We’re on the cusp of the 2021 NFL Season. Before we get there, it’s time to prepare by looking at each of these divisions and the prospects for the season. Next up is the NFC East, where no one could get on a winning track in 2020.
In 2020 the NFC East was really the NFC Least. The teams struggled with injuries and inconsistency, leading all four divisional foes to fall short of the .500 mark. Will that continue to be the case in 2021? Will we again get a sub-.500 team in the playoffs? Let’s consider the possibilities.
2020 Record: 6-10
Key Additions: Micah Parsons, LB, Keanu Neal, S, Kelvin Joseph, CB
Key Departures: Aldon Smith, DL, Xavier Woods, S, Joe Looney, C
Key Question: Is it finally the Cowboys’ year?
Every year it seems like the Dallas Cowboys are on the cusp of greatness. And every January, it fails to materialize. The 2020 season was no different. Mike McCarthy took over as coach, but he had a woeful defense and saw his offense fall off tremendously after Dak Prescott was lost for the season in the fifth game. But hope springs eternal for Cowboys fans, and that has continued in 2021. Dak is back, now locked up on a long-term deal, and the Cowboys’ offensive line is back healthy. The team returns Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup at receiver and tailback Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys’ offense figures to be prolific again. But what about that defense?
Dan Quinn didn’t have a great run as Head Coach in Atlanta, but he’s been a decent defensive coordinator. He helped guide the Seahawks to the Super Bowl with a powerhouse defense, and after spending plenty of free-agent signings and nearly all the team’s draft picks on defense, the Cowboys appear poised to turn the corner there, too. So, once again, the pieces are in place for the team to make a run to the playoffs. It’s just a matter of health, luck, and execution.
Washington Football Team
2020 Record: 7-9
Key Additions: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Curtis Samuel, WR, Dyami Brown, WR, Adam Humphries, WR, Jamin Davis, LB, Samuel Cosmi, OT, William Jackson, CB
Key Departures: Alex Smith, QB, Thomas Davis, LB, Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Ronald Darby, CB
Key Question: Can Washington find a little Fitzmagic?
The Washington Football Team was one of the best stories in 2020. Ron Rivera took over as coach, battled personal health issues, and used a rotation of quarterbacks to sneak into the playoffs. Alex Smith returned from a devastating knee injury to help get them there in his final season, while rookie running back Antonio Gibson and young receiver Terry McLaurin, along with tight end Logan Thomas, helped carry the load. But it was the defense, led by fierce rookie Chase Young, that carried the day. Washington nearly won their playoff opener against the Buccaneers and headed into the off-season on a high note.
The team added solid pieces this off-season, too. Washington re-loaded with young talent like Jamin Davis and Dyami Brown in the draft, adding veteran receivers Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries. But the biggest question is quarterback, where the team snagged veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. If he can show the same moxie and leadership he had in Miami, Washington will be in line for a return trip to the playoffs.
New York Giants
2020 Record: 6-10
Key Additions: Kenny Golladay, WR, Kadarius Toney, WR, John Ross, WR, Devontae Booker, RB, Kyle Rudolph, TE, Azeez Ojulari, DE, Adoree Jackson, CB
Key Departures: Colt McCoy, QB, Wayne Gallman, RB, Golden Tate, WR
Key Question: Is Daniel Jones the answer?
The 2020 Giants entered the season with a new coach, Joe Judge, and new Offensive Coordinator, Jason Garrett. The hope was Daniel Jones would take a step forward in his second year, but it didn’t happen. Saquon Barkley was lost for the season in Week 2, and Jones struggled in his sophomore season. The Giants’ defense and the nature of the NFC East kept them in the race, but it was a 6-10 finish. This off-season, the Giants’ loaded up on offense. Free agents Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Kyle Rudolph were added to the passing game, while the team spent a first-round pick on Florida receiver Kadarius Toney. Barkley is back healthy, and the team added veteran Devontae Booker for insurance. The pieces are in place, and now it’s a question of whether or not Jones is the answer at quarterback. With the best set of weapons he’s had—including returning receivers Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepherd along with tight end Evan Engram—the pressure is on Jones to produce on the field and lead the Giants to a winning season.
2020 Record: 4-11-1
Key Additions: Gardner Minshew, QB, Joe Flacco, QB, DeVonta Smith, WR, Ryan Kerrigan, DE
Key Departures: Carson Wentz, QB, DeSean Jackson, WR, Malik Jackson, DT, Jason Peters, LT
Key Question: Is Jalen Hurts the answer?
The 2020 Eagles got off to a rough start, losing the opener to the Washington Football Team. It was a sign that things weren’t going to pan out for the defending NFC East Champions. By the end of the season, franchise quarterback Carson Wentz had been benched and Second Round selection Jalen Hurts earned the start. Wentz was shipped off to the Indianapolis Colts this off-season, and Head Coach Doug Pederson soon followed him out the door. Now, it’s up to new Head Coach Nick Siriani to determine if Hurts is the right man to lead the team forward. Despite rumors, the Eagles passed on taking a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. But just this last week, the team traded for former Jaguars’ starter Gardner Minshew, giving them an option behind Hurts. Doubtless, the pressure will be on the former Oklahoma Sooner to prove he’s the right man to lead the Eagles into the future.
NFC East Prediction
I think the Cowboys are in for a good season, but so is the Washington Football Team. I like both to be playoff contenders, battling atop the division throughout the 2021 season. I’m far less bullish on the Eagles and Giants, in part because I don’t think Hurts and Jones are the long-term answers. I suspect both teams will be looking to make a move at quarterback when the 2022 NFL Draft rolls around after another dismal season.
Dallas Cowboys: 12-5
Washington Football Team: 11-6
New York Giants: 4-13
Philadelphia Eagles: 2-15
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL Fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.