One thing I have noticed about the NFC East the last couple of seasons is that one team gets hot at the end of the season and it is at the expense of the Cowboys.
In 2008, the Eagles won 4 of their final 5 games to make the playoffs as the 6 seed that season. Philadelphia qualified for the last playoff spot with a 44-6 thumping of the Cowboys at home. The Eagles followed it up with a deep playoff run that ended in against the Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game that season.
In 2011, the Giants were in the middle of a four-game losing streak and were looking at their fifth consecutive loss when they were trailing the Cowboys by 12 with 5:41 to play in their Week 14 contest at Dallas. Quarterback Eli Manning led the Giants to 2 touchdowns to put the Giants up 3 and the game ended with Jason Pierre-Paul blocking a game-tying field goal to give the Giants a 37-34 win. In that season's finale, the Giants ended the Cowboys playoff chances with a 31-14 win. Then followed with their own deep playoff run with wins over the Falcons, the number one-seeded Packers, and an overtime win at San Francisco in the NFC Title Game that set up their second Super Bowl against New England. After Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's Hail Mary attempt failed,
NBC's Al Michaels proclaimed, "And
the New York Giants, given the last rites by many in December, are the Super
Bowl Champs in February."
Last season the Redskins were looking like the Deadskins after their November loss to the Panthers. In his postgame news conference, head coach Mike Shanahan appeared to have said that this was another lost season with the team at 3-6. Coach Shanahan said this:
"When you lose a game like that, now you're playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come... Now, we have a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at. Obviously, we're not out of it statistically. Now we find out what kind of character we have and how guys keep on fighting throughout the rest of the season."
Washington followed it up with a 7-game winning streak. They defeated Dallas for the first time ever on Thanksgiving Day in Robert Griffin III's return to Texas since his days at Baylor. On a Monday Night in December, they beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants 17-16. The win streak continued with a come from behind victory over the eventual Super Bowl Champion Ravens where quarterback Robert Griffin III had to leave the game in the middle of a late drive and backup Curt Cousins stepped in to throw a touchdown and ran in the two-point conversion to send the game to overtime.
Then came the season finale where they took care of Dallas behind the 200 yard rushing and 3 touchdown performance of running back Alfred Morris and won the NFC East for the first time since 1999.
Washington's playoff run was short lived. Even though they jumped out to a 14-0 lead, Seattle behind their own rookie quarterback Russell Wilson scored the game's final 24 points to win 24-14.
Griffin had to leave the game in the 4th quarter due to a knee injury when his right foot was caught in the FedEx Field turf as he was recovering a fumbled snap.
During the off-season, Griffin had knee surgery and despite not making one appearance during the pre-season he is expected to start in Week 1 against NFC East rival Philadelphia on Monday Night Football.
While the Redskins have the strongest strength of schedule among the NFC East teams at .498, it is dependent if they have a healthy Griffin under center. If he is back to where he was during his rookie season, the Redskins should repeat as NFC East Champions.
The Eagles are starting a new era with head coach Chip Kelly as he becomes the latest college coach to move up from the NCAA to the NFL. Kelly was the head coach of the Oregon Ducks from 2009-12. Oregon won 10 or more games, were participants in BCS Bowl Games, and ended up ranked in the Top 12 during this time period. Philadelphia is hoping that Kelly's up tempo offensive scheme will translate to the NFL. They have the playmakers in running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, but they cannot seem to settle on a quarterback. At the start of training camp, the Eagles brought 5 quarterbacks on the roster including the incumbent Michael Vick.
Then there is my team which I currently have a love-hate relationship with them: the Dallas Cowboys. After another season where Dallas needed to win the final game of the season to make the playoffs and failed to do so, the talk in Dallas is about what will it take for the Cowboys to make a deep playoff run. The big story in the off-season was quarterback Tony Romo being awarded a six-year contract extension worth $108 million with $55 million guaranteed. Romo needs to prove he is worth that much and can do so by getting Dallas to a record 9th Super Bowl appearance.
The New York Giants could make history as the first team to play in the Super Bowl at their home stadium... though TECHNICALLY they won't be the home team. It's an even numbered Super Bowl, the designated home team for that game would be the AFC Champion. Despite roster changes, the team is still led by quarterback Eli Manning and coach Tom Coughlin. The stability at those key positions are why I think the Giants will be the NFC East champions in 2013.
Every team in the NFC East will make at least two appearances in primetime games proving that this division will be one to watch in the 2013 NFL Season.