The NFL season is right around the corner, which means we are here to bring you our analysis and predictions, with our division-by-division breakdowns. We started with the AFC West, home of the defending Super Bowl champion and favorites to repeat, Kansas City Chiefs. This preview heads to the home of the Super Bowl runner-up Philadelphia Eagles, the NFC East.
Expected to be one of the NFL’s most competitive divisions once again, the NFC East is home to the Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Washington Commanders. At points last year, it was conceivable the division could send all four teams to the postseason. In the end, they sent three, but all four finished with a .500 record or better.
No other division in football offered that same kind of parity. In all, the East’s four teams were truly fantastic, with their losses largely coming against each other. Playoffs excluded, the East lost a total of 23 games, 11 of which came when they played each other. That means the four teams only recorded 12 losses among them, to other divisions. If that’s not dominance, I don’t know what is.
Now, the NFC East isn’t expected to be such a juggernaut this year as every team, barring perhaps the Eagles, has some legitimate question marks. Unlike in the AFC West where the Chiefs feel like a clear winner, there are arguments to be made for each of the four teams as to why they might be able to win the division. Of course, some teams have stronger arguments than others, but this year could be another example of just how important winning division games is going to be in the East.
As always, we start with the favorites as the Philadelphia Eagles look for their second straight NFC East title. Though as you’ll see, winning back-to-back crowns in this division is no easy task. Odds quoted are all from Bovada Sportsbook.
Philadelphia Eagles (-125 to Win NFC East; +285 NFC; +885 Super Bowl)
The year was 2004 and the Philadelphia Eagles had just wrapped up their fourth consecutive NFC East title en route to a Super Bowl appearance. The Birds lost the Super Bowl that year, and the following, lost their hold over the NFC East. That year was 2005, and in the ensuing 18 seasons since, the East has not seen a single team go back-to-back as divisional winners.
This marks the longest active streak of any division without seeing a repeat champion, and the longest such streak among any division past or present in league history. So, how hard is it to win two NFC East titles in a row? Apparently, really difficult. Now, that’s not to say the Eagles can’t do it. In fact, if ever there was a team poised to repeat their success it would be Philadelphia.
The Eagles have won more NFC East crowns than any other team since the millennium, picking up 10 titles in 23 seasons. That is a winning percentage just under half with the other 12 titles being dispersed among Washington (3), Dallas (6) and New York (4). It is also worth noting that the winner of the NFC East over those 23 seasons has gone on to appear in five Super Bowls. That doesn’t sound like a lot per se, but it is roughly 22 percent. That means nearly a quarter of the time, the NFC East winner goes to the Super Bowl, such was the case last year with the Eagles.
Back to this year’s squad: Last year’s Eagles team was not the one many expected. Originally expected to finish somewhere toward the middle of the pack, the team caught fire and suddenly looked every bit the part of a Super Bowl contender. This was largely due to Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni, who quickly turned doubters into believers.
Hurts’ breakout season in 2022 had him receiving MVP consideration, something he should get again this year. The scary part for the rest of the league is, with another year under his belt, Hurts is likely to get even better as a passer. As a whole, the Eagles are putting a better team out on the field in 2023. They have returned much of the offensive core that got them to the championship and finished the season second best in total yards, third best in yards per game, and second in total points.
On the defensive side of the ball in particularly, the team executed a draft masterclass, and now have four players who occupied the Georgia Bulldogs defensive line of the team that had the best defensive metrics in college football history. These guys are being added to a defense that already ranked second in the NFL last season in yards allowed per game, third in total yards allowed, and first in both passing yards and passing yards per game allowed.
Barring injuries to Hurts, the team has depth just about everywhere else, especially at the receiver position where both AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith finished in the top 10 last year. All roads seem to be heading toward a Super Bowl rematch with Kansas City, but first, the Eagles have to break the repeat winner NFC East curse. They look very prepared to do so.
Dallas Cowboys (+185 NFC East; +550 NFC; +1600 Super Bowl)
How ’bout them Cowboys? Well, last year, those Cowboys won 12 games and yet still finished in second place in the NFC East. There is no denying this could be the toughest division to win in football this year and for that reason, the Cowboys have to like where they stand entering the 2023 season.
Sure, their much-maligned head coach Mike McCarthy is back much to fans’ chagrin. Sure, Dak Prescott enters this season following his worst as a pro where he threw a career-high 15 interceptions (plus two more in the playoffs) and just 23 touchdowns in 12 games. For context, in 21 games across the 2021 and 2022 seasons, Prescott only threw a total of 14 interceptions and 48 touchdowns. While Prescott faltered, perhaps as a result of coming back from injury, it is worth noting the Cowboys still won 12 games and are overall, 61-36 in games where Prescott has started in his career. That is a good record for a team and quarterback, not to mention McCarthy has a .614 winning percentage in his coaching career. Only 10 coaches that qualify (at least 150 wins) boast a better percentage all-time.
Prescott and McCarthy’s wins in Dallas largely account for regular season games. Make no mistake, Dallas is one of the better regular season teams of the last decade or so. Problem is, they have not made it out of the divisional round of the playoffs since winning Super Bowl XXX over 20 years ago.
So maybe the Cowboys will do what they have done and take the Eagles or maybe New York Giants or Washington Commanders (it will probably be the Eagles) down to the wire for the NFC East crown. They will likely at least make the playoffs as a wildcard team if that doesn’t happen. They have explosive playmakers on both sides of the ball – real difference makers who can change a game with one catch, one interception, one defense-breaking rush. Beyond the star-studded household names, Dallas had a strong offseason bringing in depth at both the cornerback and wide receiver positions.
The Cowboys will be good. It is hard to imagine they won’t be after losing just 10 games combined over the last two seasons. Will it be good enough however against an Eagles team that has firmly embraced their championship window? It is possible, but maybe not probable to back the Cowboys to win the East. That said, they would be a better bet than each of the next two teams.
New York Giants (+800 NFC East; +2500 NFC; +6000 Super Bowl)
Last year, the Giants surprised a lot of people. With a first-year head coach and a quarterback who had previously seemed to be on the chopping block, New York finished with a respectable 9-7-1 record and playoff victory. It was a vast improvement on their four-win season a year prior, and as such won Brian Daboll the NFL’s Coach of the Year Award and earned Daniel Jones another chance to show he is developing as an NFL starting quarterback.
There were very little expectations for the Giants last season, but they surpassed them all. Which means 2023 will be an interesting year. People will expect the Giants to build from last year’s success in Daboll’s second year and there is every reason to believe the team will do that. Building off a nine-win season and winning the toughest division in football are two entirely different things. That said, the Giants made some smart offseason moves in picking up Darren Waller and improving their offensive line through the draft. With the decision having been made to give Jones a new contract, New York is definitely doing their best to build around and protect their newest investment.
For all the improvements expected and otherwise, there are still a lot of questions in New York and a lot of obstacles to overcome. A nine-win season in football’s toughest division is nice on paper and it actually would have won the Giants both the NFC and AFC South last year, but the reality is, they don’t play in those divisions. Right now, the Giants just aren’t quite there to compete with the Eagles and Cowboys.
Washington Commanders (+1200 NFC East; +3500 NFC; +12500 Super Bowl)
While its impact won’t be felt this season or likely even the next, the Commanders made one of the biggest offseason moves when they parted ways with troubled owner Dan Snyder. Now, the task of digging out from Snyder’s mess begins. That almost feels like a weird thing to say about a team that still managed to win eight games and finish with a .500 record, but here we are. The foundation the new owners lay in Washington DC is sure to have a positive impact for the Commanders in the future. There is some young talent there to build around in a rebuild, that much is true.
Washington has a long way to go before eight wins can feel relevant in a division like the NFC East. They will need a quarterback for starters and will likely need a new head coach. There is a reason the Commanders have the NFL’s longest drought of winning less than 10 games (they have not done so since 1991). Rebuilds take time so the best the Commanders should expect to do in 2023 is play spoiler. The Commanders won a game each against Philadelphia and Dallas last year and tied the Giants. Don’t sleep on Washington to put forth another few performances like that this year en route to what fans can only hope is another average season.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.