Out of the four divisions in the NFC, the East easily looks the strongest. With three teams that earned playoff berths last year including the defending Super Bowl champions, it's not a long stretch of the imagination to expect the NFC East to be competitive once again.
It's hard to not set the bar high for the returning Super Bowl champions. Their defense played exceptionally well down the stretch; and the offense, led by Brandon Jacobs and Eli Manning, proved it was able to make plays when necessary, although perhaps I should credit David Tyree for that.
Still, I have my reservations about the Giants. With the exception of their Wild Card game against the Buccaneers, I did not feel that the Giants were the better team in any of their playoff games. But still credit is due to the Giants for keeping the game close to the end and winning when it counts.
I have a few concerns regarding the Giants. First off, although in many people's minds Eli Manning has validated himself as a good or even great quarterback in the NFL, I remain unconvinced. Not because I'm an Eli-basher, I'm not, in actuality I felt he was unfairly criticized early on in the season.
What stands out in my mind is that Eli for the most part was only a game manager. True, he played well during the playoffs with the world's eyes on him, but I need to see a little bit more out of him before I completely jump on the bandwagon.
My other concern is the number of valuable players the Giants lost in the off-season. However, if they continue to draft well and play with the same kind of spirit that they did last postseason, then I'll probably be eating my words not too far down the road.
The Cowboys once again found themselves bitterly disappointed at the end of the playoffs, and some might blame Tony Romo.
I've heard people call him overrated and overhyped, and although I myself have hung the moniker Tony Homo upon him, I find him to be a very good player and unfairly criticized.
Although calling him "The Next Brett Favre" seems a bit presumptuous to me (a Packer fan) his style does bear resemblance to No. 4's. Sure, Romo does make some reckless throws, but he also makes plays and throws a ton of TDs.
Although Marion Barber was the more respected and hyped back out of the the Jones-Barber tandem, I do think that the loss of Julius Jones could be detrimental to the Cowboys' offense.
The trend in the NFL has been two-back systems, and the Cowboys had a good tandem. Unless the Cowboys can find a quality back to compliment Barber, I have doubts that Marion Barber will carry the load as effectively without another back to help him.
A coaching change, an unproven quarterback, a good but wacky running back, and a good defense seem to be the Redskins in a nutshell.
One of the biggest questions is the coaching change and how the transition from Joe Gibbs to Jim Zorn will end.
If it turns out the way the Wade Phillips and Norv Turner hirings went, then the Skins should be okay. Conversely, if it ends up like the Bobby Petrino fiasco then Skins fans won't be sitting as easily.
Despite being fourth in the division in 2007, the Eagles still managed an 8-8 record. The Eagles also lost a close game to the AFC Champion New England Patriots, and a tight game to the Green Bay Packers. If those games went the other way, the Eagles would have been 10-6 and in the playoffs instead of the Redskins.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb has been criticized the last few years in Philadelphia. McNabb is an excellent quarterback, and even if the Philly media is not always indicative about how the fans feel, I still think that McNabb is unfairly criticized.
It's my belief that this year McNabb will play back up to his normal Pro Bowl level and that Andy Reid's Eagles will make a push for the division championship.
The biggest question marks are whether the Eagles do get production out of the quarterback position, and how effective recently acquired cornerback Asante Samuel can be.
Samuel has proven himself to be a more than capable cornerback. The only reason I still hold doubts about just how well he will perform is because of the team he's coming from. The Patriots seem to have a great defense year in and year out and have the ability to plug in players and get production out of them.
The same thing happened with Ty Law. He was very productive with the Patriots, but his play dropped off in the years after he left the Patriots.
Division Winner: Dallas Cowboys
The 'Boys have a talented roster and a great QB. Unless injuries hamper the Cowboys or the running game doesn't perform, I'm willing to bet the Cowboys win 12 games or more.
Second Place: New York Giants
I toyed with the idea of putting the Eagles here, but I just couldn't push myself to do it in the end. For me, I think that the Giants will be a slightly improved duplicate of last year's regular season team.
My predictions are 10-6 or 11-5 for their win-loss record and I expect the Giants to make an appearance in the playoffs. I'm sure Giants fans will disagree with me, and I understand where they're coming from, but the Giants just don't impress me that much.
Third Place: Philadelphia Eagles
I feel that McNabb and Reid can't be held down for that long, I see them rebounding and winning 10 games or so in the process and, making it into the playoffs as a wild card.
Fourth Place: Washington Redskins
Washington got into the playoffs on an emotional high and overcame several hardships, including the unfortunate passing of safety Sean Taylor.
A coaching change, the loss of a very good defensive back in Sean Taylor, and the question of how productive Jason Campbell can be lead me to think that the Redskins can't survive in such a competitive division.
Let me know how you think the division will turn out.