By Steve Tomasin
Last Season (10-6)
“America’s team” (does anyone actually still call them that?) narrowly won the division last year with balanced play on both sides of the ball. A blockbuster mid-season trade brought former Oakland Raiders WR Amari Cooper to town, which proved to be a major upgrade for QB Dak Prescott.
With the offensive line expected to be healthy this year, RB Ezekiel Elliot may be in line for a historic season. The offense should continue to improve with an incredibly young core (Cooper is still only 24 and WR Michael Gallup is entering just his 2nd year) who should grow together for years to come. Poor Jason Witten couldn’t hack it in the MNF football booth and is making a triumphant return out of retirement. Despite his age, Witten’s return should only benefit the offense as Dak’s favorite safety-blanket target had a very productive year during Dak’s rookie season.
Final Thoughts: This offense should continue to improve upon last year’s success.
This unit was quietly one of the best in the league in 2018. The following rankings of the major defensive categories were quite impressive: total yards allowed (7th), passing yards allowed (13th), rushing yards allowed (5th). They were also the 2nd fewest penalized team. Rookie LB Leighton Vander Esch kicked in the door and dominated when he was given the chance. With no major losses and resigning key defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys defense should continue to put their offense in favorable positions, especially against run heavy teams.
Final Thoughts: Despite a weaker secondary, the Cowboys’ pass rush is one of the best.
Betting Outlook (Preseason)
Unfortunately, because of the “Americas Team” moniker and national popularity, you’re never going to get great odds betting the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl. Still, the Boys’ should be better than last year and are a good choice to bet win totals.
Last Season (9-7)
After the injury bug bit the Eagles hard last season, the defense is healthy, and it is all systems go for franchise QB Carson Wentz based on OTA reports. Playing with essentially a broken back most of the year, Wentz is expected to return to his MVP-like caliber of play from 2017.
Adding to Wentz’s arsenal, the Eagles brought back “fan favorite” WR Desean Jackson which could prove to be a match made in heaven. Jackson can still burn and should see lots of single coverage due to the other pass catching threats (TE Zach Ertz, WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Dallas Goedert, WR Nelson Agholor). A pair of exciting rookies join the offense in WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside (3rd round - Stanford) & RB Miles Sanders (2nd round - Penn State) could be important contributors by year’s end. RB Jordan Howard was acquired via trade from the Bears for a bag of peanuts and is a perfect fit as lead back.
Final Thoughts: Doug Pederson is hoping his franchise QB stays healthy to unleash one of the scariest, most talented offenses in the league hoping to win a 2nd Super Bowl in 3 years.
Injuries decimated Jim Schwartz’s unit last year, especially the secondary. S Rodney Mcleod is back and even took a pay cut to bet on himself. Lost to free agency was starting LB Jordan Hicks who will be missed as a very reliable young tackler. His replacement, LB Zach Brown signed from Washington, is an older veteran but that has worked out well for the Birds in the past (S Malcom Jenkins). There are lofty expectations for LBs Nigel Bradham and even Kamu Grugier-Hill who shined on specials teams. The defensive line is incredibly deep and incredibly talented. Led in the middle by QB destroyer DT Fletcher Cox, the Eagles line will return DT Timmy Jernigan and DE Derek Barnett. DT Malik Jackson was signed away from the Jaguars and DE Brandon Graham remains a steady pass rusher.
Final Thoughts: The sweet spot of this defense is the pass rushers and run stoppers on the line who will be relied upon to make up for an unproven LB core and injury prone, often ineffective secondary.
Betting Outlook (Preseason)
Vegas seems to think that the Eagles will stay healthy this year, and if they do I like throwing down a night of drinks on Douggie P and the Birds to win the Super Bowl.
Last Season (7-9)
The Redskins experienced a roller coaster season and now have a lot of new faces. Losing their star rookie RB Derrius Guice in preseason, and veteran QB Alex Smith mid-season, the Redskins defense outperformed expectations and won or kept the team competitive in many games.
QB Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury and the Redskins are turning to journeyman QB Case Keenum and 1st round draft pick Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) as their answer at QB. Haskins should be starting even before the week 10 bye. Phenom running back Derrius Guice will get his shot and even if he does not live up to the hype, there is backup RB Adrian Peterson, ever heard of him? Former 2,000-yard Stanford rusher Bryce Love was also added in the 4th round of the draft. TE Jordan Reed is the best of the receiving group as the WR room consists of unproven younger players. WR Jamison Crowder is gone to the Jets, which opens the slot role for 2nd year WR Trey Quinn. Josh Doctson is still around but continues to underperform.
Final Thoughts: Aside from the running game, I’d expect this Washington offense to struggle even more than last year to put points on the board.
Although they finished in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories, it seemed like the defense carried the Redskins inept offense. They just lost troubled star LB Reuben Foster for the year, but also snatched away superstar S Landon Collins from the Giants. Collins is a stud who can be a gamechanger. The rest of the Redskins LBs are serviceable including Mason Foster who led the team in tackles. On the defensive line, the Redskins sneakily have a very good pass rush. DEs Matt Ioannidis, Jonathan Allen, and Ryan Kerrigan can all get to the QB and combined for 28.5 sacks.
Final Thoughts: Forcing turnovers is something this D needs to focus on to pick up the slack of their offense, who will likely be giving the ball away often.
Betting Outlook (Preseason)
I would be heavily betting against the Redskins this year on pretty much every category. The QB situation is too weak to overlook and be confident in them winning many games.
New York Giants
Last Season (5-11)
Outside of Saquon Barkley’s impressive rookie season, there weren’t many bright spots for the Giants. Odell Beckham Jr. was again lost to injury and was traded this offseason to the Cleveland Browns. Eli Manning will continue to lead the G MEN into battle, for better or worse.
During this year’s draft, the Giants left their fans and many around the league scratching their heads after selecting Duke QB Daniel Jones 6th overall. Many think he was not worth that draft capital. Eli Manning remains at the helm but has shown a sharp decline over the past few years. With OBJ gone, WR Sterling Shepard is expected to step up. His game works best out of the slot, and the Giants signed an aging, but still very good slot receiver in Golden Tate from Detroit. Another head scratcher. TE Evan Engram is young and an incredible pass catcher who should also benefit from OBJ’s vacated targets. The savior on offense is stud RB Saquon Barkley who does everything a running back is asked to do. He looks like the 2nd coming of Le’Veon Bell.
Final Thoughts: It does not look pretty in New York and the QB and offensive line situations make it so. The Giants have some very talented skill position players and it feels like their best years are going to waste.
Between last year and this offseason, the Giants have lost 2 of their better players. Sack specialist LB/DE Olivier Vernon joins OBJ in Cleveland and arguably the best run stopping DT in the league Damon “Snacks” Harrison was shipped to Detroit last year for not much more than a bag of snacks. S Jabrill Peppers joins the team from the Cleveland trade with hopes he can live up to Landon Collins’ past production. LB Alec Ogletree takes over as the de facto tackle leader in his 2nd year with the team and also led the Giants in interceptions with 5 last year.
Final Thoughts: Hopefully the Giants unit is well conditioned this year, as they’ll be on the field quite a bit.
Betting Outlook (Preseason)
Like Washington, I won’t be risking much on the Giants this year in almost any capacity except for wagering on the teams playing against them.