OVERVIEW: NFC EAST
The Eagles once again appear to be the top team in the NFC for 2005, however, I wouldnt look for them to win 13 games this season due to the fact that each of the other teams in the NFC East should improve this year. A look at the Eagles schedule for 2005 reveals the fact that Philly will face the leagues third easiest schedule when considering the Eagles 2005 opponents combined for a 118-146 straight up record last season.
One would expect that with the Eagles posting a straight up record of 54-20 over the past four seasons that they would eventually have a bad draft due to having to choose from the draft leftovers, however, that has not been the case as the Eagles once again had a pretty good draft which is a testament to just how good HC Andy Reid is with regard to being able to wheel and deal in the draft as well as his ability to pick talent.
The Eagles werent all that active in the free agent market but were able to snag a quality backup QB in Mike McMahon from Detroit who became expendable when the Lions picked up QB Jeff Garcia. It should be no surprise that the Lions picked up Garcia when considering that Garcia was Detroit HC Steve Mariuccis QB when both were in San Francisco.
Cowboy HC Bill Parcells used free agency to bring in RB Anthony Thomas to backup Julius Jones and also snagged QB Drew Bledsoe to run his offense for 2005, however, Parcells main focus during the off season was to fix what ailed his defense which allowed 406 points in 2004. Parcells appears to have been successful with a quality draft head lined by picking up DE Demarcus Ware, DE Marcus Spears and LB Kevin Burnett with his top three selections in the draft.
Overall Parcells had an excellent draft and used six of his eight draft selections on defensive players which should serve to shore up a shaky pass rush which allowed opposing QBs time to toss 31 TDs last year. The Giants threw last season away by using QB Eli Manning under center earlier than they probably should have, however, the playing experience gained in 2004 should serve Manning well this season and especially since QB Kurt Warner is now in Arizona which means that Manning will not be looking over this shoulder.
The Giants only had four draft choices which was the fewest amount in franchise history, however, they were able to pick up CB Corey Webster out of LSU in the second round, Webster should have been a top 10 or top 15 pick but fell to the Giants with the overall 43rd pick in the draft due to injuries sustained in College, the G-Men used free agency to bring in QB Tim Hasselbeck to back up Manning and signed a go-to WR in former Steeler Plaxico Burress for Manning to play catch with.
By not addressing glaring needs on offense Washington appears set to bring up the rear in the NFC East for 2005, last year Skin HC Joe Gibbs brought in former Jag QB Mark Brunell to run his offense, however in the nine games Brunell started last year he only completed 49.79% of his passes and at seasons end finished with a QB rating of 63.90.
In contrast QB Patrick Ramsey started seven games in 2004 and completed 62.13% of his tosses which was good enough to post a QB rating of 74.8, the Skins used their second draft selection on QB Jason Campbell out of Auburn which was probably a bit of a reach as Campbell will need lots of work, however, it doesnt take a rocket scientist to see that Patrick Ramsey will be the starting QB for 2005.
Regardless of whether the Skins decide to go with either Mark Brunell or Patrick Ramsey at QB for 2005, Washington still needs to fix their offensive line play which was atrocious to say the least and was the main reason for the Skins averaging a meager 15 points scored per contest last year.
The Skin defense appeared set to be the bright spot for this team once again in 2005, however, the arrest of safety Sean Taylor on gun charges, the free agent loss of CB Fred Smoot and the off season ankle injury/stress fracture to top draft choice CB Carlos Rogers leaves that open to debate.
In closing the Eagles posted an overall mark of 15-4 straight up and 12-7 ATS last year, I fully expect to see the public back these Eagles in most outings in 2005, however, a check of last season shows that 3 of the Eagles 4 straight up losses occurred against AFC teams and 4 of the Eagles 7 spread losses came against the AFC.
A check of the past three seasons reveals the fact that Philly has only lost a total of 14 games in this time frame, however, 7 of those 14 losses came at the hands of AFC teams, and to think that in the past three years these Eagles only played AFC teams a total of 13 times!!
This of course leads me to believe that 2005 road games at Kansas City and at Denver might very well be prime spots to go against Philly and especially if the Eagles are installed as road favorites when considering that the Eagles have gone 4-9 ATS overall against AFC teams over the past three seasons, in road games (not counting the SB) against AFC teams during this same time span Philly posted a mark of 2-4 ATS.
I would be careful in picking my spots with regard to Dallas, New York, and Washington this season until after the fourth game of the year because of the QB situation at each location, with that being said keep an eye on the Cowboys who could very well end up being the surprise team in this division as well as in the NFC this year if QB Drew Bledsoe can remain healthy and the Dallas defense shapes up like I think they will.
Jim Campbell is one of the nations most respected Sports Handicappers, he specializes in College and Pro Football, you can visit Jim at his website located at footballforecastor.com for all of your handicapping needs including free play selections, College and NFL stats, trends and award winning analysis on upcoming games.
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