NFC East 2019 Preview: Best- and worst-case scenarios for each team

Ezekiel-Elliott

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs against the Seattle Seahawks. (Michael Ainsworth/AP)

The NFL is back, and Sportsnet is breaking down everything you need to know about each of the 32 teams in the lead-up to kickoff on Thursday, Sept. 5.

Today, we look at best- and worst-case scenarios for the NFC East. (Teams are listed in the order in which we believe they’ll finish in the 2019 standings.)

Dallas Cowboys

2018 finish: 10-6

Major additions: WR Randall Cobb, TE Jason Witten, DE Robert Quinn, DE Kerry Hyder, DE Christian Covington, S George Iloka, RB Alfred Morris

Major subtractions: WR Cole Beasley, WR Allen Hurns, WR Terrance Williams, LB Damien Wilson, RB Rod Smith, TE Geoff Swaim

Best-case scenario: The Cowboys get immediate extensions for Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, who take Dak Prescott from an average quarterback to an elite one. If the offensive line stays healthy, the front seven doesn’t regress after a strong 2018 and the young secondary continues to mature, it isn’t out of the question the Cowboys could compete for the division title and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. But to do it they need to have their best offensive triplets since the Hall of Fame trio that won three Super Bowls in the 1990s on the field.

Worst-case scenario: Ezekiel Elliott sits out the entire season and the offence fails without him. Or he comes back from his extended personal training camp in Cabo and suffers a soft-tissue injury because he isn’t in game shape. Unlike the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers, these Cowboys aren’t equipped to absorb the loss of their lead running back. With Elliott, they are 28-12 averaging 23.9 points per game and 4.7 yards per rush. Without him, they are 0-4 averaging 19.9 points per game and 3.9 yards per rush.

The biggest question surrounding the Cowboys is how they are going to pay all of their young offensive stars — and if they can afford to not make them happy. If they don’t, this team will struggle to win games and could find themselves picking in the top five in the draft.

2019 prediction: 10-6

Philadelphia Eagles

2018 finish: 9-7

Major additions: OT Andre Dillard, RB Miles Sanders, WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, DT Malik Jackson, WR Desean Jackson, S Andrew Sendejo

Major subtractions: QB Nick Foles, WR Golden Tate, LB Jordan Hicks, RB Jay Ajayi

Best-case scenario: Now that Wentz is healthy, he and the Eagles get back to their championship-level form from 2017. That year, he was 11-2, with 9.8 air yards per attempt and a 79 total QBR, which was the best in the NFL. In an injury-riddled 2018, though, he was 5-6, with 7.8 air yards per attempt and just a 64 total QBR.

Even if Wentz fails to recapture his 2017 form but just ascends back to the mean over his career, the Eagles will be a safe bet to make the playoffs as they are one of a handful of teams that can lift the Lombardi Trophy.

Worst-case scenario: Wentz gets hurt again. The QB has had two straight seasons ending in December due to injury, but it would be a much bigger deal this season as Nick Foles is no longer around to provide insurance and Wentz’s 2019 backups have been marred by injury in pre-season. Wentz recently signed a four-year contract extension and is healthy. The Eagles need him to stay that way.

2019 prediction: 10-6

New York Giants

2018 finish: 5-11

Major additions: QB Daniel Jones, S Jabrill Peppers, OG Kevin Zeitler, WR Golden Tate, LB Markus Golden, S Antoine Bethea

Major subtractions: WR Odell Beckham Jr., S Landon Collins, DE Olivier Vernon

Best-case scenario: Now that the Giants have improved what was a porous offensive line, Saquon Barkley becomes the most outstanding offensive player in the league and even sets the single-season record for TDs or yards from scrimmage. Barkley, who is a mixture of Adrian Peterson and Marshall Faulk in their primes, gives Giants fans a season to remember now that he is the clear No. 1 option on offence.

Worst-case scenario: While others in their division invest in young QBs, Eli Manning starts all 16 games. Either way, they are going to lose their fair share of games, so they might as well do it while learning who is going to share the backfield with Saquon Barkley.

2019 prediction: 4-12

Washington

2018 finish: 7-9

Major additions: QB Dwayne Haskins, RB Derrius Guice, WR Cam Sims, S Troy Apke, LB Reuben Foster, S Landon Collins, OT Ereck Flowers, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Major subtractions: WR Jamison Crowder, LB Preston Smith, OT Ty Nsekhe, LB Zach Brown, DT Stacy McGee, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Best-case scenario: Derrius Guice and Dwayne Haskins team up to become Washington’s young, exciting backfield of the future. That and/or their owner Dan Snyder finally decides it is time to change the team name.

Worst-case scenario: The three-way QB competition between Case Keenum, Colt McCoy and Dwayne Haskins doesn’t yield enough sufficient QB play to challenge for a wild-card spot while also hindering the development of the team’s first-round rookie QB. Haskins hasn’t looked impressive in training camp, but Washington’s other QBs are stop-gaps at best.

To make matters worse, Trent Williams, the man tasked with protecting the blind side of the Washington QBs, is holding out because of a dispute with the team’s medical staff. Navigating who to play when will be tricky for Jay Gruden, who is the betting favourite to be the first head coach fired in 2019.

2019 prediction: 3-13, first pick in the draft

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