The NFC East battle is already shaping up to be one of the best in the NFL. Eli Manning and company come into this season fresh off a Super Bowl victory and the bulls-eye on their back grows larger everyday. With the Cowboys' improvements in the secondary, the Redskins' RG3 acquisition, and the Eagles' stacked line-up, there's reason to think the Giants will be finishing at the bottom of their tough division.
Every team in the league will circle the Giants on their schedule and look to shut down the Victor Cruz-to-Eli Manning connection that scorched secondaries late last season. The Giants became an unstoppable force last year, with a defensive front seven that intimidated and confused opposing quarterbacks and offensive linemen. But they won't come close to repeating this success.
The Giants finished poorly in overall defensive numbers, sporting an average of 376 yards and 25 points allowed per game. Although the Giants were able to confuse opponents last season, their luck will change. Manning performed great last season when it counted and made incredible plays to lead the team to wins, but they were a dark horse with new receivers and a struggling run game.
Manning and the Giants slid their way into the playoffs, taking advantage of a porous Cowboys secondary ravaged with age and an inability to cover. In fact, the Giants benefited quite a bit from a transitioning NFC East. The Eagles put together a dream team, but it took considerable time for all the pieces to learn how to work together under Andy Reid. Shanahan's Redskins were one of the league's worst in every statistical category except number of starting quarterbacks.
The playoffs are where Manning came alive last year and he wouldn't have made it without a little help from his friends in the division. Winning the division with a 9-7 record is no extraordinary feat and certainly not the kind of record to shoot for as a Super Bowl contender. However, nowadays, it seems getting hot at the right time is more important than a 12-4 record and divisional dominance. That's why the 2012 Giants aren't going to even have the opportunity to get hot in the playoffs.
The Cowboys transitioned younger and faster in the secondary and their sights are set on eliminating Cruz as a threat. A more mature Tony Romo, and a newfound run game behind running back DeMarco Murray are going to put this team towards the top of the division, despite the loss of Laurent Robinson in the offseason.
Michael Vick and Andy Reid of the Eagles are going to obliterate defenses this year. As Vick ages and understands the intricacies of the game, opponents aren't going to be able to lock him up. Vick can stretch the field or scramble now and will leave defenses confused and out of breath far more than Manning and the Giants.
The Redskins may not finish first in the NFC East this season, but they won't finish last. Newly acquired quarterback Robert Griffin III simply has too much talent for his team to finish last. Expect big numbers and confused secondaries when RG3 takes the field.
When all of this is put together it spells trouble for the New York Giants. The bulls-eye is big, the competition is tougher, and no one's going to be salsa dancing their way into playoffs this season.