2018 NFC East Outright Odds, Preview and Prediction
NFC East Preview and Predictions
No division in the National Football League garners as much attention as the NFC East. With big market teams, plenty of superstars and 13 Super Bowls combined (most of any Division in the NFL), it makes sense the NFC East eats up a lot of the media cycle.
The problem for the NFC East this year, outside of the Philadelphia Eagles, is every team enters the season with plenty of questions marks. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants deal with too many distractions and do not have the depth to overcome injuries, while the Washington Redskins bring another uninspiring roster to the field in 2018.
Sure, if everything goes right any team has the talent to win the Division. However, the Eagles won the Super Bowl last season, despite losing their starting quarterback in Week 13. That alone should give most bettors faith the Eagles (with the best roster in the Division, even without Carson Wentz) can repeat as NFC East champions.
NFC East Outright Winner Odds
The NFC East is one of the more balanced (or volatile) Divisions in the NFL. In the last decade, each team has at least two Division titles, and no team has more than three. This year, the odds are favouring some familiarity with the Eagles favoured modestly to repeat as NFC East Champions.
*Odds as of July 23, 2018, from Sports Interaction
The NFC East has not had a repeat Division winner since the Eagles captured the top spot for four straight seasons (2001 to 2004). It is likely that streak ends in 2018, as the Eagles (even if Nick Foles plays meaningful football again in 2018) are the best team overall in the Division.
NFC East Team Previews
The NFC East is always an exciting Division to watch. The four franchises in the Division are amongst the most profitable and power in the NFL. Of course with power comes expectations and when these teams do not reach expectations, the fan bases become very vocal. Entering the 2018 NFL season, it is difficult to foresee any team outside of the Philadelphia Eagles exceeding expectations.
Even with some uncertainty on when Carson Wentz is ready to play, the Eagles are the best team in the NFC East. They proved they could win without Wentz last season and should start the season fine even if Wentz is not ready to go. The Eagles have the best backup quarterback in the NFL (Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles) and a potent mix of runners in the backfield.
Depth is a large part of the Eagles success. They are not reliant on a single player. Instead, they utilize a mixture of packages and players to maximize efficiencies and exploit matchups. This rings true for both their offence and defence.
The Eagles depth in their front sevens gives them one of the top rushing defences in the NFL, forcing teams to pass the ball. While their defence is prone to giving up passing yardage, they excel in the red zone, at generating pressure and forcing takeaways (three much more important aspects of a quality defence than yardage allowed).
It was a rough year for the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott last season. The sophomore quarterback stumbled in his development, looking more like a rookie than a Pro Bowl quarterback. However, not all the Cowboys woes are on Prescott. The saga around Ezekiel Elliott (along with his six-game suspension) did not help last season. When Elliott was out of the Cowboys’ lineup last season, the team’s offence was one dimensional.
The Cowboys defence is built to protect leads, not win games. They have a good pass rush but have too many other issues on defence to find consistency. If their offence plays as it did in 2016, not 2017, the Cowboys are fine. If Elliot and Prescott struggle in 2018, the Cowboys better start spending more on defence if they ever want to win a Super Bowl with those two players.
New York Giants
The New York Giants are maybe the team with the biggest difference between their floor and ceiling in 2018. If everyone is healthy and productive in 2018, the Giants have the talent to challenge anyone to the NFC. If players are hurt and unhappy, the Giants could find themselves drafting in the top-five again in 2018.
The combination of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., running back Shaquonn Barkley and tight end Evan Engram form may be the best three position trio in the NFL. The problem for the Giants is nothing is sure for any of these three players in 2018. Barkley (a rookie) and Engram (second-year player) are young, while OBJ is coming off a severe injury. If two of the three struggle, even a revitalized o-line and Eli Manning is not enough for the Giants to post a playoff calibre offence.
The Giants have excellent talent on their defence that is sometimes overshadowed by their egos. The group did not mesh well in 2017, after being a top-five group in 2016. Coaching and roster changes should help the group in 2018. However, unlike some of the better defences in the NFL, the Giants’ group does not seem happy to carry their team.
Even with the trade to bring in Alex Smith to replace Kirk Cousins at quarterback, the Washington Redskins do not look much better than the 7-9 team they were in 2017. The problem for the Redskins is they are not particularly good at anything. Looking at their roster and recent history, they look a very average NFL team.
You can argue their best offensive player last season was Chris Thompson, who is primarily a pass-catching running back. The Redskins have a strong offensive, which helps mask deficiencies elsewhere on offence, but with inconsistency or injury-prone players all over their offence (including on the offensive line), it is hard to see them improving much from 2017.
The same applies to their defensive, although their defensive does have a little more upside. Josh Norman and Ryan Kerrigan are both Pro Bowl level players. However, outside of those two, the Redskins defence is not particularly deep or skilled. Overall, the Washington Redskins are the longest shot to win the NFC East in 2018.
NFC East Winner Prediction
All signs are pointing to the Eagles repeating as NFC East champs in 2018. Even if a Super Bowl hangover lingers early in their season, once Wentz is healthy, he is hungry to get back into football and win another Super Bowl (this time as the starting quarterback).
The Cowboys and Giants should pressure the Eagles a bit in 2018. However, they are much more likely to battle it out for one of the two Wild Card spots. The Redskins are an enigma in 2018. Who knows how Alex Smith will do in Washington. Smith may struggle under head coach Jay Gruden, who does not seem particularly apt at dealing with and developing quarterbacks. Overall though, too many things need to happen for anyone but the Eagles to win the Division, and it is always smarter to wager on talent and success over luck.
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