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5/15/2006 01:08:00 PM

Predicting The NFC East

DeMarcus Ware
Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware had eight sacks last season and leads a young, aggressive defense in Dallas.
John W. McDonough/SI

Before last season, predicting the NFC East was easy. The Eagles had won the division four straight years and looked like a lock. Then T.O. happened and the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys stepped into the power vacuum and had winning seasons in 2005.

Now this is the toughest division to pick in the NFL. But that's why they pay me the big bucks. Here goes:

1. Dallas Cowboys: They are loaded with weapons on offense, have systematically brought in the right players to run their 3-4 defense and addressed their kicking problems by signing Mike Vanderjagt. The two biggest fears in Big D have to be a Terrell Owens meltdown and problems on the offensive line. But if Dallas avoids those pitfalls, Bill Parcells could take his third team to the Super Bowl. Predicted Record: 11-5

2. Washington Redskins: By the end of last season, the Skins were the best team in the division. They handed out whoopings to the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles in the final three weeks of the regular season and gave Seattle a hard time in the divisional playoffs despite being totally worn out. They added another group of high-priced free agents in the offseason and have a ridiculous set of assistant coaches under Joe Gibbs. The only glaring question mark is 35-year-old quarterback Mark Brunell, but he was good enough last year. It's hard not to pencil Washington in as a playoff team, even though I would love not to just to antagonize the army of paranoid Redskins fans. Predicted Record: 11-5

3. New York Giants: Everything comes down to Eli Manning. The third-year QB's breakdown against the Panthers in last year's playoffs doesn't inspire confidence. Then again, he is a Manning, so maybe he's just bad in the postseason and will continue to develop in the regular season. The Giants' biggest problem is a horror show of a schedule. Check out their first seven games, the toughest stretch for any NFL team all season. Predicted Record: 9-7

4. Philadelphia Eagles: As Peter King pointed out in Monday Morning QB, coach Andy Reid is as cocky as ever and doesn't seem to care what the three other teams in the division do. Although the offensive problems got all the attention in '05, the defense fell apart as well. New additions on the line (Darren Howard, Ed Jasper and rookie Brodrick Bunkley) will help free up Jevon Kearse and make Philly's D dangerous again. That being said, the Eagles still can't run the ball at all and they won't have the six easy divisional wins that helped them dominate the NFC earlier in the decade. Predicted Record: 7-9

Let me know how you think the NFC East will pan out and why.

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