Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ramblings and Gambling Series: Regular Season Over Under – NFC East

Last stop for our over/under series is the NFC East! Likely to be one of the most heavily contested divisions in football, it’s a particularly difficult challenge to predict how any of these teams will do. Each team has undergone substantial changes this past offseason, the biggest of course being the Eagles shipping McNabb off to the rival Redskins. Tough as the division may be, some of these teams will make the over and some will be making the under, and there’s no way around that. Here’s my two cents on the NFC East.

Ramblings and Gambling:
By Erik Laurinovics, for The Football ERA

 NFC East

NFC East Non-Division Opponents: 

Dallas Cowboys Over/Under: 10.5
Pick: Under

As talented as Dallas is, their schedule is tough. While Dallas is the early favorite to win the NFC East, Philadelphia will not make it easy. The Giants can also provide a challenge, assuming they get their pass defense in order this season. Washington returns a solid defensive unit, and has added Donovan McNabb to bring a spark to what has been an uninspiring offense. Favorite or not, Dallas is going to drop at least a game or two within the division.
 Looking outside their division, they have 4 extremely tough matchups: @MIN, @GB, @IND, and NO at home. While the Dallas offense is stacked with talent and the run defense was solid last year (4th overall), their 22nd ranked pass defense is relatively unchanged. Given the passing offenses they face this year, I find this to be worrisome. In addition to the aforementioned four, the Cowboys face Houston, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia (twice), all of which figure to be pass-happy teams in 2010.
Moreover, Dallas needs to cover 10 ½ wins. That half is crucial, as it really means the Cowboys need to win 11 games to make the over. Their challenging schedule and vulnerability to the pass make me doubt their ability to cover. While winning 11 games is doable, I have them pegged right at 10, and would have to take the under.

New York Giants Over/Under: 8.5
Pick: Under

The Giants’ unraveling last year surprised many (myself included) and leaves us wondering who will show up this year. They absolutely have to get better performance out of their secondary this year in order to keep pace with Philly and Dallas. The problem for New York I see this year is how much their division has improved. McNabb is now a Redskin, Dallas drafted what many consider to be the best offensive talent in the draft, and the Eagles bolstered their defense with 5 picks in the first 4 rounds of the 2010 draft. The division will be a dogfight this year, which makes it hard for me to see NYG picking up more than 3 wins, and I don’t think I’d be surprised if they had fewer than 3.
Outside of the division, even if you give them 2 wins from the NFC North (CHI, DET project as wins for me), I don’t see them picking up more than 2 from the AFC South, as three of the four teams (IND, HOU, TEN) in that division match up well enough to give them a run for their money, and the Giants very well may be the underdog against Indy and Houston. The two remaining games for the Giants are Carolina and at Seattle, both winnable.
I feel like an absolute best-case scenario is 9 wins, which would be an over. However, I see more ways for them to get 8 wins or fewer than I see ways for them to get 9 wins or more. The division and schedule don’t allow room for any mistakes this year, and that secondary will very likely be their proverbial Achilles heel yet again. I’m taking the under.

Philadelphia Eagles Over/Under: 8.5
Pick: Over

The Eagles come into the season with one big question mark as Kevin Kolb will get his first full season as a starter. While he looked great in limited action last year, carrying a team for a whole season is another story. This is another pick that comes down to belief on a binary issue; will Kevin Kolb be good or bad? I’ve liked what I’ve seen and think the Eagles will be just fine, so I’ll end up taking the over. While the defense struggled a bit against the pass last year (17th overall), the Eagles heavily invested in defense in the draft. Their first five picks were all defensive players, with two on the line, one linebacker, and two in the secondary.
This team should be in contention with Dallas to win the division, and I see 3 wins minimum for the Eagles in the NFC East. The NFC North will be a challenge and I only project two wins there (CHI, DET). The AFC South is a bit more favorable, with the Texans, Jags, and Titans all projecting as wins in my book. They drew SF and ATL as their two “wild card” opponents, and I would project those as wins as well. That leaves us with a total of 9, with a conservative estimate of 3 wins within the division. The over will be very reachable for this team as long as Kolb produces.

Washington Redskins: 7.5
Pick: Over

As everyone likes to say, “It’s a quarterback driven league”, and the addition of Donovan McNabb should immediate provide some spark to the Washington offense, which has been their downfall the past several seasons. Washington’s defense (10th overall in 2009) is already solid, and the Mastermind, Mike Shanahan, should help their offense move up the charts (ranked 22nd in 2009). Santana Moss and Chris Cooley are established weapons, and the Redskins are hoping someone else (Devin Thomas?) out of their young group of receivers can step up. I think a solid defense and good QB will get the Redskins to 8 wins.
The NFC East will be a battle, as usual, but Washington can only improve on last year’s 0-6 mark. I would anticipate 2 or maybe even 3 division wins this year. Facing the NFC North and AFC South, they get favorable matchups against Detroit, Chicago, Jacksonville, and Tennessee. The ‘Skins also had a fortuitous draw for their “wild card” opponents, getting two of the worst teams in the league (STL, TB), and should win both games. 8-8 is certainly achievable for this team, and who knows… with a few lucky breaks and bounces, they may be able to put together a run at the division. I’ll take a new coach, new QB, good defense, and the over.

How Quickly Things Change!

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