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 8.875 'win total' for the season per team. Does this mean all four teams are playoff bound in 2011? That's doubtful, but we just might find three's company by season's end.
No team appeared in more playoff games since 2000 than Philadelphia. The Eagles 19 post-season games tied New England for league honors. Together, the NFC East has combined to play 36 games in the playoffs in the 2000's, easily the best in the league.
These 'beasts' especially rewarded their backers this past decade whenever they went out as road dogs off a SU win, going 71-38-4 ATS, including 29-10-1 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 2011 PLAYBOOK Football Preview magazine, with various addendums included after the NFL Lockout was lifted. Designated 'Play On' and 'Play Against' Best Bets follow each team's preview.
TEAM THEME: POCKET PRESSURE
Last year's 6-10 backward flip brought the critics out of the closet. It also sent owner Jerry Jones in search of a makeover. Aside from signing Jason Garrett on as the full-time head coach (the Cowboys were 5-3 under Garrett after an inglorious 1-7 start last season), Jones corralled Rex Ryan as his new defensive coordinator. The resulting change finds Dallas switching to a 3-4 attack. "We are going to find a way to get to the quarterback. He's the source of the passing game, as you guys know, and we want to attack him," insists Ryan. "We have the finest pass rusher in football in DeMarcus Ware. We look forward to hitting quarterbacks and getting after them." In addition, Hall of Game quarterback Roger Staubach is sick and tired of pundits casting aspersions and pointing the blame at QB Tony Romo, "He hasn't been the problem. He's done unbelievable. He's right at the top of the NFL as far as a quarterback. We've got a Super Bowl quarterback. With Jason (Garrett) they can be right there in the thick of it this year," said Staubach. We don't disagree.
PLAY ON: vs. Arizona (12/4)
FAST FACT: Dallas is 0-7 ATS as a Monday night favorite of 7 or less points.
TEAM THEME: TAKE MY BREATH AWAY
A 10-win season was not enough to earn a pass to the post-season, making it two straight years the Giants have not earned a bonus check. Unlike the heat Tom Coughlin endured after an 8-8 performance in 2009, last year's effort temporarily lowered the flames. A quizzical home loss to the Cowboys (as 12.5-point chalk) signaled the beginning of the end for Big Blue backers when a 6-2 SU start fizzled into a 2-6 ATS finish. They went to work on the draft and came away winners, filling needs with each of their first six picks, with 1st and 2nd-rounders, CB Prince Amukarmara (broken foot, out indefinitely) and DT Marvin Austin, hoping to contrinute. A super-soft schedule to start the season (one winning foe first seven games, and a one-month span of no road games) allows Coughlin plenty of time to take a deep breath and prepare for a demanding agenda to close the campaign. If there's one thing we've learned about this team it's that they know how win take care of business on the road, where they are 24-12 SU and 25-11 ATS in their last three-dozen games as a visitor.
PLAY ON: as a dog vs. NY Jets (12/24)
FAST FACT: The Giants are 10-0 ATS as dogs of more than three points vs. AFC East division opposition.
TEAM THEME: THE PLAN
Andy Reid and the Philadelphia brass planned on being aggressive in free agency once the NFL Lockout was lifted. "Howie (General manager Roseman) and I got the plan together. It's a good, aggressive plan. When they say go, we're ready to go. It's just a matter of that time coming forward. If it happens (training camp) Day 1, that's great," Reid said. "We got a plan for that. Did they ever. The acquisition of eight former Pro Bowlers has completely redesigned the look of this team for the 2011 season ahead. In addition the the free agent signing blitz Philly also managed to address their weakest need - the offensive line - in the NFL draft. They realize they've become the 'Miami Heat of the NFL' and they're lovin' it. If QB Michael Vick lives up to his long-term contract signing, and the free agent signing pan out, they become the team to beat in the NFC. The Packers are on notice, for the time being, at least.
PLAY ON: vs. Arizona (11/13)
FAST FACT: The Eagles are 17-3 SU and ATS as a favorite or dog of less than three points vs. the NFC West since 1995.
TEAM THEME: AS THE WORLD TURNS
Fortunatley, Mike Shanahan was able to pull the plug on the soap operas in the nation's capitol - namely the Donovan McNabb saga and the Albert Haynesworth nightmare - by disposing of the two immediately after the NFL lockout was lifted. Unfortunately, the melodrama continues in Shanahan's life. And life hasn't been too rosy for Mike lately as his NFL career has taken a huge downward turn of late. That's confirmed by Shanahan's 130-78 SU and 107-94-7 ATS record in games he's coached from 1998-2005 as opposed to his most recent 30-34 SU and 22-39-4 ATS since. And if his hair seems a bit grayer these days, it should. That's because his troops were involved in more close-call games (12 decisions decided by six or less points) than any last year. Fortunately, the Redskins will face 2nd easiest non-division opponent schedule in the league this year. Here's hoping they soon find an alternative to using a 30-year-old quarterback (John Beck) that hasn't thrown a pass in the league in over three years as their starter, or a bonafide retread in Rex Grossman. The bottom line is nothing good happens with this team until its defense mans up. Shanahan is on notice.
FAST FACT: Shanahan is 0-13 ATS in games off a SU underdog win when facing a sub .600 opponent