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Each offseason, NFL Mock Draft wizard Xavier Cromartie and I each run a computer simulated NFL season based on the utopian world as of May-June. We show our full standings, playoffs, and ‘faux’ Super Bowl champion. We do it for fun, but more to analyze the best over-under Vegas win totals on NFL teams early in the process.
After we show our predictive seasons, as of the summer, we then go through and compare notes and debate our predictions division-by-division. We have more divergence than ever before in 2018. Here’s a transcript of our discussions a division at a time.
Today, we look at the NFC East
*Forgive any typos. We’re just chatting back and forth, typing furiously without any post-writing edits beyond what we catch ourselves. You’ll be able to figure it all out…
RC's NFC East
PHI … 10 - 6 = 0.625
DAL … 9 - 7 = 0.563
WAS … 8 - 8 = 0.500
NYG … 8 - 8 = 0.500
XC's NFC East:
y-PHI … 14 - 2 = 0.875
WAS … 7 - 9 = 0.438
DAL … 6 - 10 = 0.375
NYG … 5 - 11 = 0.313
RC: We both have Philadelphia winning the NFC East, but you have them much stronger. I was a total downer on Philly, one of my top bets for the 'under' win total last season when we looked at these things and it was the only one I got wrong, but I was sure it was money in the bank...and they only won the Super Bowl. You were much higher on Philly than I was if I recall last year.
14-2 is a strong projection for you with Philly. One of the reasons I stop short on the Eagles is that I believe this could be one of the toughest top-to-bottom divisions in the league, where as you see this as more Philly and everyone else is way back.
I think Dallas is the best team in the NFC East when healthy, but they are never fully healthy and Jason Garrett is no help in a crisis. I would also not be surprised if the Redskins made a run at this division -- they were an emerging group last year after the first few games and then they took on more critical injuries than any team in the league. They were jinxed last season. Fully healthy, they have a solid enough defense with a nice O-Line and a proven 'winner' (not going to hurt them) at QB. Philly and Dallas would have to take on injuries to let Washington in the door, but I think the Redskins are a 'tough out', when healthy, in 2018. Do you see any hope with Dallas or Washington or NYG to make a run, if you had to guess one did which would it be?
XC: I underrated the Eagles last season, but I thought that it was a bad idea to bet against them. They have a strong roster all-around. They could do better at LB and CB. They are rock solid on offense though. Wentz had a statistically aberrant season, and so I adjusted him down a bit, but he still rates highly. They were basically 16-2 last season if you don't count week 17. I see 11-14 wins for them and easily winning the division.
They can get to 14 wins because I don't see the rest of the division as a threat. I don't respect the defenses of the other three teams. They are all pretty similar. They are just filler teams. I'd expect the Redskins to win 7-8 games, the Cowboys to win 6-8 games, and the Giants to win 5-6 games. The Cowboys likely have the highest upside. Leighton Vander Esch could make a real impact for their defense. I'm a bit lower on them than anyone expects, but that's how my numbers ended up. The Redskins were already mediocre, and I think they've downgraded a bit. However, I'm a bit surprised that Vegas puts the Redskins last out of the four.
RC: I'm tentatively on the bandwagon of Philly...part of my hesitation is the natural bounce back from winning the Super Bowl. Besides the Patriots, the other 31 teams, it's so hard to even repeat as a division title winner much less a Super Bowl team. It just feels like Philly will be held back from a return trip by the football gods. I am trying to embrace Wentz, but the more I watch him the more I still has reservations. He's Houdini for sure, but not a great passer naturally and what if his injury takes away some Houdini skills? Jeffrey and Graham may not be ready for Week 1/right this season. I just 'feel' (dangerous) like the Eagles fall to 'good'.
I am perplexed by the Redskins. I thought at full strength they were one of the 10 best teams in the league, one of the best O-Lines in the league and an emerging defense and then they were ravaged with injury around Week 4-5 and it never let up all season. By late in the season, their entire starting O-Line was ruled out or 'game time decision' to play for a few weeks. The Redskins are a 'tough out', 8-8 type team that could catch a break to 9-7...or not and down to 7-9.
Dallas with Dak + Sean Lee has arguably been the best team in the NFL for two years. When Lee is out, this team dies. Much less when Tyron Smith went down with Lee last year. If I had to take a roster one or the other, and I was assured all starters would go 16-games healthy...I take Dallas. Doug Pederson over Jason Garrett shuffles the deck and puts Philly as my choice, because of the leadership (and willingness to go for it on 4th downs). I'd like to love Dallas, but I know Lee is going to get hurt again and Garrett has no answer and they fall to their infamous 8-8.
Which would you pick: Dallas with Doug Pederson and his staff as their coach in a switcheroo or Philly with Jason Garrett and staff?
XC: Wentz had a season similar to Cam Newton in 2015 or Andrew Luck in 2014. I don't think he'll be that good again, but he'll still be one of the top QBs. They have probably the top o-line, so that helps him. The defense may drop off slightly, but it should still be top 10. The shaky LBs are looking more concerning though.
The Redskins are a boring team to me. They'll always have the Joe Gibbs Golden Age to remember, but since then they've been nothing more than a team that maybe sneaks into the playoffs, at best. The roster looks completely average, as it always does. The only interesting thing to say is that I think they're one of the few teams that doesn't use analytics very much. And that explains why they never seem to get an edge and usually finish 3rd/4th in the division.
The Cowboys have a few high-quality individuals, but they also have a lot more below average starters than the Eagles. If you switched coaching staffs, that might change though. There's such a difference in quality between the two coaching staffs that the Cowboys probably would move ahead and be fairly Eagles-like, and the Eagles defense wouldn't deserve nearly as much respect if the Cowboys coaches were in charge.
RC: We seem to be ignoring the Giants in all this. Saquon good enough to change their fortunes? A team that was recently a playoff team under a disaster head coach just two seasons ago!! With OBJ back, Engram developing. A weapon at RB. A new head coach. Do they have some magic still left or is Eli out of tricks? Your projection seems to say mediocre, as do I...but I could see where Philly tails off some with a Super Bowl hangover, Dallas and Washington never step up and this is a 9-7 wins the division cluster and the Giants kinda hang in and make it interesting. You see any potential there or are they the one team who really has the worst NFC East chance to upside surprise?
XC: I don't take the Giants seriously because I have a pretty low opinion of Eli Manning. He has always been a bit of a fraud. I don't know how they did as well as they did during the Coughlin era. Their 2016 defense looks like a total fluke; I'd expect it to be ranked in the 20s, like it usually is. But I have a very high opinion of Saquon Barkley. I would have taken him with the #2 pick like the Giants did. They should run everything through him. When you're a bad team, your best chance is to go extremely run heavy. But if that fails and you fall behind, you don't have much hope. They were the 2nd-worst team last season, and they still look like a bottom-5 team. I give them a small chance though, because they've made some changes.
RC: Last NFC East question... If the prize was to win one million dollars with the right pick -- if you knew Philly wasn't going to win the NFC East but one of the other three would...what NFC East team would you place your million dollar dream with? Perplexing Dallas hanging by a string hoping no key player gets hurt. The Redskins playing 'dull' and outlasting the pack. Or the Giants with a new life/coach bump sneaks past them all?
XC: I'd bet on the Cowboys. They have a defined philosophy and can win if they can execute it. They are one of the more successful teams historically. They have more elite talents. They just have a few holes that are concerning. The other two teams don't have the juice to ignite anything special.
*The 2018 Draft Guide package of reports and ever-updating projections/rankings are now available from the FFM home page. Fantasy Football Metrics