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After a five month hibernation, the NFL is about to poke its head out of the cave. Training camps around the country break out in a couple weeks. We are less than a month from the Bengals versus Cowboys and the first pre-season game in Canton. The September 9th regular season kicks off down in the bayou and sends the defending champs out on to the field against the same NFC team they beat to reach the Super Bowl.
A sober Sean Payton (read his book) on the sidelines toting Lombardi's Trophy versus a hungry, white stubble faced, Wrangler wearing quarterback with a surgically repaired ankle (we think) and a talented cast around him.
The National Football League knows how to make an entrance.
We know your Whatifsports.com football diet has been craving nourishment. Well, we are about to provide you a pre-season appetizer before training camps start. Beginning Monday July 12th, Whatifsports.com will preview a NFL Division-a-Day.
Throughout the 2010 NFL season, Whatifsports.com will provide Foxsports.com its game predictions and
Fox Sports Fantasy Football fantasy projections on a weekly basis. Using our NFL simulation engine, we have "played" the entire 2010 NFL season. Each game was simulated 501 times. The simulation engine has provided us game-by-game predictions and projected fantasy stats for all 32 NFL teams and 350 players.
Rosters and depth charts are up-to-date and as accurate as possible as of June 30, 2010. A schedule of upcoming NFL preview content including links to other previews that have already been posted is located here.
Also, we account for players with injury histories who are considered likely to miss games despite currently being healthy by randomly taking them out of what the analysis dictates is the correct number of games throughout the season. For players who will begin the season injured or who are assumed to replace the current starter during the season, we deliberately make those roster changes in the appropriate weeks. All of these items can cause some perceived inconsistencies with the scores, especially when a team plays one opponent from its division with one set of starters and uses different personnel later.
Today we preview the NFC East
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (WIS Prediction: 11-5)
Absolute Record: 13-3
After ripping off a 6-game winning streak at the end of the 2009 season, the Eagles ended with a thud. You can emphasize the "D". Philadelphia lost in Week 17 and the NFC Wild Card game the following week to the Dallas Cowboys. Their 11-5 regular season wasted once more. The Eagles enter 2010 young and revitalized up and down the roster. Gone are franchise figureheads Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook and in are Kevin Kolb and LeSean McCoy. The Philly aerial assault could be fun to watch this season as DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant are poised to wreak havoc on NFL secondaries. Andy Reid isn't starting from scratch in 2010, but there could be some growing pains along the way especially on defense.
Most Significant Newcomer: Kevin Kolb. After living in the shadows of Donovan McNabb for three seasons, Kolb got his big break in Weeks 2 and 3 last season while #5 was nursing some broken ribs. He threw for over 700 yards in his only two starts against the Saints and Chiefs. You have to believe those two games also acted as a stimulus for the Eagles when dealing McNabb to the Redskins. Philly knew they had an ace up their sleeve. The former Houston Cougar will have several options in the passing game, most notably Jackson and Maclin. The Eagles offensive line is gaining experience, but may need to clean up the 38 sacks allowed (12th most) to keep Kolb and his arm healthy.
Biggest Strength: Receivers - The Eagles boasted three of the top receivers in 2009. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and tight end Brent Celek all ranked in the Top 50 in receiving yards per game. When you add that to the ability Kolb has showcased, we could see some video game-ish stats in the Eagles' box scores. Not to mention, LeSean McCoy has the ability to open up the passing game by running around defenses. He too could be like a Westbrook and catch some passes in the open field and make plays with his feet. The Eagles only other viable options in the backfield are Mike Bell and Leonard Weaver.
Most Exploitable Weakness: Chemistry - This was a McNabb, Westbrook and Reid show. Now Philadelphia must adapt to the regime change on the field. Kolb, McCoy and Jackson must now shoulder the load on offense. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for this trio to get on the same page. McNabb had little trouble blending his talents with the young chess pieces around him last season, but we shall see what happens when the kids are running the daycare. Andy Reid will need to address the chemistry issue first and foremost when the team is all together for the first time. This team has the potential to light up the scoreboard, while keeping opposing offenses out of the endzone.
Possible Fantasy Sleeper: Kevin Kolb, QB - Granted the hefty stats from his two starts in 2009 were collected during a, prevent defense, comeback loss to the Saints and, well, the Chiefs. However, Kolb's accuracy is something to look at and inside coach Reid's West-coast offense, Kolb could flourish. Everybody is going to gobble up Brees, Manning and Rodgers, but if you want to build up your running backs and receivers, you could hold out and try to steal Kolb in later rounds.
Closest Game: Week 16 vs Vikings (Avg. Score 23-20 - Eagles)
Fantasy Notables: Kevin Kolb (6th) 4424 yards, 29 TDs, 14 INTs; LeSean McCoy (24th) 792 rush yds, 8 TDs (total); DeSean Jackson (2nd) 1317 rec. yds, 8 TDs; Brent Celek (3rd) 914 rec, 6 TDs; David Akers (3rd) 31-40 FGs, 39 XPs
2010 Philadelphia Eagles
|1||Green Bay Packers||43||21-22|
|5||@San Francisco 49ers||76||23-16|
|11||New York Giants||63||25-19|
|15||@New York Giants||61||22-21|
DALLAS COWBOYS (WIS Prediction: 12-4)
Absolute Record: 15-1
The Jerry Dome saw the Cowboys finish 6-2 at home in 2009. But once again, Tony Romo could not lead Dallas to Super Bowl Sunday. Dem 'Boys got blasted, 34-3, by Brett Favre and the Vikings in the NFC divisional playoffs. Their 11-5 record was fourth best in the NFC last season. Despite the lack of Lombardi in Big D, Romo produced franchise records for the Cowboys: most passing yards in a single season (4,483), single-season completions (347), most single-season 300-yard passing games (8), and the list goes on. His on the field go-to-guy turned out to be Miles Austin. The fifth-year wide-out from football powerhouse Monmouth produced in ways never expected. He finished the season with over 1300 yards and eleven touchdowns.
Jerry's WorldHe's got his stadium, now needs a Super Bowl win
Most Significant Newcomer: Dez Bryant - WR - Jerry Jones may never admit the trade to bring Roy E. Williams to Dallas was an epic failure. The former Texas Longhorn will have one last crack at solidifying his wide receiver spot on the field. If he can't make an impact on the field Williams may lose his starting gig to, of all people, an Oklahoma State Cowboy. Jerry Jones wanted Dez Bryant so bad he traded up to pick him at 24. Now we all know the drama surrounding Bryant, but his on the field numbers speak for themselves. Even if his 2010 NFL stats don't wow you, the pressure that he puts on Williams to perform could be fun to watch. And when he does make it on the field, defensive backs beware.
Biggest Strength: Running Backs - Guess how many times a Cowboys' running back eclipse 100-yards during the 2009 season? Try two times. Marion Barber accomplished it once, Felix Jones once and Tashard Choice never. Yet, this is the new age of running in the NFL. Running backs by committee are becoming all the rage to go hand-in-hand with the Wildcat formation. Wade Phillips can lean on this trio to help open up Tony Romo's passing lanes. There has been some tension between Jerry Jones and Phillips' decision to use Barber more than Felix Jones.
Most Exploitable Weakness: The Playoffs. One win in the second season the past 13 years. For being America's team, the Cowboys are still working towards regaining the success they had in the post-season under Jimmy Johnson. It's almost as if the Cowboys get in their own way after clinching a playoff berth and underperform once they hit the field for a Wild Card or Divisional playoff game. There is little question to the robust offensive statistics Dallas is going to put up this season and if their defense can hold up their part of the bargain, you have to expect this team to be playoff bound. It's just a matter of Tony Romo and the cast of characters in Big D putting the puzzle together come early January.
Possible Fantasy Sleeper: Tashard Choice, RB. The third string running back showed us that he has some talent too. Choice rushed for 349 yards on only 64 carries (5.5 YPR) last season and stepped in for Felix Jones and Marion Barber when they were hurt. The pride of Lovejoy, Georgia could prove useful in leagues where you can start 3 running backs or WR/RB flex positions. He's not going to get you a ton of points, but could be a gem if either Jones or Barber gets hurt.
Closest Game: Week 6 @ Vikings (Avg. Score 23-22 - Cowboys)
Fantasy Notables: Tony Romo (4th) 4290 yards, 30 TDs, 8 INTs; Felix Jones (11th) 1092 rush yds, 11 TDs (total); Miles Austin (6th) 1235 rec. yds, 8 TDs; Jason Witten (5th) 851 rec. yds, 6 TDs; David Buehler (18th) 23-36 FGs, 45 XPs
2010 Dallas Cowboys
|7||New York Giants||74||30-20|
|9||@Green Bay Packers||46||19-22|
|10||@New York Giants||69||27-22|
|12||New Orleans Saints||60||27-22|
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (WIS Prediction: 8-8)
Absolute Record: 7-9
Daniel Snyder must have a deal with a hell of a plastic surgeon because the Redskins have endured quite a facelift this offseason. When you think of the new cast members at camp this summer, Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb, Larry Johnson, Willie Parker, and Jim Haslett, it's hard not to get excited thinking of the potential this team has in 2010. To be fair there are a number of issues (cough Albert cough Haynesworth) that need to be addressed before this team can move forward, but Snyder has once again dipped into his wallet to bring big names to D.C. Now all they have to do is win big ball games in the toughest division in the NFL.
Most Significant Newcomer: Donovan McNabb, QB - I could be cute and say the 3-4 defense, but let's be honest as McNabb and his rapidly aging body goes, so go the Redskins. The offensive line just got a boost with the addition of Jammal Brown via trade. Right tackle Artis Hicks may slide over to guard to make room for him. Those two plus first round draft pick Trent Williams will be in charge of a keeping McNabb's jersey clean as Shanahan rebuilds his O-line. McNabb has a few wide-out weapons to choose from in Santana Moss, up and comer Devin Thomas and tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. McNabb is a quarterback that gets it, but has only had to within one system. We shall see how quickly he adapts to his new digs and new teammates.
Biggest Strength: Passing Game - That is if McNabb stays healthy and considering his track record it's a big IF. The Redskins have the receiving corps that can make plays and the former Philly has the arm to create those opportunities. If the improved offensive line can keep their quarterback upright (Jason Campbell sacked 43 times in 2009) then the chances are the passing game reaps the benefits (and not just in the fourth quarter, desperate for a comeback mode). The backfield will also play a role as they will be called on to change the pace of the game. Keeping defenses honest with workhorses Portis and Johnson should do the trick. Willie Parker needs to find the "Fast" that abandoned him in Pittsburgh.
Most Exploitable Weakness: 3-4 Defense - The 2009 Redskins ranked 10th in total defense in 2009. Not bad considering the Redskins' horrendous 4-12 record. But Shanahan and Haslett's defensive philosophy to move to a 3-4 is causing quite a stir especially with the $100-million mountain Albert Haynesworth. He says he'll show up to camp this month. Actions vs words: you decide. This team seemed to thrive within the 4-3 scheme and will have deal with the mental breakdowns of learning new assignments throughout 2010. Imagine going to school for print journalism and then one day the bosses say "Hey, you are now a broadcast journalist." An adjustment on your part will need to be made while, again, the best division in football tries to run you over. We will learn in the first few weeks which players adapt the quickest to their new found roles in the 3-4.
Possible Fantasy Sleeper: Fred Davis, TE - This may be a V-8 duh moment, but Chris Cooley is back this season. Davis filled in the second half of the season for his fellow tight end following a broken ankle. The former USC Maxwell Award winner scored 5 touchdowns after Cooley's injury and averaged over 10 yards a reception for the season. McNabb has been known to fall in love with his tight ends especially inside the redzone. If you want to wait to take a tight end late in your draft, I think Davis would be a wise back-up, just in case he and Cooley become a TE by committee.
Closest Game: Week 17 vs Giants (Avg. Score 18-17 - Redskins)
Fantasy Notables: Donovan McNabb (11th) 4008 yds, 23 TDs, 11 INTs; Clinton Portis (23rd) 966 rush yds, 8 TDs (total); Santana Moss (28th) 952 rec. yds, 5 TDs; Chris Cooley (11th) 714 rec. yds, 4 TDs; Graham Grano (12th) 29-33 FGs, 29 XPs
2010 Washington Redskins
|3||@St. Louis Rams||87||24-12|
|5||Green Bay Packers||23||15-22|
|13||@New York Giants||40||17-22|
|14||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||88||25-10|
|17||New York Giants||50||18-17|
NEW YORK GIANTS (WIS Prediction: 8-8)
Absolute Record: 7-9
Bad omens have struck the Big Apple weeks before training camp begins. The Giants lost return specialist and wide receiver Domenik Hixon for the year due to a torn ACL. Hixon blew out his knee practicing on the newly installed field turf at the new Meadowlands stadium. This is not the headache head coach Tom Coughlin wanted heading into the 2010 season. New York could be considered the black sheep of the NFL last season. The loss of Plaxico Burress didn't seem to faze the team as they started off 5-0, only to finish the rest of the season 3-8. If the Giants don't get off to a fast start in 2010, consider Coughlin's position on the sidelines on red alert.
Giant Step BackJacobs' rush YDS/A average dropped to 3.4
Most Significant Newcomer: Antrel Rolle, FS - The Giants' major Achilles heel from 2009 was certainly their underperforming defense. New York allowed 26.7 points per game. That is more than Kansas City. Yeah, it was that bad. To top that the Giants' secondary surrendered 31 passing touchdowns; only the Lions allowed more. Here comes Antrel Rolle to the rescue. If Kenny Phillips can return to form after injury, the Giants secondary should complete a 180-degree improvement. Rolle recorded 4 interceptions and 72 tackles for the Cardinals last season. With how much the NFC East likes to air it out, Rolle could get plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents with his new team.
Biggest Strength: Passing Game - Eli Manning was not the problem in NY last season. The Giants' trigger ranked in the top 10 in touchdown passes (27) and in the Top 15 in completion percentage (62.3) and QB rating (93.1). It didn't take long for Manning to find some targets to replace Burress. Four receivers caught 5 or more touchdowns from Manning last season. Steve Smith burst on to the scene with over 1200 yards receiving and over one hundred receptions (107) - second only to Andre Johnson. Manning also has Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks and reliable tight end Kevin Boss available down field. If Manning can stay healthy, the air show should continue as expected.
Most Exploitable Weakness: Running Game - The script has flipped from a season ago. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw were predicted to break out as a dangerous 1-2 combo lingering in the Giants' backfield. Instead, neither cracked the 1000 yard plateau and Jacobs averaged under 4 yards a carry (3.7) - that ranked 42nd out of 50 for RBs that had enough attempts to qualify. If the bruiser, Jacobs, gets off to a slow start or is hampered by injuries that have seem to plague him because of his running style, don't be surprised to see Bradshaw move up the depth chart and carry the load.
Possible Fantasy Sleeper: Mario Manningham, WR - With Hixon out for the season, Manningham has little competition for the 3rd wide receiver slot behind Smith and Nicks. Much like the Giants entire team, Manningham got off to a fast start racking up a 150 yard receiving performance in Week 2, but he caught (no pun) a case of the Braylon's (also known as the Dropsies) and struggled the second half. However, if you look at his entire body of work and his increased playing time, this guy has a crack to become a fantasy stud. If he can regain the trust of his coaches, his 2009 stats (822 rec. yards and 5 touchdowns) could creep over 1000 yards and 9 scores easily.
Closest Game: Week 17 vs Redskins (Avg. Score 18-17 - Redskins)
Fantasy Notables: Eli Manning (7th) 4178 yds, 26 TDs, 12 INTs; Brandon Jacobs (31st) 825 rush yds, 7 TDs; Steve Smith (15th) 1080 rec. yds, 6 TDs; Kevin Boss (15th) 582 rec. yds, 3 TDs; Lawrence Tynes (5th) 28-36 FGs, 40 XPs
2010 New York Giants
|16||@Green Bay Packers||21||17-28|
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