NFC East – Division Preview

NFC East Winner  (Over/Under season wins).
Odds as per Centrebet @ 27 August

Philadelphia Eagles $1.91 (9 games – Over $1.74/Under $2.10)

New York Giants $4.75 (8 games – Under $1.82/Over $2.00)

Washington Redskins 5.00 (7.5 games – Under $1.87/Over $1.95)

Dallas Cowboys 5.50 (8 games – Under $1.44/Over $2.80)

 

Gargy: I reckon if the NFC South is the surprise packet of the Conference, and the NFC West is obviously the super power, this surely has to be division where defence is optional. I am badly biased but I am taking the $2.50 (*now into $1.91) on offer for the Eagles, however not with a great deal of confidence. In 2013 the Eagles went 10-6 but were bundled out in the play offs by the Saints in a very close game.  In the off season they let DeSean Jackson walk to the Redskins, but you know what? Their offence will be just fine. Chip Kelly’s teams score points. Period. Stopping them is another challenge. They brought in Jenkins from the Saints and Carroll from the Fins to bolster their ordinary secondary. Given this, I think they will win the division; I will take them to win 10 or more games again.

The Redskins, wow, I think RG3 will bounce back but someone has to teach that dude how to slide or he simply wont get through 16 games, they will score plenty of points but they will leak points also. I think they will be very close to an 8-8 season, but I am not all that confident.

The NY Giants, double wow. Eli Manning is like Ian Baker Finch of the QB’s in the NFL- the dude has forgotten how to play, he was absolutely shithouse in 2013 and threw 27 interceptions last season, 27!! I think JPP will have a good season and might challenge for comeback player of the year, but he will need to as they have lost defensive linemen and secondary players. Victor Cruz and rookie Odell Beckham will have to produce big numbers or they are in for a really bad year. I am on the unders as I think Eli will have a garbage year.

Finally the Cowboys, Man…. What can you say? In 2013 they had the worst defense in the NFL and this season they are without 3 of their best defensive players; they lost their best pass rusher in DeMacrus Ware, lose Jason Hatcher and will also be without their best ILB in Sean Lee.  If they get a few injuries, get use to them leaking 35+ points every match , on the flip side hey will score a heap of points (*the lesson being, get on the Overs when the Cowboys are playing…).  Say what you want about Romo but he does put up points, just don’t back him in December. He will be well protected with a great O-line and he will have Dez Bryant, Demarco Murray, Terrence Williams and TE Jason Witten at his disposal. 

Now here is a sneaky tip- at the start of the year get on the overs in most matches involving all the NFC East teams as bookies will only set their lines at low 50’s. Check the weather and whether its a dome game and make sure they are not against a gun defense/rubbish offence, but there is good money to be made early in the year.

Shirty what are you thinking my friend? Are you a Tony Romo Fan? Can RG3 bounce back? Will Eli be Good or Bad?

Shirty  I have the benefit of writing this a little later than Gargy wrote his preview, so I know, for example, that Kirk Cousins is apparently ahead of RGIII for the starting spot at the Skins.  I think this is actually a positive for the Skins, as they can probably do without an injury and error prone Griffin the Third at this stage.  I also know Eli continues to struggle with his game in the preseason (no surprises there), Sanchez might end up moving from the Eagles to the Rams (unlikely) and Romo continues to be Romo.

But my overwhelming theme for this post is going to be “reversion to the mean”.  

Our good friends over at Grantland and fivethirtyeight.com have been tossing around a thing called the Plexiglas Principle.  To quote Neil Paine at fivethirtyeight – “Teams making large improvements from one season to the next tend to give back some of the progress the next season.”  The Eagles had a massive turnaround in 2013, increasing their seasons wins from 4 to 10.  Now, plenty of people will point to new coach Chip Kelly and his offence as reason enough for the turnaround.  Or the unexpected form of rookie QB Nick Foles.  But the fact remains that a 6 game turnaround is huge by any measure, and mean reversion would tell us that they will fall back a few wins from there, assuming at least that their opponents also mean revert to something slightly better than “absolute garbage”, particularly when you factor in personnel changes (including giving up their best receiver) and a normal amount of injuries.  So the Eagles are going to get worse, but how much worse, particularly against this lot?  I am going to take the unders and lay the division title.

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for the Giants, and really feel for goofy old Eli.  I would like to make the case that he is a great QB going through a bad patch (admittedly one that is a couple of years in duration) and that he, and the team, will revert back to something close to the form that carried them to the 2011 title, but it’s a tough sell.  Having said that, their schedule looks like an absolute gift – as well as playing in arguably the weakest division in the league, they have games against the Lions, Cardinals, Texans, Jags, Titans and Bradford-less Rams.  All very winnable.   The $4.75 could be a hint of value if you are prepared to take a chance that Eli will hit receivers more than defenders this year.

In terms of mean reversion, the Redskins had that in spades last year when they came crashing back to earth.  RGIII was out of this world in his debut season, but something had to give.  The fivethirtyeight guys do a much better job than I could at explaining it, but the fact that Kirk Cousins is being touted as a potential starter in front of RGIII should tell you all you need to know about how far they have fallen.  Having said that, from memory I talked up their defence last year in the preview (it turned out to be garbage, but it shouldn’t have been on paper) and if they can play to potential, and Cousins can do a serviceable job under centre and allow the offence to play with a bit of structure and continuity, they have a schedule that they could conceivably wring 8 wins from.

If the other 3 are due for some mean reversion, then the Cowboys are the very definition of average.  They are consistently over hyped, and consistently under achieve.  The fact that Tony Romo, the Crown Prince of underachievers, and Jason Garret are still working together is truly one of life’s great mysteries.  They are hopeless in defence, and although Romo is actually a really capable pocket QB, they consistently manage to find ways to nullify this and lose games.  They should go 8-8 or better but they won’t. Unders.

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