Article

2017 NFL season preview: NFC East could have new winner

September 6 2017 5:35 PM

The Dallas Cowboys were the surprise winner of the NFC East last season, going 13-3 with rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott leading the way.

Prescott, who was the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Elliott, who led the NFL in rushing, helped Dallas go from 4-12 to claiming the top seed in the NFC playoffs.

But with a defense that still has holes and a six-game suspension for Elliott, it will be tough for the Cowboys to repeat as division champions — especially with the improvements the Philadelphia Eagles have made in the offseason.

The New York Giants were a playoff team last season, going 11-5, but still had problems running the ball. Washington's porous offensive line will likely make it difficult for the Redskins to improve on last year's 8-7-1 mark.

THE BREAKDOWN

Player to watch: Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles — If the Eagles are going to win the division, Wentz has to play like the quarterback who began his NFL career without any turnovers through his first four games.  

Impact rookie: Wayne Gallman, RB, Giants — Paul Perkins, a fifth-round draft pick from UCLA a year ago, is listed as the Giants' starting running back. That job could be Gallman's before too long. The former Clemson back was a fourth-round pick but has flashed the most potential during the preseason. If the Giants are going to ignite what has been a non-existent ground game, Gallman may be the key.  

Coach on the hot seat: Jay Gruden, Redskins — Gruden is just 21-26-1 with one playoff appearance in three seasons. Another disappointing campaign could find him out of job come January.  

Falling: Redskins — How will quarterback Kirk Cousins play this season? Will he be committed to winning for the Redskins or does he already have his eyes set on joining former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan with the San Francisco 49ers? The Redskins appear to set to take a step back in a competitive division.  

Rising: Eagles — Philadelphia have added extensively to their roster. Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith should make life easier for Wentz. Chris Long, Ronald Darby and draft picks Derek Barnett and Rasul Douglas bolster a defense that has the potential to be one of the best in the league and the additions may be enough to dethrone the Cowboys.

Circle this game on the schedule: Eagles at Cowboys, Week 11, Nov. 19 — The Eagles will be coming off a bye before their first game against the Cowboys. The two teams will also play in the regular-season finale on Dec. 31, but the first matchup could be a litmus test for Philadelphia's playoff hopes.

Predicted order of finish:

Philadelphia     11-5 (No. 3 seed, NFC wild-card round)
Dallas              10-6 (No. 6 seed, NFC divisional round)
New York         8-8
Washington     7-9

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