Injuries to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant along with an 0-2 start for the Philadelphia Eagles have shaken up the NFC East.
On Thursday, our NFL Nation reporters from around the division answer the question: How have the first two weeks of the season affected your original prediction for the NFC East?
Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys: In the first two weeks, the Cowboys have lost Dez Bryant and Tony Romo, two of their most important players. The challenges without Bryant and Romo are obvious, but the Cowboys’ 2-0 start in the division with wins over the Giants and Eagles gives them a leg up and some margin for error. The rest of the division, meanwhile, looks woeful. The Giants seem to have the same issues they had last year, especially defensively. The Eagles have never looked this bad under Chip Kelly. The Redskins always seem like they are on the edge of despair. If the Cowboys can hold it together without Romo and be above .500 when he returns, they should be able to win the division again. Brandon Weeden has a lot of pressure, but the Cowboys have to rely on their offensive line and defense to win games. It’s hard to imagine another team getting on a roll to keep the Cowboys out of the race.
Dan Graziano, New York Giants: The serious injuries to Romo and Bryant have diminished my confidence in picking Dallas to win the division, but their 2-0 record and the likelihood that both players will return at some point this season mitigates that somewhat. Also mitigating it is that the Eagles look like they’ll need time to get on track and the Giants look as flawed and vulnerable as I expected they would. Washington seems to be in the best shape, especially if it beats the undermanned Giants on Thursday night, but I still think Dallas has enough on defense to weather the storm; a team featuring an offensive line as dominant as theirs can win with its backup quarterback. It’s not going to be easy, and I doubt they repeat last year’s 12-4 finish, but I think the Cowboys still slug it out and end up on top.
Phil Sheridan, Philadelphia Eagles: We all picked the Dallas Cowboys to win the division back in August. After their 2-0 start, that looks pretty good. But we couldn’t have foreseen the injuries to Romo and Bryant that make the Cowboys vulnerable. The question is, Can anyone take advantage? The Eagles seemed like the most likely team, given the potential upside of Chip Kelly’s moves. But all we’ve seen through two weeks is the downside. The Giants are 0-2. Washington showed signs of life. Ultimately, I would say the Eagles’ chances of righting the ship and sneaking to the top of the division are pretty reasonable. If they can win the East with a 9-7 record, though, there won’t be any NFC East wild-card team.
John Keim, Washington Redskins: Heck yes I’m re-thinking my divisional picks. Considering I picked the Cowboys and they’re already down Romo and Bryant? Tough to stand by them, even if they are 2-0. As great as their run game was last season, the Cowboys were dangerous because of their passing attack. Do they have the other parts to manage even a 3-5 record minus Romo for eight games, if that’s even all it is? If they can, then they’ll be right in the mix. But good luck with that. And the Eagles are a mess, but at least they’re healthy and there are 14 games left. So they have that going for them. Still, the tough part about the NFC East: Who should replace Dallas as the pick? The Giants should be 2-0, but they’re not and have plenty of issues; the Redskins have shown promising signs, but it would still be a big leap for them after two games to put them at the top. They beat the St. Louis Rams, not the New England Patriots. They have a few ifs: If they stay healthy, if Kirk Cousins plays well… then they can be in the mix. The mindset and attitude are good, however. But that’s the problem with the NFC East: It’s easier to find reasons why teams won’t win the division than why they might.