NFL 2021 Division Previews/Predictions: NFC East
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
With training camps officially commencing, we've reached the end of the NFL off-season. All 32 teams will report to camp with one goal, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy (at least that's what they tell us). In a league that emphasizes parity, each year is a new opportunity for new teams, new story lines, and new superstars to make a name for themselves within the NFL landsca. Last year alone, more than half of the playoff field was made up of teams that weren't there the year prior, and with the addition of an extra playoff spot in each conference, it has never been easier to make the post season. All that being said, more than half of the teams in the NFL won't make the playoffs and only one will be hoisting the trophy in February. In this series I'll take you around the NFL, division by division, and not only preview what each team looks like but also attempt predict where they finish at season's end.
The NFC East has been the laughing stock of the NFL for two years running now, all culminating in the Washington Football Team becoming just the fifth team in NFL history to make the post-season with a losing record last season. The off-season has brought a lot of change to this sleepy division. Two teams will be welcoming new starting quarterbacks, one team starts over with a new head coach, and plenty of talent was added to each team through free agency and the draft. However, is this change enough to bring this, once proud, division back to respectability?
6-10 in 2020 (3rd in the NFC East)
Biggest Addition: LB Micah Parsons (Drafted with the 12th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft)
Parsons should make an immediate impact on what was on of the worst defenses in football last year. If Leighton Vander-Esch and Jaylon Smith can get themselves back to 2018 form this is a line-backing unit that could be special.
Biggest Loss: EDGE Aldon Smith (Signed 1-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks)
Although he slowed down tremendously after a hot start to last season, Smith would still be an upgrade over most of the depth pieces at the edge rusher position.
Biggest Strength: Wide Receiver
With three receivers topping 800 yards last year, you'd be hard pressed to find a better receiving trio than Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb.
Biggest Weakness: Cornerback
The cornerback position for the Cowboys is extremely inexperienced and young. If they want to improve on last season they'll need a few of those young guys to step up big.
The Cowboys will look to bounce back in 2021, after a disappointing first year under head coach Mike McCarthy. Despite having Dak Prescott start off last season on a record breaking pace, the team started 1-3 before eventually losing Prescott in week 5 to a brutal leg injury. The Defense was without a doubt the biggest issue for Dallas last year, allowing over 150 yards on the ground per game. They are hoping the addition of former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn as DC can help turn things around. The addition of Micah Parsons should pay immediate dividends. Parsons, who was given a 94.8 overall run defense grade by PFF in his final college season, has the ability to explode into the backfield and plug up rushing lanes with his incredible speed and athleticism. Offensively, there is no shortage of talent on this roster. The receiving corps is stacked, Dak Prescott is back and Ezekiel Elliot still has the ability to be an elite running back. If Dak, despite coming off a brutal injury, can rekindle any of his early 2020 form this offense should be one of the best units in football. I also expect Zeke Elliott to bounce back after a lack luster season. Despite struggling last year, especially with hanging on to the football, his track record is much too good to not believe in him as a workhorse guy. The Dallas Cowboys have all of the talent in the world, especially offensively, to succeed, now it's just a matter of actually showing it on the field. I'm projecting their offense to be one of the top units in the NFL and expect Dan Quinn to improve the defense enough to no longer be a complete liability. If I'm correct I see a division title in their future. Although, I have been burned by the 'Boys before.
Record Prediction: 10-7 (1st in the NFC East - Playoff berth)
Washington Football Team:
7-9 in 2020 (1st in the NFC East)
Biggest Addition: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Signed 1-year $10 million contract)
The rollercoaster that is 'FitzMagic' has officially been relocated to DC. The Football Team has a lot riding on getting the chaotic good version of the 38-year old signal caller.
Biggest Loss: CB Ronald Darby (Signed 3-year deal with the Denver Broncos)
The secondary still has solid talent, but losing an experienced quality starter like Darby could still sting a little.
Biggest Strength: Defensive Line
Spending numerous first round picks on the defensive line has paid off HUGE for Washington. They now have one of the best young lines in all of football.
Biggest Weakness: Safety
Kamren Curl showed flashes during his rookie season in 2020. Between Curl and Landon Collins this team still lacks a safety that can consistently cover the deep areas of the field.
Going into the second year under Ron Rivera, Washington has quietly built one of the strongest rosters in the NFL. It's surprisingly tough to find a glaring weakness on this team. Despite having a fairly similar roster talent wise last year, they were still only able to muster up 7 wins. Although that was enough to win a terrible division in 2020, that's not something that's sustainable in the long run. So what was holding this team back last year? It certainty wasn't their defense, which ranked second in the NFL in total yards allowed. It wasn't Terry McLaurin or Logan Thomas who both enjoyed breakout years. No it was their quarterback play. Washington started four different QBs last season, and didn't get much from any of them. So what did they do to generate more consistency at QB? They signed one of the most infamously inconsistent quarterbacks in NFL history. Despite playing fairly well the last two seasons in Miami, the expectations for Fitzy in Washington will be much higher. The problem is, Fitzpatrick notoriously plays lights out when expectations are low but 'FitzMagic' has a tendency to turn into 'FitzTragic' when the expectations get higher. Luckily for Washington however having a defense as talented as the one that they have could take some pressure off the quarterback. If Jack Del Rio's unit can recapture what made them so dominant last year, continuing to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks at an elite level and turning the ball over at a top ten rate, it could cover up for some of the mistakes that Fitzpatrick will inevitably make. The addition of free agent wide receiver Curtis Samuel adds to an offense that is filled with young talent. Samuel and Terry McLaurin are one of the most dynamic receiving duos in the NFL. Add in J.D McKissic, who had the most targets by a running back in 2020 and Antonio Gibson fresh off 11 touchdowns in his rookie campaign and this offense is full of budding talent that are ready to bloom in 2021. By talent alone this team should compete for the division title and a playoff spot. I'm projecting their defense to remain one of the top units in football and offensively there will be flashes of brilliance. However, in the end, I just don't trust a full season of the Ryan Fitzpatrick experience enough to anticipate a playoff berth for the Football Team.
Record Prediction: 9-8 (2nd in the NFC East - Miss Playoffs)
New York Giants:
6-10 in 2020 (2nd in the NFC East)
Biggest Addition: WR Kenny Golladay (Signed 4-year $72 million contract)
Despite missing most of last year due to injury, Golladay is a big play waiting to happen when healthy. His 18.3 yards per catch in 2019 ranked 3rd in the NFL.
Biggest Loss: DT Dalvin Tomlinson (Signed 2-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings)
While not a star, Tomlinson never missed a game in his four years in New York. With a PFF grade above 75 every one of those years that kind of consistency will be missed.
Biggest Strength: Wide Receiver
GM Dave Gettleman made a concerted to improve the weapons around Daniel Jones and on paper it looks like hes done a great job.
Biggest Weakness: Offensive Line
Daniel Jones faced pressure on a league-worst 34% of his pass attempts last season. The front office did very little to improve an abysmal line from 2020.
2021 is a pivotal season for the New York Giants organization. It's year two under head coach Joe Judge and more importantly it's year three for quarterback Daniel Jones. Jones showed promising signs early on in his career but last year was major setback for the young signal caller. He threw for just 11 touchdowns along with 10 interceptions in 14 games. More importantly a familiar issue reared it's ugly head. The Giants QB1 has lead the league in fumbles in both of his first two seasons in the NFL. You can make the case that the offensive line has been the driving force behind those turnovers, but no matter how you slice it, you can't give the other team the ball that much and still be a top level quarterback. The front office has noticed Daniel Jones' struggles last year and made it a point to surround the young QB with weapons, bringing in Kenny Golladay through free agency and shifty playmaker Kadarius Toney in the draft to round out an impressive receiving group. Add in Saquon Barkley returning from injury, and there is no doubt that the offensive talent has drastically improved. Giant's fans have to be hoping that a horrid offensive line won't offset all of those pieces. Looking over at the defensive side of the football, this was a unit that surprised a lot of people last season. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham made a name for himself in 2020, coaching players like Leonard Williams, James Bradberry and Blake Martinez to career years. They also added former Titans defensive back Adoree Jackson who, when healthy, has played at a very high level. Jackson and James Bradberry could develop into a quite the cornerback tandem in 2021. I'm projecting the Giants to continue to improve defensively this season with the offense showing promise at times. However, with a quarterback that struggles with turnovers and an atrocious offensive line it is hard to imagine this team making the post-season.
Record Prediction: 6-11 (3rd in the NFC East - Miss playoffs)
4-11-1 in 2020 (4th in the NFC East)
Biggest Addition: WR DeVonta Smith (Drafted with the 10th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft)
Coming of a Heisman winning campaign in 2020 which saw him put up video game numbers, Smith should immediately become the WR1 for a talent-needy unit.
Biggest Loss: QB Carson Wentz (Traded to the Indianapolis Colts)
Despite leading the NFL in interceptions in just 12 games in 2020, Wentz showed flashes of being a franchise quarterback early in his career.
Biggest Strength: Defensive Line
Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are both coming off Pro Bowl and have shown that they can still be a disruptive duo even as they get into the latter stages of their careers.
Biggest Weakness: Linebacker
Opposing quarterbacks had a 113.9 passer rating while targeting the Eagles linebackers last season, and with very little talent added to that group it might not get much better this year.
The 2021 off-season saw a lot of changes occur for the Philadelphia Eagles. Going into last year many saw the team, just a few years removed from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, as a legitimate title contender. 2020 however, couldn't have possibly gone worse for Philly. As a team the Eagles struggled to stay healthy, ranking 30th in adjusted games lost (128.1) according to Football Outsiders. The offensive line was the hardest hit losing two starters before the season even began (Andre Dillard and Brandon Brooks) as well as Lane Johnson and Jason Peters missing significant time. The on the field product showed just how important those injuries were, with once promising franchise quarterback Carson Wentz becoming a shell of his former self, and the rest of the team following suit. With Wentz and Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson shown the door, the attention now turns to a very different Eagles squad. The Philly faithful put their eyes on new starting quarterback Jalen Hurts and first year head coach Nick Sirianni. Despite all the rumors surrounding the Eagles potentially upgrading the QB position during the off-season, it seems that 2021 will be Hurts' chance to show the organization that he can be the franchise guy going forward. He'll need to really impress GM Howie Roseman and company because, thanks to a little off-season maneuvering, the team could end up with three first round picks in next years draft, which is plenty enough ammo to get a new exciting QB whether it be in the draft or by trading those picks for an established disgruntled veteran. Defensively, this team has some holes but also returns with some quality pieces. The recent signing of Steven Nelson should pair nicely with Darius Slay and the d-line, despite featuring some aging players, still has the ability to be disruptive. The Eagles seem like a team that is in the midst of a rebuild. Although they could still be competitive in 2021 this team is relying on a lot of players around or over the age of 30 to be big time contributors for them. Losing games might hurt this year but could help the team build it back up in the long run.
Record Prediction: 5-12 (4th in the NFC East - Miss playoffs)