As free agency continues and the draft approaches, every team has some level of excitement. Some are looking to contend in 2022, while others only want to move in the right direction. The NFL is unique in that every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl each season. At the same time, only one team can lift the Lombardi next February. The other 31 will fall short, and there are reasons why each team will not have what it takes. Let’s continue with the NFC East.
For as much star power as the Cowboys have, they always seem to lack the killer instinct. For 2022, the main culprit is Dak Prescott. While Prescott is a good quarterback – perhaps even a top-10 quarterback – he often comes up short in the biggest moments. He cannot be counted on to carry the Cowboys or be elite for an extended stretch. His limitations are just enough to derail the Cowboys each season. The surrounding offense also seems to spontaneously combust. Ezekiel Elliott is a shell of his former self, and the offensive line continues to age. Even the weapons that used to be among the best in the NFL have been diminished this offseason.
Moving into 2022, the Cowboys should expect some regression on both sides of the football. The offense led the NFL in both scoring and total yardage, but both of these figures were exaggerated because of putrid competition late in the season. Similarly, the defense capitalized on the highest takeaway rate in the NFL. Interceptions are often noisy from a statistical perspective, and it will be nearly impossible for Trevon Diggs to match his absurd production from 2021.
Mike McCarthy throws a third wrench into the situation. While he has a Super Bowl under his belt, he has still massively underachieved. Despite being blessed with one of the best quarterbacks ever (Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers) and a consistently good roster (with the Cowboys), McCarthy’s teams always find a way to lose. In 2021, their downfall came from a disastrous loss to the San Francisco 49ers at home.
The Eagles have a reasonable floor built on a strong rushing attack, but they will be held back by a subpar passing offense. DeVonta Smith might be a future star, but Jalen Hurts has not shown he can be a consistent top half of the league quarterback. Beyond Smith and Dallas Goedert, the receiving corps is less than stellar, further exacerbating Hurts’ struggles in the passing game. While the Eagles do have one of the better offensive lines in the league, it hinges on the health of Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson.
The defense might be the worse of the two units. The Super Bowl pass rush has dwindled each season while the linebacking corps is among the worst in the NFL. Darius Slay is a stud, but he has his limits, and the rest of the secondary needs a significant amount of help. The front four provides something of a floor, but their domination in the trenches might not matter if the coverage unit continues to be in the bottom half of the league.
Overall, the Eagles have too many holes to win the Super Bowl. They have good units in the trenches on both sides of the ball, but they lack sufficient offensive and defensive weapons to compete with much of the NFL. Despite making the playoffs, the Eagles won just one game against a team that finished with a winning record in 2021. With the next two teams in the division creeping back toward average, 2022 could be a long season for the Eagles.
Much like the Eagles, the Commanders lack a quarterback that is strong enough to lead a team to a Super Bowl. Carson Wentz, even if he avoided his patented blowup start, is a middling quarterback. Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, and a potential first-round wide receiver offer something of a backup plan, but the offense hinges on Wentz returning to his 2017 MVP form. The Commanders will have a better offense than they did in 2021, but it will not be enough to lift the Lombardi.
Defensively, the unit lives and dies by Chase Young. The problem is that Young was not particularly dominant before getting injured halfway through 2021. Without an elite Young, the linebacking corps and the secondary are put in much worse situations. The on-field difference between a good pass rush and an elite pass rush is massive for each level of the defense. Even if the defense creeps back toward average, it is unlikely to be as elite as the 2020 unit.
New York Giants
The Giants have a major offensive problem. They do not have a strength. The other three teams in the division have at least one above-average aspect of the offense, and all three have good offensive lines. Instead, the Giants have a bottom-15 quarterback, an inconsistent running game (even with Saquon Barkley on the field), a hospital’s worth of receivers, and one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Having one or two weaknesses is understandable. The Giants have opted to be full of weaknesses.
The defense is moderately better. However, the Giants are rumored to be shopping James Bradberry, so the defense might not be better for much longer. The defensive line is just solid, and it is the best aspect of the team (other than Graham Gano). Xavier McKinney is a star in the making on the backend, but the rest of the secondary is nothing special. The linebacking corps is similarly questionable.
As a whole, the Giants project to have a bottom-10 offense with a middle-of-the-pack defense. Brian Daboll might help Daniel Jones, but it is unlikely that he suddenly becomes a superstar capable of carrying a team that lacks as much quality as the Giants do. However, the Giants do have significant draft capital, so they might not be in the cellar for much longer. The Super Bowl is a long way away, but at least they might finish third in the division in 2022.
Are you an optimist? All four of these teams have a chance to win the Lombardi.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
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