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2012 NFC East Preview

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

2011 Common Opponents: NFC West, AFC East
2012 Common Opponents: NFC South, AFC North
The NFC East will face a bit tougher common opponents in 2012 than they saw in 2011, meaning as a whole we can expect slightly less wins than were deserved in 2011. Combined with the already difficult division opponents, this will mean that yet again even reaching double-digit wins in 2012 would be an impressive feat. The division has recently been a 3-team race with Washington lagging behind, and that trend is likely to continue in 2012. However, with the addition of rookie QB Robert Griffin, the Redskins could soon if not immediately make the NFC East the only division in the league where every team has a reasonable chance of finishing anywhere from first to last in the division.

Dallas Cowboys
2011 Record: 8-8
2011 Rating: 2.1 (11th of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 9.1
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 8.7
The 2011 season was another disappointment for the Cowboys. And every year the Cowboys don't live up to the lofty expectations the media places on them as "America's Team", QB Tony Romo and the rest of the team come under more scrutiny. But the truth is that Romo is a quality quarterback, and the Cowboys as a whole are just fine. Their main problem is simply the division that they play in. The NFC East has been the only division in the league recently to consistantly sport three good teams. Since the Giants and Eagles should be dangerous again in 2012, one or two of the teams are likely to be casualties. The first step to avoiding that fate for Dallas will be improving upon their 0-4 record in games against those teams.

New York Giants
2011 Record: 9-7
2011 Rating: 2.7 (8th of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 8.8
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 8.6
Some persistant "analysts" still cling to the idea that last season's Super Bowl winner should always be considered #1 in power rankings and be the favorite to win the following year's Super Bowl. If this method was reasonable, we'd have no need for analysts in the first place. The truth is that wins in the playoffs are no more indicative of future success than wins in the regular season after accounting for the different quality of opponents. The playoffs also offer a smaller, less reliable, sample size. Our ratings use both regular season and playoff results equally while accounting for the strength of all opponents. What they tell us is that in 2011 the best team didn't win the Super Bowl. But this is nothing new, because in the NFL even the best team usually has much less than a 50% chance of winning the Super Bowl at the start of the season. The 2011 Giants were a good team, but were relatively poor for a Super Bowl champion. As a result, the Giants are anything but a lock even to repeat as division winners. They are unlikely to have nearly as much success in 2012, but should finish with a similar record.

Philadelphia Eagles
2011 Record: 8-8
2011 Rating: 2.9 (7th of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 9.5
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 9.2
Coming off a promising year and 2010 division title, the Eagles were a disappointment in 2011. But our ratings indicate they were only marginally worse, meaning the difference in results was due more to random chance. This bodes well for Philadelphia in 2012. The Eagles were just as good as the Giants last season. In fact, based on those ratings and the 2012 schedule, Philadelphia can be considered our very slight favorites in the NFC East. However, the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles are all almost equal candidates to either win the division or miss the playoffs all together. One notable change in the Eagles offensive stats in 2011 was a shift from taking too many sacks to throwing too many interceptions. This was perhaps a sign of QB Michael Vick's changing midset to emphasize getting rid of the ball quicker. Interestingly though, the positive impact of taking less sacks was just about equally offset by the negative impact of throwing more interceptions, and as a whole the Eagles were still about equally efficient on pass plays.

Washington Redskins
2011 Record: 5-11
2011 Rating: -1.9 (23rd of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 6.5
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 6.5
The Redskins have been unimpressive in a difficult division for a number of years now. This year they finally decided that the most important position on the field must be addressed to turn around their fortunes. Their approach was a rather risky trade up to the #2 overall spot to draft QB Robert Griffin. As a result, their success in the coming seasons will be closely tied to the development of Griffin. The unpredictability of top quarterback draft picks means the 2012 Redskins could range anywhere from terrible to competitive. Most likely though, Griffin won't be able to bring Washington near the level of their division opponents just yet. If he is successful, what was already perhaps the toughest division in the league will get even tougher.

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

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