Long considered the ‘beast’ of all NFL divisions, the NFC East features no less than three Pro Bowl quarterbacks, and one hoping to join the triumvirate sometime soon.
In fact, three-fourths of the teams residing in this division, sans hopeful Washington, are projected to end the season on a winning note by Las Vegas oddsmakers.
Leading the charge this season is Philadelphia, the one team that has appeared in more NFC playoff games since 2000. The Eagles’ 19 postseason games trails only New England’s 22 for league honors over the same span. Together, the NFC East has combined to play 42 games in the playoffs in the 2000’s, two more than the AFC North.
With only the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in this division having earned a playoff berth in 2011, expect the NFC East to play with vehemence this season.
Meanwhile, these ‘beasts’ have rewarded their backers since 2000 when they’ve dressed up as road dogs, going 146-110-7 ATS collectively, including 31-13 when playing off back-to-back SU and ATS wins.
While they may beat up on each other with a fairly high degree of regularity, these NFC East creatures of habit certainly command the respect of players, both on the field and at the betting windows.
Note: Team writeups by this author were excerpted from the 2012 PLAYBOOK Football Preview magazine. Designated ‘Play On’ and ‘Play Against’ Best Bets follow each team’s preview.
Team Theme: AS JERRY’S WORLD TURNS
One of the best football books ever written, ‘The Greatest Team Ever’ authored by our good friend Norm Hitzges, chronicled the accomplishments of the Dallas Cowboys during the 1990’s. It tells the tale of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ purchase of the team in 1989 and its meteoric success thereafter. Three decades later, and with only one win in eight playoff games since 1996, Jones’ world has been rocked. Sure, he still owns America’s team, and a posh billion-dollar football stadium, but what he doesn’t have is a place among the hierarchy in the league today – and it’s killing him. Jones is banking on quarterback Tony Romo to stop the bleeding. Romo enjoyed his best season ever last year with 31 touchdowns. What Romo hasn’t had is a 1,000-yard running back since 2006 so he’s hoping DeMarco Murray can be that man in 2012. What Romo needs more than anything is the return to full health of WR’s Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Rob Ryan’s defense features super stud DE DeMarcus Ware and a draft loaded with defensive talent. It’s all enough to keep Jones’ head spinning.
PLAY ON: at NY Giants (9/5)
STAT YOU'LL LIKE: The Cowboys are 0-7 ATS as Monday night favorites of 7 or less points.
IN THE STATS: The Cowboys have won the stats in 34 of 50 games the L3Y.
Team Theme: ELI’S COMING (DOWN)
Following a two-year hiatus from the playoffs, QB Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl MVP award in five years when he led the Giants to an exciting 21-17 win over New England in the NFL’s final game last season. As a result, Big Blue takes on a new persona in 2012 – that of a defending Super Bowl champion. While the rings are nice, our advice is simple: look to fade the champs wherever possible this season. By carrying the infamous Super Bowl bulls-eye squarely in their backs, the Giants become a prime-time game on virtually every opponent’s schedule this season. In addition, the G-Men were hit hard by salary cap losses with RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Mario Manningham, CB Aaron Ross and OT Kareem McKenzie, among others, departing. Complicating matters was a defense that lived largely on reputation, but fell short on performance last year as they regressed 57 YPG from the 2010 stop-unit’s numbers. Also lost in the shuffle were QB coach Mike Sullivan to Tampa Bay and OL coach Jack Bicknell Jr. to Kansas City. With that, we’ll look to fade this year’s PLAYBOOK cover boy more often than not this season.
PLAY AGAINST: vs. Philadelphia (12/30)
STAT YOU'LL LIKE: Eli Manning is 22-5 SU in October in his NFL career.
IN THE STATS: The Giants won the stats in each of their final 8 games last season.
Team Theme: IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE
When the Eagles assembled the ‘dream team’ last season, they immediately became the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. A 4-8 start put a lid on that dream and immediately turned up the heat on head coach Andy Reid’s seat. Still, Reid enters his 14th season with the Eagles excited with the way his team closed down the stretch (4-0 SU and ATS final four games) while also giddy over an excellent draft. Offensively, the Green Birds take a back seat to few behind dual threat QB Michael Vick, RB LeSean McCoy and WR’s DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Admittedly, the defense struggled early on under new DC Juan Castillo, but held three of its final four foes to season-low – or 2nd-low – yards to finish the season. The secondary allowed 27 touchdowns and was slow to assimilate Castillo’s playbook. Thus, the feeling on the team is the trade of CB Asante Samuel and the release of backup QB Vince Young is addition by subtraction. Meanwhile, fuel for the Bunsen burner is standing by.
PLAY ON: vs. Atlanta (10/28)
STAT YOU'LL LIKE: Michael Vick is 1-6 SU and ATS off a SU and ATS win versus a .700 or greater foe off a SU and ATS win.
IN THE STATS: The Eagles were 13-3 ‘ITS’ last season, including 7-1 away.
Team Theme: SHOW ME THE MONEY
After starting 11-21 in his first two seasons in the nation’s capitol, Mike Shanahan realized now was the time to snap the rubber band and mortgage Dan Snyder’s money for a dynamic quarterback. He did just that when he traded up in the draft to secure the services of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. As a result, RG3 is the new face of the program and hopefully represents the end to a run of 21 QB’s who have started games for the Skins the last 19 years (with three playoff appearances). Wide receivers Pierre Garcon (Colts) and Josh Morgan (49ers) were brought in to help kick-start the transition. Meanwhile, DC Jim Haslett’s defense took a major step forward last season when it improved 49 YPG. In fact, the Redskins were the only team in the league to improve their stats both offensively and defensively yet regress SU and ATS last season. With the front seven returning intact, the onus now falls on the offense and its coveted quarterback. With a heavy investment now in place, the squint-eyed Shanahan should be sleeping better these days.
PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Baltimore (12/9)
STAT YOU'LL LIKE: Only two QB’s have ever won a Heisman Trophy and a Super Bowl game, Jim Plunkett in 1970 and Roger Staubach in 1963.
IN THE STATS: The Redskins are 3-13 away ‘ITS’ under Shanahan.