The NFC (L)East: The Worst Competitive Division Ever

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFC East’s current leader, the Philadelphia Eagles, has a half-game lead over the other 3 teams in the division, who are in a 3-way tie for second place in the division. These teams must be good, right? Well, they certainly are competitive, and they have had their fair share of injuries, unlucky losses, roster changes, blowouts, coaching turmoil, and everything in between. All of these teams have 3 wins, with the Eagles only having a half-game lead over the rest of the division due to the tie they had with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. This week has some big division games coming, with the Cowboys hosting Washington on Thanksgiving Day, the Giants playing the Bengals, and the Eagles hosting the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Here are our predictions for who wins the NFC East:

Current NFC East Standings:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1), Division Record: (2-2)
  2. New York Giants (3-7), Division Record: (3-2)
  3. Washington Football Team (3-7), Division Record (2-2)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (3-7), Division Record (1-2)

Saransh’s NFC East Winner: Washington Football Team

Washington Remaining Schedule: @ Cowboys (3-7), @ Steelers (10-0), @ 49ers (4-6) vs. Seahawks (7-3), vs. Panthers (4-7), @ Eagles (3-6-1)

Yes, I am a Washington fan, but no, I am not saying this in a biased sense. Right now, of the 4 starting quarterbacks in the NFC East, the one quarterback that I trust most to not turn the football over and make poor decisions, win games, and use their experience to their advantage, is none other than Alex Smith. For New York, Daniel Jones has shown improvement over a 2-game stretch, where they played Washington and Philadelphia, but is still a turnover machine. For Dallas, Andy Dalton is still shaky and does not have the best chemistry with all of the Cowboys’ WRs, although he has a very nice connection with CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. And lastly, for Philadephia, Carson Wentz has the clock ticking on him as the starter in Philadelphia. Alex Smith is a born winner, and when he had come into Washington, he was at the time in the top-5 in terms of winningest active QBs at the time (2018). Then, of course, the gruesome leg injury happened which nearly ended his career and his ability to ever walk again, yet he is here on a football field, inspiring the young Washington Football Team to be in winning situations and even win games, something that has not been seen in Washington for years. Alex Smith may never be even half of what he was as a QB before his injury, but he is still a winner and a leader, and the other quarterbacks in the division are not showing that right now. On top of that, Terry McLaurin has been unreal and is easily the most underrated wide receiver in the entire league, but most of all has been another great leader on the field and in the locker room.

The defense, who are middle-of-the-pack against the run, is ranked #1 in the NFL against the pass and 3rd in sacks. Having guys like rookie sensation Chase Young be double and even triple-teamed at times, has allowed the rest of the front seven, like Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne, and Ryan Kerrigan, to get constant pressure along with Young. Then there is the secondary, led by cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, who have quietly led the #1 pass defense in the entire NFL. To be fair, the stats are misleading, as this defense has had some big games, such as their 7-sack performance in Week 1 against the Eagles, but also poor games, like giving up 30 points to a Lions offense without Kenny Golladay. If they can find even the slightest bit of consistency, as the offense is beginning to show now under Alex Smith, this team can win the games they should win, and do enough to win the division.

Washington should beat Dallas on Thanksgiving and should beat the Eagles to complete the season sweep to finish 4-2 in the NFC East overall. Outside of that, Carolina should be a win, and a sneaky win could come against the 49ers, who will be without George Kittle and most likely also Jimmy Garoppolo. Without the 49ers win, they would finish 6-10, and they would finish 7-9 with it. Either way, I do not think any other NFC East team finishes with more than 5 wins. The Giants, who are the biggest competition to Washington for the division title, have all but two of their remaining games against teams with winning records, and I do not see the Giants doing enough to get past Washington. HC Ron Rivera has battled through cancer this season, and Alex Smith, while being nothing more than an average QB, has still made one of the greatest comebacks from an injury in the history of sports. This team not only could end up being the best in the NFC East when it is all said and done, but also the most inspiring. Whatever happens in this wild division, it will be intriguing (and ugly) to watch, and all of these teams will have their work cut out for them this offseason.

Pranav’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

Let me start by saying I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. ‘Go Birds’ and all that stuff, but this year? The Eagles stink, and no single person can be blamed. Sure, Carson Wentz and his disgusting attempt at being a marginally good quarterback, or Doug Pederson and his awful play-calling, have failed miserably, but this is a team problem that is not a one-week fix. Let us face reality here, the Eagles have tried to fix these problems every week, yet nothing has changed. Fans and critics thought it might be because half the team is injured but the truth is the Eagles are not the best in the NFC East, regardless of their place in the division presently. At the beginning of the season, Dallas and Philadelphia split the predictions for winners of the NFC East, but after the injury to Dak Prescott, Dallas doesn’t have a shot. The Philadelphia Eagles, for the last few weeks, have been too quick to crown themselves as the division winners, but now everyone can see that they might have called it too early. They have probably the hardest remaining schedule in the NFC East, playing four Super Bowl contenders in a row: Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona. 

On the other hand, the dark horse team in the NFC East, the New York Giants, are riding on a few wins. The New York Giants and I hate to say this, are the best team in the division. No one expected them to be anywhere outside of the last place in the division to start the season, and even more after Saquon Barkley’s season-ending injury, but things change. For starters, the Giants have the easiest remaining schedule, and being tied for second is a big help for them because one win already puts them in the driver seat for the East. The Giants are better than the Washington Football Team, having the series sweep. The Giants are also better than the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite having split the season series, the Giants have dominated both matchups with ball control, as they lost their first matchup with Philly due to avoidable penalties. And lastly, the Giants are better than the Dallas Cowboys, and I do not even have to explain. I know I should have no bias as an Eagles fan, but I will never give the Cowboys any love unless they have 1:1 odds to win something.

That being said, the Giants are in the position to take the NFC East, but this is still a division too early to call. We don’t know what is going to happen, or what more (or less) to expect, and to be honest with you, it is not good. All I can say is that none of these teams are going anywhere this season and will be undergoing major changes this offseason. 

Rohan’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

I am also a Washington fan like Saransh, yet I believe the Giants will come out on top and take the NFC East crown. Joe Judge is doing a solid job in his first year as head coach of the Giants, and the team is making incremental progress game after game. Daniel Jones is starting to pull it together with consecutive no turnover performances, and I trust the Giants defense the most in this division. The Giants defense is ranked 12th in the NFL in scoring average this season, with several standout players, including lockdown cornerback James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and Leonard Williams. Also, over the last 6 games, the Giants are 3-3 and those three losses are just by 6 points. One of those losses includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are viewed by many as Super Bowl contenders. The Giants were playing the best football of any team in the NFC East before their bye, and I think they will get 3 more wins (CIN, CLE, DAL) to win the division. I view Dallas as the biggest competition to the Giants. They have the easiest road as they still get to play each of the East teams once and have opponents like the 49ers and Bengals on their schedule. They have also been very competitive, nearly beating the undefeated Steelers at home and knocking off the Vikings recently on the road. The offense looked solid with Andy Dalton back and Zeke had his best game in a while, totaling over 100 rushing yards for the first time this season. Tony Pollard has also been a nice touch, as he added some quality carries and a TD against the Vikings. They also have a special talent in CeeDee Lamb who is looking like the best rookie receiver in the draft class. However, the Cowboys defense needs to improve, especially their poor secondary. Their run defense is atrocious as well, allowing a whopping 153.8 yards on the ground per game to opposing offenses. 

The Cowboys hopes for winning the NFC East division will likely disappear if their defense is not up for the task. Washington, meanwhile, has a solid chance but a few problems of their own. Let us start with the defense, who was supposed to be one of the best units in the league under DC Jack Del Rio but has not lived up to the hype. By looking at the numbers, you might think that Washington has an above-average defense, however, it’s the complete opposite. Their defensive line has plenty of talent like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Daron Payne, but have failed to take advantage of poor offensive lines, which proved to be critical in getting swept by the New York Giants. These losses hurt Washington big time as the Giants now have the tiebreaker. The linebacker core and secondary are both very weak and it showed when they played average offenses like the Lions. However, I also think a better offense would have a positive impact on the defense. The offense is badly underperforming overall, ranked 29th in the league, and Alex Smith is nothing more than an average quarterback. Washington has a bright future with star receiver Terry McLaurin and rookie running back Antonio Gibson, and their offensive line is looking better than expected, but aren’t going to go far with the style and play of this offense. The Thanksgiving game between Washington and Dallas will be very critical, as Washington can take the tiebreaker over Dallas with a win. 

Finally, Philadelphia is terrible, starting with QB Carson Wentz. He currently leads the league in interceptions and is making head-scratching mistakes game after game. Ever since that ACL injury, Wentz has been trending downward and could crash down to the point of no return. Carson is not the only one to blame, though. The coaching staff has regressed, and Head Coach Doug Pederson should be fired this offseason. Veterans like Jason Peters, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Mills are on the decline. The Eagles are a dumpster fire and could very well lose out and only win 3 games this season, as they have the toughest remaining schedule in the division. 

This division is all-around terrible, and we might see the worst division winner of all time. The worst record that a playoff team has ever recorded is 7-9 (Seahawks, 2010), and it is hard for me to envision an NFC East team even getting to 7 wins. It is crazy to think that one of these teams is going to host a playoff game. I do see this division coming down to the very last game, however, and that game would be Week 17: Cowboys @ Giants, a winner-take-all game to decide the division. One thing we can all agree on is that the team that makes the playoffs will not go far, and all of these teams have to make major changes this offseason. 

NFL Best Free Agents Remaining: But Why Are They Here?

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

This year’s NFL Free Agency has been the best in NFL history, but the craziest part of all of this is that there are still elite players left as free agents right now. Players like Cam Newton, Jadeveon Clowney, and Everson Griffen still see their names on the market and not on a team. Here are the top 12 free agents, and our predictions for where they will go:

  1. Jadeveon Clowney, OLB/DE

This one to me is actually mind-boggling considering his production. Now, to be fair, the Coronavirus pandemic has hurt the value of guys like Clowney, because the outside linebacker position was one that had an abundance of talent in this year’s NFL Draft, so teams could bank on a younger, cheaper player to develop and become a good linebacker. He was hurt last season and only played 13 games and only had 3 sacks, but he forced 4 fumbles, had his first interception and pick-6, deflected 3 passes, and had 13 QB hits, which is an average of 1 per game, which is pretty solid. The problem is that the idea of waiting a season and going for a small contract for this upcoming season, and then cashing out after next season is not as viable an option as it used to be due to the impacts of Coronavirus. That being said, Clowney is open to waiting for the summer to roll around and sign a big deal if it comes then.

Prediction: Jets Sign Clowney on 3-year, $52.5M deal, $39M Guaranteed

  1. Cam Newton, QB

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, Cam Newton was coming off of a 15-1 MVP season, and a near Super Bowl victory. Now, Newton, having dealt with a few injuries, has been released by the Panthers and is now struggling to get a contract as even a backup for this upcoming season. Honestly, I think that Cam Newton is definitely starter material, but he just has to do his due diligence and wait it out this year and be a backup. Newton surely can still play at a starter level and play at a high level as well, I just do not see it being this season.

Prediction: Steelers Sign Newton on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal

  1. Everson Griffen, DE

Now this is a player who I understand why he is unsigned. 2 years ago, when the Vikings went to the NFC Championship Game, Griffin had 13 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. In the next 2 seasons combined, he has 13.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and no forced fumbles. The only number that has been near the same in 2017 is the QB hits, which he had 24 just this past season after 25 in 2017. Granted, in the 2018 season, Griffen did only play 11 games, so the stats look unusually low, but these past 2 seasons, Griffen’s low number of sacks really is costing him now come free agency time. 8.0+ sacks is something Griffen is used to doing, so seeing him now barely being able to get that is strange, and the health issues have not helped either. That being said, Griffen’s talent still warrants him getting a 1-year ‘prove-it’ deal, and then signing onto another deal of a bigger salary with the same or different team. 

Prediction: Seahawks Sign Griffen on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal to Replace Clowney

  1. Larry Warford, OG

Larry Warford was a surprise release a week ago by New Orleans, but a lot of it apparently had to do with the fact that he put on some weight and New Orleans did not like that it was happening during this offseason, so they let him go, and they also have a young, worthy replacement for him at Left Guard in Andrus Peat, who got a 5-year, $57.5M extension a few weeks back. Warford, despite the weight concerns, is still capable of being an elite left guard in the NFL.

Prediction: Warford Goes Back to Detroit, Signs with Lions on 3-Year Deal

  1. Jason Peters, OT

Jason Peters has been a monumental piece of the Philadelphia Eagles offense since 2009, protecting various NFL quarterbacks who achieved stardom through their years in Philly such as Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Carson Wentz. Jason Peters is a Super Bowl champion who is decorated with achievements such as being a 9x Pro Bowler, 2x First Team All-Pro, 4x Second Team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 2010’s decade team is now at an older age of 38, but still has the fire to play into his 40s. He is currently a free agent coming off an average year at a price of $3.5 million, but is still holding strong communication with the Eagles and is being eyed on by the Broncos, Jets, and Browns as well, who all would perform much better with his veteran status.

Prediction: Peters re-signs with the Eagles to a 1-Year or 2-Year Deal

  1. Logan Ryan, CB

Logan Ryan is one of the NFL’s most elusive and underrated cornerbacks coming off an amazing season with the Tennessee Titans. The 29 year old is a sharp veteran, who has the ability to force turnovers and provide pass breakups during crucial plays. In 2019, finishing his contract with $9.5 million left for the year, Logan Ryan combined for 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 4 force fumbles. Teams that would benefit from Logan Ryan include the Dolphins, Eagles and Jets. Logan Ryan has commented about the Jet’s interest in him and how signing with the team he shared practiced fields with in college would make sense for him, but he is adament that he wants to sign with a “contender.”

Prediction: The South Jersey native signs with the Eagles to a 1-year Deal

  1. Carlos Hyde, RB

Carlos Hyde is one of the best players from the 2014 NFL Draft and also one of the best running backs to play the game in his time so far. After another 1000 yard season, this time with the Houston Texans (Carlos Hyde has jumped over a lot!), the free agent running back is looking for another team to call home for the 2020 season. After rejecting the Texan’s offer, Hyde sees interest coming from the Philadelphia Eagles, who need a veteran running back to mentor Miles Sanders. I don’t really see other teams very interested in him and there is major competition between three running backs to sign with the Eagles.

Prediction: Hyde stays a FA into the start of the season or signs a small deal with a rebuilding team

  1. Markus Golden, LB

Markus Golden is one of the NFL’s most underrated 3-4 edge rushers coming off a good season with the New York Giants. Last year, playing all 16 games, Golden acquired 72 tackles, 10 sacks, a force fumble and 1 defensive touchdown. When Markus Golden is healthy, he poses as a legitimate threat to any offense and will finish every season with double-digit sacks to his name. As of now, the Giants and Lions see interest in signing the electric edge rusher. 

Prediction: Markus Golden signs a 3-year deal with the Lions, fixing up that faulty pass rush

  1. Taylor Gabriel, WR

Gabriel is seen as a speedy playmaker but did not live up to the hype in Chicago. In two seasons with the Bears, Gabriel managed just 96 catches for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns. He also dealt with concussions and as a result Chicago released him to clear cap space. However, he is currently the top option on the WR market because he is still a talented player and has the speed to hurt defenses deep. He could be very serviceable to a team that needs a deep threat to complement their best receiver. 

Prediction: Gabriel signs a 1-year deal with the Packers to help stretch the field

  1. Cordy Glenn, OT

Cordy Glenn has been a solid player for the majority of his career. He is 30 years old and could be a great veteran presence for a team looking for a tackle. However, his 2019 season was suspect as he only played 6 games and had a tumultuous relationship with the Bengals which led to his release. He was suspended by the team at one point for “internal disciplinary reasons” and dealt with concussions which probably explains why he has not been signed yet. I can definitely see a team taking a gamble on him though because he was great when he played and is a serviceable starter. 

Prediction: Glenn signs a 1-year deal with the Vikings

  1. Mike Daniels, DT

Mike Daniels is coming off an injury-plagued season with Detroit. He played nine games due to foot and arm injuries and finished with nine tackles and just 1 sack. It is clear that he is not the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful player. Before signing with the Lions, Daniels was one of the Packers best defensive players and an emotional leader. He can help mentor younger players, provide some solid IDL depth, and help stuff the run. 

Prediction: Daniels signs a 1-year vet min deal with the Cowboys and reunites with Mike McCarthy

  1. Delanie Walker, TE

Delanie Walker is another player who has been dealing with different injuries the past few seasons and was cut by the Titans due to the rise of young tight end Jonnu Smith. Walker has had a lot of success with Tennessee however and was the greatest tight end to ever play for them. He is 36 and is entering his 15th season in the NFL but I think he still has some left in the tank. He has always been productive for Tennessee when healthy and can provide endless options as a receiver and a blocker to change an offense. He could bring some good value to a team with a young tight end group.

Prediction: Walker signs a 1-year deal with the Patriots to help mentor Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi