By Marc Lawrence
Long considered the ‘beast' of all NFL divisions, the NFC East features no less than three Pro Bowl quarterbacks.
The division is also the top-heavy favorite with an average 8.5 ‘win total' for the season per team. Does this mean all four teams are playoff bound in 2010? That's doubtful, but they might insist that three's company by season's end.
No team appeared in more playoff games during the past decade than Philadelphia. The Eagles 18 post-season games tied New England for league honors. Together, the NFC East combined to play 35 games in the playoffs in the 2000's, easily the best in the league.
These ‘beasts' rewarded their backers this past decade whenever they went out as road dogs off a SU and ATS win, going 54-26-1 ATS, including 27-8-1 when taking six or more points.
While they may beat up on each other, these NFC East creatures of habit certainly command the respect of players alike.
Note: Team writeups excerpted from the 2010 PLAYBOOK Football Preview magazine. Designated ‘Play On' and ‘Play Against' Best Bets follow each team's preview.
DALLAS TEAM THEME: GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Despite taking on the toughest non-division slate in the NFL this season, owner Jerry Jones is overly optimistic when stating he wants his club to be the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium. The Super Bowl will be played at Cowboys Stadium in 2011. "I'm like a kid when you ask me what I want for Christmas," Jones said. "I want it so bad, I'm scared to talk about it." Thus, the onus falls on head coach Wade Phillips who is once again suddenly on the hot seat. Helping cool matters was the selection of WR Dez Bryant in the first-round of this year's draft. Phillips gushes when talking about Bryant, calling him the best-looking rookie he's seen in his 33 years of coaching. QB Tony ‘Pip' Romo will look to close out the saga behind an offense that improved by leaps and bounds last year. The script has been written. Let's just hope Dickens doesn't need to rewrite the ending.
PLAY AGAINST: vs. Detroit (11/21)
NY GIANTS TEAM THEME: STANDING 8-COUNT
If we didn't know better, we'd swear Bill Parcells orchestrated this year's Giants draft. That's because, for the first time since 1986, New York drafted four defensive players with their first four picks. It's usually what happens the following season when a playoff team, after opening a season with five straight wins, watches its defense go soft en route to a wobbly 8-8 conclusion - including a pair of season-ending defeats in which they were outscored by 69 points. Residing in the ferociously tough NFC East, Tom Coughlin's biggest free agent signings were safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant. Together they should help shore up a defensive backfield that was torched the final 11 games of the campaign when they allowed 263 PYPG, as opposed to the 105 PYPG surrendered in the 5-0 start. The rest falls on the shoulders of QB Eli Manning and an offense that actually improved a tad last year. Look for Big Blue to bounce back up off the mat in 2010.
PLAY ON: as dog at Philadelphia (11/21)
PHILADELPHIA TEAM THEME: OPERATION OVERHAUL
After going 0-5 SU and ATS against five playoff teams last year, Andy Reid knew a change was in order. And with one swift, sweep of the broom QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook and a handful of other starters were swept out the door. The keys to the offense have been handed to QB Kevin Kolb, a rhythm passer who gets the ball out quickly and is extremely accurate. As a result, the Eagles likely will become a more traditional West Coast offense, heavier on short and intermediate routes like slants, curls and crossing patterns that will give receivers opportunities for yards after the catch. All of which promises to open up more opportunities for promising young WR's DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Meanwhile, Philly's vaunted defense has taken on a new look and a new attitude. A strong draft featured five defensive players with first five choices, tutored by ex-NFL head coach Dick Jauron. And if the overhaul doesn't work, you ask? There's always Michael Vick.
PLAY ON: as dog at NY Giants (12/19)
WASHINGTON TEAM THEME: THE FUTURE IS NOW
Dan Snyder realized that after losing to the lowly Lions (Detroit was riding a 19-game losing streak and the Skins were 22-2 SU in the series since 1968) that it was time to cut the cord with Jim Zorn. Future Hall of Fame coach Mike Shanahan was signed and as a result a new makeover has taken place. After trading for 33-year-old quarterback Donovan McNabb and signing eight free agents who will be at least 30 come November, Shanahan contends it was "totally false" that he and general manager Bruce Allen were trying to recapture the magic formula that the latter's father brought to Washington from 1971-77. Meanwhile, just half of the 22 regulars from Washington's 2007 playoff team, the last to play for Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, are on the roster. Before catching ‘Hall of Fame' coach fever, you should know that during his first year as a coach with both Oakland and Denver, Shanahan was 3-7 SU and 1-9 ATS as a favorite of 5 or less points.
PLAY ON: at NY Giants (12/5)