb vs. Albert Haynesworth took down this team before it took to the field quite often. Regardless of the right or wrong of the scenario, having focused team will benefit the entire prognosis for the season. The new blood of Tim Hightower, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, Ryan Kerrigan and OJ Atogwe both addresses problem areas from a year ago and provide new hope at formerly controversial positions.

The Bad: Rotating between John Beck and Rex Grossman doesn’t inspire much hope. While the improved supporting cast (especially at running back) will help mask some of these inadequacies, in the end the QB has to bear down and win some games for their team, and Beck couldn’t win over the Dolphins less than desirable QB opening and Grossman is a thrill seeker of the worst kind. The “best” thing either of them could do is get the team in position to draft a suitable QB of the future in April.

No matter who is throwing the ball, Santana Moss will have more freedom to roam with the boost to his supporting cast at receiver.

X-Factor-OJ Atogwe: A quick signing before the lockout took place, he stands to be the most meaningful addition to the club in the end. The Skins porous pass defense (261 yards per game, 2nd worst overall) had to be addressed in multiple places, and adding the former Ram’s diverse ability to play either safety spot will provide a much needed final line of defense.

Fearless Prediction: NYG (W), ARI (W), @DAL (L), @STL (L), PHI (L), @CAR (W), @BUF (W), SF (L), @MIA (W), DAL (W), @SEA (L), NYJ (L), NE (L), @NYG (L), MIN (L), @PHI (L)

Summary: It will be another frustrating year in D.C. There will be flashes of greatness and the defense will improve this year, but in the end it all comes back to the lack of a field general to pull out the tough wins and a tough end of the schedule. There are still some major moves that need to made to pull this team up the ladder and for the first time in two years, they will not improve their on their win total. Record: 5-11

 

To see how right, wrong or in-between this all works out, and me living with it, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360

The NFC East has been one of the power house divisions in all of the NFL over the last 10 years. Last year 3 of the 4 teams finished with .500 records or better in 2009 and sent two teams to the Playoffs. However, a shift in key players changed the look of every team in the division, and brings it closer to the top to bottom competitive group it traditionally is. One team’s franchise QB left for a division rival. Another hired a 2-time Super Bowl winning coach to change its fortunes. Up north, the division’s most recent Super Bowl Champs aggressively reshaped their defense to keep up. Finally, never to be shown up, the defending division champs added perhaps the most noteworthy rookie in all of April’s Draft. Needless to say, the East will be the traditional battlefield it has come to be known as.

Dallas Cowboys (11-5, Division Champs in 2009)

Offense: T. Romo-QB, M. Barber-RB, F. Jones-RB, M. Austin-WR, D. Bryant-WR, J. Witten-TE (A)

Defense: D. Ware-LB, T. Newman-CB, J. Ratliff-DT, K. Brooking-LB (B+)

The Good: They are stacked on both sides of the ball. Tony Romo (4,483 yards, 26 TD) is coming off a career year and is inheriting an offense that has already added a dynamic rookie wide receiver threat in Dez Bryant to go with the dependable Jason Witten and Miles Austin, fresh off his breakout season. The defense has very few holes, and the further development of Mike Jenkins at opposite corner of Terence Newman makes this a dangerous secondary.

Romo has all the tools to play a home game in the Super Bowl, now its about keeping them together.

The Bad: The offensive line has to hold on give Romo time to maximize those all those weapons and they are far from exceptional in pass protection. Also don’t count out the powers that be wearing them down. Jerry Jones will definitely be hard up for his premier product to take the field in February when his Cowboys Stadium palace hosts the Super Bowl and that pressure could crack down on this club.

X-Factor-Dez Bryant: The Cowboys slid up to grab the talented 21-year-old wide receiver with the 24th pick after he slid due to a plethora of post-season rumors. Dallas desperately needed another receiver to provide the consistency Roy Williams never seems to find. If he can rehab well from an ankle injury that has kept him out of most of training camp, he could become the deep threat that puts this team over the top.

2010 Prediction: @ Was (W), Chi (W), @ Hou (W), Ten (W), @ Min (L), NYG (W), Jax (W), @ GB (L), @ NYG (L), Det (W), NO (W), @ Ind (L), Phi (W), Wash (W), @ Ariz (W), @ Phi (W)

Summary: The Cowboys will face a tough schedule, but they have the talent to play with anybody in football. They should also benefit from an NFC East that isn’t as proven and strong as it has been in many years. They will be one the most entertaining teams in football. Record: 12-4

New York Giants (8-8 in 2009)

Offense: E. Manning-QB, H. Nicks-WR, S. Smith-WR, B. Jacobs-RB, A. Bradshaw-RB (B+)

Defense: O. Umenyiora-DE, C. Webster-CB, J. Tuck-DE, K. Bullock-LB, A. Rolle-FS (B+)

The Good: The subtle rebuilding of the Giants is paying off quickly. The combination of Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Pro Bowler Steve Smith at wide receiver has turned them into a better passing team than at any point in Eli Manning’s time as starter. On defense, they have also replaced aging veterans with aggressive free agent signings of Antrel Rolle and Keith Bullock. They have a great pass rushing trio in Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and rookie Jason Pierre-Paul, and will be a handful for any offensive line.

A Hakeem Nicks' 2nd season breakthrough can take the Giants air attack to another level.

The Bad: The running game has severely regressed. Brandon Jacobs’ touchdown total dropped by 8 due to inconsistent health and Ahmad Bradshaw’s availability was also spotty due to injury. The Giants passing attack is not strong enough support the team by itself and both backs have to be ready to go for them to reach their potential.

X-Factor-Kenny Phillips: Safeties aren’t taken in the first round if they are not exceptional. When the G-Men took him with the 31st pick in the 2008 Draft that’s what they needed. He has not been by any means bad for them in his first two campaigns, but the time for a leap forward is now. Being paired with fellow Miami Hurricane Rolle could allow him to do a lot more at strong safety and a leap forward from him makes this an elite safety pairing in a defense that leans on the position.

2010 Prediction: Car (W), @ Ind (L), Ten (W), Chi (W), @ Hou (L), Det (W), @ Dal (L), @ Sea (W), Dal (W), @ Phi (L), Jax (W), Was (W), @ Min (L), Phi (W), @ GB (W), @ Was (L)

Summary: They have a solid core squad on both sides of the ball and either is capable of winning games for them. If they both stay healthy and consistent, a run for a wild card shouldn’t be stretch for NY. Record: 10-6

Philadelphia Eagles (11-5, Wild Card in 2009)

Offense: D. Jackson-WR, K. Kolb-QB, L. McCoy-RB, B. Celek-TE, J. Maclin-WR (B)

Defense: T. Cole-DE, A. Samuel-CB, E. Hobbs-CB, M. Jackson-FS (B+)

The Good: The Eagles are plain fast. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy can run past any defender in football and will be a handful to keep up with. They are very talented at all the skill positions and have an exceptional defense led by Trent Cole and Asante Samuel. The addition of Marlin Jackson at safety will make the secondary even more formidable in 2010.

Jackson's is one the game's premier big play finishers and he will count on for them more than ever.

The Bad: The running game. They finished 22nd in the League in rushing in 2009, which is a no go when breaking in a new starting quarterback like they will be this year. With Brian Westbrook out of the mix, McCoy will be given many more chances to go, but there are doubts about how much of an every down runner he can be. They have to mix in newly acquired Mike Bell frequently to push this stat up.

X-Factor-Kevin Kolb: The starter-in-waiting tag is gone and the keys to the Philly Ferrari are totally his now. He performed exceptionally in his two starting chances in 2009, averaging 359 yards per game. Nobody expects him to do that all year, but how he handles the job is key to Philly holding intact. He is replacing the greatest player in franchise history, who despite leaving in a swirl of controversy, still pushed the team to constant success. How he reacts in the hot seat is key to this team’s success.

2010 Prediction: GB (L), @ Det (W), @ Jax (W), Was (W), @ SF (L), Atl (W), @ Ten (W), Ind (W), @ Was (L), NYG (W), @ Chi (W), Hou (L), @ Dal (L), @ NYG (L), Min (L), Dal (L)

Summary: They are a solid team that is the midst of a changing of the guard. They play some tough defenses including Dallas and New York twice and Minnesota and Green Bay. They will take a step backwards during this growth period, but they should still be a solid team. Record: 8-8

Washington Redskins (4-12 in 2009)

Offense: D. McNabb-QB, C. Portis-RB, L. Johnson-RB, W. Parker-RB, C. Cooley-TE (B)

Defense: C. Rogers-CB, L. Landry-FS, B. Orakpo-LB, A. Haynesworth-DE, L. Fletcher-LB (C+)

The Good: Mike Shanahan is in town. The Redskins have been a mess for years (and still are in some regards, see Haynesworth, Albert), but he’s the right guy to get it back in order. With the addition of the exiled Donovan McNabb to lead his offense, the Skins should make some immediate progress in consistency of offense. They have plenty of running backs to choose from and a talented receiving corps, which gets a boost with Chris Cooley returning from injury.

Can the new Shanahan and McNabb combo provide the needed leadership for the unstable Skins?

The Bad: Chemistry could be a disaster beyond fixture before the season begins. It’s already Albert Haynesworth vs. the Skins; the team has even publicly turned against him. Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker are all on board to attempt to improve the 27th ranked rush attack in the NFL from 2009. That’s a strong lineup, but that’s a lot of strong personalities and the jockeying for carries could be a big problem if one steps to the forefront too far.

X-Factor-Trent Williams: Left tackle is a demanding position; only the QB is more important. When Chris Samuels’ was forced into retirement due to a sudden neck injury, the Redskins offense crumbled and drafting a replacement became a must. Williams inherits a ton of responsibility with being the 4th pick (and Washington’s only in the first 4 rounds) and holding down McNabb’s back. How quickly the rook responds will determine much of the Skins’ fortune.

2010 Predicition: Dal (L), Hou (W), @ StL (W), @ Phi (L), GB (L), Ind (L), @ Chi (W), @ Det (W), Phi (W), @ Ten (L), Min (L), @ NYG (L), TB (W), @ Dal (L), @ Jax (L), NY (W)

Summary: They will improve from their horrible 2009 campaign, but not enough to overtake any of the other three better established clubs in the East. Too much is questionable here for them to become an immediate success and they play a demanding schedule. Record: 7-9

The selfish athlete  is usually cliché.

It happens all the time, an athlete makes an outlandish claim and it’s deemed selfish for wanting to get an increase in his already outlandish (by non-pro athlete) standards. In their world of their pay scales, these are legit concerns and them securing a future that is afforded to them by their rare talent. I take little issue with this in many cases, as they usually work themselves out without any long-lasting damage.

The reality of the situation varies, as there are different scenarios in how this plays out. In many cases of holdouts, it’s an issue of where the calendar doesn’t coincide with the holdout that is usually happening anyway. However, these cases are around an established player looking to get a breakthrough contract that places them in the correct earning bracket for their play or a highly draft rookie, who looking to capitalize on their draft placement.

Neither of these are applicable to Albert Haynesworth.

I'm not sure if he'd even be happy if this was the front of the jersey. "It's not good enough!"

Haynesworth was already the highest paid player at his position, and one of the highest paid in all of football, with his seven-year, $100 million contract signed before the 2009 season to join the Washington Redskins. $41 million of this was guaranteed money, so he was set. This contract was seen as a bit off an overpay by owner Daniel Snyder, but he’s built his reputation on doing this, so it was seen as just a matter of ordinary business playing out. This time it has backfired big time.

Snyder paid $100 million for a free disease....how thoughtful.

New coach Mike Shanahan said that Haynesworth agreed to calm down and come along with the new system, and it seemed that would be the case. Wrong. What wasn’t made clear was that Haynesworth was due to receive a $21 million payout on his contract in April. Ever since he received that guarantee, the troubles from him have magnified and spread like a tumor. Now the Skins are trying to get that back from him, but are finding that only a bit over $9,000 can be recouped easily. Damn. Cancer is hard to catch.

One year into the deal, Haynesworth has decided he doesn’t want to work for his pay anymore, or least doesn’t want to do it in DC. He is demanding to be moved to another team and is blaming it on a change in the scheme that doesn’t fit his style of play. Seriously? So the details of your job change, and you want to quit it now, just to go do the same job elsewhere?

This is a pure case of athletic diva-ism (its a word now) at its best. However, none of this surprises me at all, as Haynesworth is more prone to this type of acts than he is to tackling anything. From the claims of him complaining about the coaching situation last year, only caring about his results play to play and how his “teammates” subjects  have called him out in the media, it shows you what type of guy he is and I’m not surprised at all. Here’s why.

I’ve seen Albert Haynesworth before, or more concisely, I have watched him in action before. Only it was not with a helmet on, it was with an oversized jacket and jeans on at Dave and Buster’s in Tennessee. He was at the bar, being the loudest guy in the building, buying drinks and taking up more of the bar than even his 340 pound frame needed. Of the many (expected) female club goers gathered around, one stood out to him, as apparently they had some history. She got loud with him and he didn’t ignore it or talk his way out of it, he stood, asked her “If she knew who she was talking too?”, called her the canine variety of her sex and pushed her in her forehead, before turning around and pushing everyone at the bar, who had taken any of acres of space he had left free when turned around to address her, out-of-the-way.

Class Act.

So when I hear stories about him being less than the model of benevolence, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Neither do teammates calling him selfish.  It seems like a rare case of the complete truth playing out in front of the cameras instead of behind the scenes. I don’t know what will happen with him and I don’t care to speculate or provide scenarios. Somebody will employ him this year in Washington or else. And whatever team does should start getting some chemotherapy lined locker room and front office, because they have just asked for 340 lbs of cancer to join them.