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With Tony Romo Out, NFC East is Giants’ Division to Lose

Photo credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Photo credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Year in and year out, the NFC East is routinely the most difficult division to predict. No team has won the division in back to back years since the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003 and 2004. That trend is going to continue. While the Washington Redskins won the division in 2015 with a 9-7 record, they will not repeat as division champs. The New York Giants are currently the team to beat in the NFC East.

The biggest thing opening the door for the Giants is the injury to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Romo was injured last season with a broken collarbone and the Cowboys were horrendous without him. Romo only started four games and the Cowboys went 3-1 in those four starts. Without him, they went 1-11. Romo now has a broken bone in his back and will likely miss eight to ten weeks. If the Cowboys play anything like how they played last year without him, they have very little chance at becoming division champs. Now, if Romo was healthy, the Cowboys would be entering the season as division favorites, but he is not, and that opens up an opportunity for the Giants.

The Giants don’t have the best roster, but they’ve got a pretty good one. Odell Beckham is an absolute stud, and the return of Victor Cruz and the addition of Sterling Shepard are only going to help him. Beckham is one of the best receivers in the game and as long as he is on the field, the Giants can score at any time. He’s that good. He and quarterback Eli Manning have shown a great connection and they make the Giants offense very explosive. The Giants also have a decent group of running backs. Rashad Jennings has been a consistent presence in the backfield in recent years and Shane Vereen is an excellent third down back. They also drafted Paul Perkins, who has the potential to become the Giants’ every down back either this season or in the near future. The offense has plenty of talent, but if there is an “X-factor”, it is their offensive line.

The Giants’ offensive line is a huge question mark for this team right now. If they play well as a group, the Giants’ offense could be very hard to stop, but if they falter, it could hurt the team immensely. Second year tackle Ereck Flowers has a sky high ceiling after being a first round pick last year, but he struggled as a rookie and is now taking over as the starting left tackle. He will now be responsible for protecting Eli Manning’s blind side and his play will have an enormous impact. Left guard Justin Pugh is very good and Weston Richburg was one of the NFL’s best centers last season, so if there were any lineman that the Giants felt they could rely on, it’s those two guys. The right side of the line is where things get rough. Veterans John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse will be responsible of the right side and it likely won’t be pretty. Every team has their weaknesses. This could be one for the G-Men. The Giants were very strong on the offensive side of the ball last year, despite bad line play. If it is a problem once again, they can overcome it.

What kept the Giants from winning the division last season was the play of the defense. The Giants finished just 6-10 last season and they had four games where the defense gave up the lead late in the fourth quarter. If they had held on to those leads and won all those games, they would’ve won the division at 10-6. Their defense was one of the worst in NFL history, but the Giants have done everything in their power to improve it.

Signing talented veterans such as cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, and defensive end Olivier Vernon has helped the Giants defense to appear much better on paper. Harrison is one of the best run stopping defensive linemen in the league and Vernon lead the NFL in quarterback pressures last season. Adding those two to Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins gives the Giants one of the most talented defensive lines in the NFL. Jenkins spent his first four years with the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams and they relied on him to play a lot of press-man coverage, which the Giants value heavily. While Jenkins is prone to giving up a few big plays, he’s a very good cover corner. He and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie form a great cornerback tandem. The signing of veteran Leon Hall and drafting Eli Apple in the first round only makes this unit deeper and more talented. The Giants also have Landon Collins and rookie Darian Thompson manning the safety positions. While they are very young and inexperienced, they have a ton of potential.

The Achilles heel on this defense for the G-Men is going to be the linebacker position. Not a single opposing offense is going to be afraid of Devon Kennard, Jasper Brinkley, and Jonathan Casillas. Just like the offense’s weakness being the offensive line, the defense’s weakness will be this group of linebackers. The rest of the defense is very talented though, and as long as they can mesh together, being such a new group, they should be the best defense in the division.

The Giants look like a team poised to finish the season with a 9-7 record, but just like last season, that should be good enough to win this division. The Eagles will likely struggle again, due to their lack of talent on offense and their weak cornerbacks getting burned routinely. The Cowboys will probably struggle without Romo, but could still finish second or third.

The Redskins are the Giants top competition this year, but only because they are the reigning division champs. On paper they’re not as talented. Kirk Cousins played better than anyone anticipated last year and it just doesn’t seem likely that he replicates those numbers. Their offensive line is average at best and their running back group could be one of the worst in the NFL. The signing of cornerback Josh Norman was big for their defense, but the talent around him is less than impressive, outside of Pro Bowl outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.

The fact is that the Giants have the most talented and proven roster in the division, with the Cowboys not having Romo, and they’re poised for a division crown. The additions the G-Men mad in the offseason have vaulted them to the head of the pack. They are the division favorites at this time and, barring any major injuries, should find themselves back in the playoffs this season.

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