Philadelphia’s path to a Super Bowl appearance was jump-started by an eight-game winning streak to start last season. The Eagles needed every single victory to survive a ferocious NFC East Division battle last year. Philadelphia, Dallas, and the New York Giants all made the playoffs. Even the last-place Washington Commanders finished with an 8-8-1 record.
What that sets up for 2023 is another year where all four teams have postseason aspirations. Philadelphia will once again be the favorites, but the Cowboys will be motivated to seize the crown back. There will be a lot of people’s jobs on the line as a result of what happens this season. Much like the AFC East, this figures to be one of the NFL’s more competitive divisions.
Hurts Aims for More Progress for Philadelphia
The jump from Year 2 to Year 3 for Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was what the entire fanbase dreamed of. Hurts had a better completion percentage, passed for more yards, and threw more touchdown passes than the previous season. Hurts’ only area of concern comes with his durability.
Hurts, who is a willing and able runner, did miss several starts due to injury in the regular season. He was able to recover for the playoffs and help guide the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Philadelphia will see some changes in the backfield. The Eagles saw running back Miles Sanders head to Carolina in free agency.
To help balance out the offense, Philadelphia signed veteran running back Rashaad Penny. The Eagles, like any successful team, saw their roster, especially on defense, picked apart by other teams. Philadelphia signed veteran free agent safety Terrell Edmunds. The Eagles took defensive tackle Jalen Carter and outside linebacker Nolan Smith from Georgia in the draft.
Making back-to-back runs at an NFC East Championship is a difficult task. The Eagles will need Hurts to stay healthy in order to make a real run at the crown.
Cowboys Seem to be Stuck in Perpetual Cycle
Dallas, one of the NFL’s premiere franchises, has been without a championship since winning Super Bowl XXX in January 1996. The current Dallas team doesn’t lack star power. Linebacker Micah Parsons has turned into one of the NFL’s most-feared pass rushers and leads a strong defense.
The issue for the Cowboys has been the consistency of quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has a 61-36 record as a starter but has struggled with turnovers. Last season, Prescott tossed 15 interceptions but also missed five games due to injury. Dallas traded with San Francisco to acquire Trey Lance as an insurance policy for Prescott.
Despite taking the Cowboys to the playoffs in two of his first three seasons as coach, Dallas’ Mike McCarthy will be under pressure to get to the Super Bowl this season. His job may depend on it. Following last season, McCarthy decided to let Kellen Moore go as offensive coordinator and take over play calling duties. Dan Quinn decided to stay on board as defensive coordinator.
Does New York Have a Giant Problem?
Brian Daboll made a big splash during his first season as New York’s coach last season. Daboll found a way to get the most out of former first-round pick and quarterback Daniel Jones. During the offseason, Jones was rewarded with a four-year, $160 million contract extension.
That contract may be part of what makes it hard for Daboll to hold things together. Giants Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley was unhappy with how his contract negotiations went. Barkley agreed to the franchise tag but felt disrespected by the team. New York also saw wide receiver Kenny Golladay depart in free agency.
To help bolster the offseason, New York added former Raiders tight end Darren Waller. The Giants also brought in veteran wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Parris Campbell. New York continued to try and build up the right offensive line by drafting center John Michael Schmitz in the second round.
If New York is going to take another step forward in their pursuit of an illusive NFC East title, it will have to be because of improvement in defense. The Giants had the third-worst run defense last season and struggled to stop opponents from scoring. New York brought in linebacker Bobby Okereke and defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches to help mend fences.
Riverboat Ron Ready to Roll with Howell
Sam Howell made his debut last season as the Commanders’ quarterback by leading Washington to a victory over Dallas in the season finale. Howell wasn’t spectacular by any means. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Washington coach Ron Rivera said he was so impressed by Howell’s performance that he wished he had given him an opportunity earlier in the season.
Despite Rivera’s belief that Howell could be a regular starting quarterback in the NFL, the team also signed veteran Jacoby Brissett. The Commanders were also able to bring in offensive lineman Andrew Wylie to help shore things up in the trenches.
Washington is in the midst of a major change as a new ownership group has come to take over from the controversial tenure of Daniel Snyder. The Commanders hope that having different vibes around the organization will lead to more success for the organization. Washington used the draft to try and shore up its secondary.
The Commanders made defensive picks in the first two rounds. Washington brought in two cornerbacks: Mississippi State product Emmanuel Forbes and Jartavius Martin from Illinois. Washington is also in another situation where the coach is trying to salvage his job.
Rivera, while well-liked by players, hasn’t produced a winning season during his first three years in Washington. While the Commanders did win a division crown during his first year, that was during a fluke season where the entire NFC East division cratered. The Commanders will need to recapture that magic to save their coach.