Over-under season totals: Solo show in NFC East?

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 31, 2011

By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Eastern Bloc-er

The NFC East has been one of the NFL's glamour divisions over the years, especially since ditching the Cardinals to the NFC West in 2002. One of the appeals is usually the unpredictability -- usually at least two and sometimes all four of the teams are strong.

But 2011 looks to be a one-team race, and that team is the Eagles. As we assess the four teams in the division in relation to their Vegas over-under totals, there only seems to be one obvious pick, and that's to buy into all the hype in Philly.

(If you missed the AFC over-under breakdowns, shame on you! NORTH, EAST, SOUTH, WEST.

All lines courtesy bodog.com. (note: the betting is closed on these).

Philadelphia Eagles (Over/under 10.5)

Last year: O/U 8.5 (OVER, 10-6)


Best. Offseason. Ever.
Championships aren’t won in August, but there was more than just hype to the Eagles’ offseason moves. The Eagles brought in 10 guys who played significant time in other cities, and while they did lose a few guys as well (notably Quintin Mikell), there was a huge net gain. They are two deep everywhere on the offense, and incredibly rich on the defensive line. There are some depth issues inside the back seven, but nobody’s perfect.

Favorable schedule.
The Redskins have no offense, the Cowboys can’t play defense, the Giants have been hit hardest of anyone by injury in the preseason. Oh, and the NFC East drew the NFC West this year, and don’t forget it was the Bears, not the Packers that won the NFC North and earned a game with Philly. Oh, and their tough games vs. the AFC East (NE, NYJ) are at home.


The linebackers are still a problem.
The Eagles were 21st in scoring defense last year, and allowed 24.5 PPG vs. Quality Opponents. Linebacker play was weak – Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims left town, but will the replacements be any better? Rookie fourth-round pick Casey Matthews is the probable starter at middle linebacker for the Eagles, a pretty risky move for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Andy Reid has been accumulating players with interesting storylines, and Matthews has those famous bloodlines … but can he come in and do the job at a demanding position right away?

Recent history.
One of the reasons the Eagles were so active in free agency is surely because they’ve only hit the 11-win mark once in the last six seasons after doing it five years running from 2000-2004. To be sure, the standard is high – and there’s nothing wrong with a six-year run that includes four playoff berths – but if you’re looking at this strictly from the over/under perspective, the deck is stacked against them.


Are the Eagles getting too much respect? Not really. They had a pretty damn good team in 2010, and they’ve made bold and smart moves to fill their holes. With the schedule they drew, the coach on the sidelines and the talent on the roster, even injuries might not be enough to keep this team from 12-13 wins. OVER 10.5. Believe the hype.

New York Giants (Over/under 9.5)

Last year: O/U 8.5 (OVER, 10-6)


Manning + Coughlin = quality.
Since the start of the 2005 season, when Eli Manning came into the season as the starter in Coughlin’s second year, the Giants have gone 59-37 – an average record of 9.8-6.2. During that run, they’ve only been two games under .500 once, losing the first two games of their championship season. While Manning’s rating regressed to 85.3 in 2010 from 93.1 in 2009, his base numbers were almost identical – it was the 25 picks that cost him, and further study has shown a disproportionate number of those interceptions came as the direct result of receiver error. In other words, expect a rating in the low 90s this year, and that usually adds up to wins.


Good offenses shredded the G-Men in 2010.

New York allowed 30.2 PPG in its five games vs. Quality Opponents (teams that finished the season over .500). They also allowed 35 and 33 points in their two games vs. Dallas, which at the very least had a Quality Offense.

Where have the Hogs gone?
The Giants were No. 9 on the Offensive Hog Index a year ago, but fullback Madison Hedgecock, tight end Kevin Boss, guard Rich Seubert and center Shaun O’Hara are all gone. New left tackle Will Beatty and center David Baas will be under a lot of pressure to produce and keep the running game on top. Defensively, the Giants lost two key members of their No. 3 Defensive Hogs, linebacker Keith Bulluck and defensive tackle Barry Cofield.  


Things are looking mighty thin in Gotham. A lot of veterans are out and a lot of unproven guys are in, and the loss of Terrell Thomas to the secondary is huge. There’s still front-line talent, and the schedule is soft, but it’s going to take an awful lot of things going right for this team to match its record from a year ago. UNDER 9.5.

Dallas Cowboys (Over/under 9)

Last year: O/U 10 (UNDER, 6-10)


This passing game is for real.

You want to mock Tony Romo’s penchant for Hollywood hotties and postseason failure? We’re not stopping you. But he’s got regular-season ratings of 95.1, 97.4, 91.4, 97.6 and 94.9 as a pro, and a winning percentage as a starter of .639 that translates to 10.22 wins a season. He’s also got arguably the best WR-WR-TE combo in the league to throw to with Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and Felix Jones is spectacular out of the backfield. As a bonus, Jon Kitna was 4-5 as a starter with an 88.9 rating last year, so they’re not a shoulder injury away from complete implosion.


DeMarcus Ware has no help, and the Cowboys have no Plan B. 

Dallas’ defense had no excuse for its terrible performance last year. They were the healthiest unit in the league, with eight of 11 members of the regular defense playing the full 16 games. Only Marcus Spears missed serious time with injury, and replacement Stephen Bowen (now in Washington) was excellent. Bringing in Rob Ryan to coach the defense looks great on paper – hey, Rex’s brother! – but he really doesn’t have a track record of success. In seven years as a defensive coordinator with Oakland and Cleveland, Ryan’s defenses ranked 31, 25, 18, 26, 24, 21 and 13. Ware is really the only clear standout on the front, and if he goes down there’s just no one else to bring heat.


UNDER 9. The names are flashy and the pants are shiny, but this team just didn’t do enough to improve. It’ll be fun watching the scoreboard light up, but maybe not so much for Jerry Jones.

Washington Redskins (Over/under 6.5)

Last year: O/U 6.5 (UNDER, 10-6)


Mike Shanahan.

The Mastermind has had his share of mediocre seasons as a coach, but he’s almost never had a truly bad one. In fact, let’s take “almost” out of it. He went 6-10 in 1999 and matched it last year, but that’s as bad as its gotten. In his other 14 complete years as a head coach, he had seven or more wins, and only four of those years came with John Elway calling the signals. Shanahan and the front office had a great offseason, and he’s got enough credibility as a coach to make maybe the league’s most nondescript roster competitive.      


Mike Shanahan's skill players.

All month, you’ve been kind of waiting to hear who the Redskins are REALLY going to start at quarterback, but apparently it’s going to be John Beck or Rex Grossman. Either would be one of the five worst starters in the league, although Grossman was decent last year with an 81.2 rating in his audition. But it’s not just the QB situation that looks shaky. The starting targets are Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney and Chris Cooley, all of whom appear to have seen better days. The running back spot is deep, but Tim Hightower as a No. 1 is another bottom-five guy. The offensive line? Remains to be seen, but Washington was 27th on the Offensive Hog Index a year ago.   


As fractured and flawed as last year’s team was, the Redskins were only blown out twice in 2010, and have another year under Shanahan to go on in 2011. The Redskins have a stretch in midseason where they play Carolina, Buffalo, San Francisco, Miami, Dallas and Seattle.  It doesn’t come much softer than that. The defense could be much improved, and there are certainly plenty of candidates to be the next Shanahan 1,000-yard rusher. Call us crazy, but we’re saying OVER 6.5 – and it might not be as close as you’d think.        

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