It might appear that both the Super Bowl champion Giants and Redskins have had a very short week of preparation for their season opener. In reality, though, both of these clubs have been pointing and preparing for this game since the schedule was announced in mid April.
For the record, I'm picking the Giants based on the home field advantage and the swagger they will bring to game as the defending Super Bowl Champions.
But let's get to my reason for writing this column: my NFC East division predictions.
The Dallas Cowboys, in my opinion have the talent, experience, depth and overall fire power to return to finally return to the big dance. When one adds to the equation a coaching staff that has to feel far more comfortable with a year under their belt and a proactive management team headed by team owner Jerry Jones, I believe you have a true recipe for success.
The defense has both size and speed and should be among the best in the league. Newcomers Zack Thomas, Adam Jones, top round selection Mike Jenkins and late season addition Tank Johnson should all contribute quickly to the team's overall success. If you are looking for a potential Achilles heel on the defense, I would have to question the pass coverage skills of the inside people on the back end.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys have a much-underrated running game led by Marion Barber and supported by talented rookies Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. I really like Jones and believe he is one of the best zone runners I've seen in some time. Although the receiver grouping is rather thin, tight end Jason Whitten and Terrell Owens are near the top of their game. The real key to the team's success will be the continued development and good health of quarterback Tony Romo.
If one is looking for a possible shortcoming on the offensive side of the ball, it would appears to be at the wide receiver position where there is talent but depth and experience issues to be considered.
The kicking game is outstanding and the aforementioned Adam Jones, Felix Jones and Jenkins are all very dangerous return men.
The Cowboys' musical theme for 2008: The Boys Are Back in Town by Thin Lizzy.
Washington Redskins – I'm still not entirely sold on the quarterback situation and a coaching and system change does not work in starting quarterback Jason Campbell's favor. I do believe, however, that prior to his season ending injury I saw some real improvement in his overall game. Campbell's not quite there yet, but I now believe he has a chance to become a solid signal caller.
On both sides of the football, the Redskins are not a work-in-progress, but rather an experienced group that is a game-ready and tested. In 2007, the Redskins lost a vital part of their defensive unit when safety Sean Taylor was tragically shot and killed. This year, the Skins have two young developing players who have a chance to become impact players on the defensive side of the ball in linebacker Rocky McIntosh and safety LaRon Landry.
On the offensive side of the ball, Samuels, Jansen, Cooley and Portis are not household names even for the sophisticated football fan, but believe me when I tell you I have not met a coach in the league that wouldn't want to line them up on their football team.
The Redskins have always prided themselves on having good special teams units since the late George Allen walked the sidelines and the 2008 special teams unit should be no exception. Keep a close eye on or rookie punter Durant Brooks, a player with a very big leg and a real chance to become as good as there is in the league.
Overall, I don't think they have the firepower to match up against their dreaded rivals the Dallas Cowboys, but if this club can avoid a major injury to key personnel, I expect the Redskins at year's end to become a very dangerous playoff participant.
This year's musical theme: Can't Hold Us Down by Christina Aguilera and Lil Kim.
The current Super Bowl Champion New York Giants enter the 2008 regular season besieged with personnel problems caused by injury, free agency, retirement and trades. Stalwarts like Michael Strahan, Jeremy Shockey, Kawika Mitchell, Gibril Wilson, Reggie Torbor, and without question the team's flat-out top football player, Osi Umenyiora, are all championship level players who can not be replaced.
On the plus side, offensive guard Chris Snee, is as good as there is in the league at his position and RB Brandon Jacobs did an outstanding job in his first year replacing perennial pro bowl running back Tiki Barber. Mid-season acquisition Madison Hedgecock, is an absolute beast leading it up inside and if second year running back Ahmad Bradshaw can stay focused off-the-field, he has a real chance of becoming a top back within the league.
Defensive tackle Justin Tuck, the real 2008 Super Bowl MVP, has been moved outside where he will team with 2007 top draft selection Mathias Kiwanuka, an outside backer as a rookie. On the back end, Aaron Ross is very talented as is this year's top choice Kenny Phillips. Special teams are for the most part an unremarkable unit and the team lacks speed, particularly in the defensive side of the ball.
Eli took this team further then I thought possible last season, but I'm still not sure he has the talent to do it over the long haul. The Giants have solid coaching and scouting staffs and have been there before, but I also believe there are too many obstacles ahead for the defending world champions.
I had a difficult time deciding on a 2008 season musical theme; I considered Phil Collins' Against All Odds, but finally decided on the NJ anthem made famous by the hit series The Sopranos: Woke Up This Morning by A3.
Even after their 2004 Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles appeared to have the makings of a potential mini-dynasty, but due to injuries, some questionable football decisions and an aging defensive unit, the team faded very quickly.
Unfortunately, one of those key injuries each of the past three seasons has been to their team leader and elite quarterback Donovan McNabb. This inability to stay healthy has cost the franchise dearly. As a direct result, the Eagles' window of opportunity appears to be closing rapidly.
On the offensive side of the ball, Reggie Brown is talented, but has been a major disappointment. Kevin Curtis, who I strongly urged the Rams to select a half dozen years ago, has speed to burn, good hands, but in my opinion is not a number one receiver on a championship level club. The Eagles like Baskett's hands and size a great deal, but his deep speed is limited. DeSean Jackson is a skilled little guy, but little guys do not hold up over the long haul at the professional level.
Thomas and Andrews are quality football players and anchor a very serviceable offensive front. Depth is a problem (see Giants match up of Umenyiora vs Justice). Super all-purpose back Brian Westbrook has been surprisingly durable, but if something were to happen to this Pro Bowl performer, the Eagles would have no long term answer. L.J. Smith is a talented receiver and up-the-seam threat.
On the defensive side, Brodrick Bunkley is a player who looked like a sure thing as a senior at Florida State, but has been somewhat of a disappointment. Stewart Bradley, on the other hand, has quietly developed into one of the top mike backers in the NFC. Omar Gaithers, is an active "will" backer who covers a lot of ground and makes plays. Brian Dawkins, an outstanding free safety for many years, has seen his overall game begin to slip in recent years. A replacement needs to be found in the not-too-distant future.
On paper, the Eagles corners grouping (Lito Sheppard, who is rumored to be on his way out of Philly, new acquired Asante Samuel and Shelton Brown), look like the premier grouping in the league, but unless Juqua Parker, Trent Cole or possibly Darren Howard can apply consistent outside pressure on third down, their performance could suffer.
David Akers has been a dependable kicker, but like the aforementioned Dawkins, his production has declined over the last two year due in part to injuries. DeSean Jackson and Lorenzo Booker should be the principle punt and kick off returners. Jackson, in particular, has been very productive in that role, but keep in mind what I said earlier about little guys in the pay for play ranks.
If everything were to go right, the Eagles have a chance to make some noise within the division. But from where I stand today, that's a very big "if."
The Eagles musical them for 2008, lets go with "The Thrill is Gone" by the great BB King