If you look around the NFL at the best team in each division (on paper anyway), there's an argument to be made that they're all better than the best team in the NFC East, whoever that may be. A division by division look:
- NFC North: Packers. Better than any team in the NFC East.
- NFC South: Falcons. Better than any team in the NFC East.
- NFC West: 49ers or Seahawks. Take your pick. Better than any team in the NFC East.
- AFC East: Patriots. Better than any team in the NFC East.
- AFC North: This is the only division where it's debatable, even with the Ravens coming off a Super Bowl victory. But personally, I would take the Ravens over any team in the NFC East, and think the division as a whole is better.
- AFC South: Texans. Better than any team in the NFC East.
- AFC West: Broncos. Better than any team in the NFC East.
In other words, the NFC East does not have a particularly strong team. The Eagles have their share of warts, however, so do the rest of the teams in the NFC East. This division is winnable.
Poking holes in the Giants
1) The defensive line is no longer dominant. Around this time last offseason, many people believed the Giants had the best defensive line in the NFL. They pretty clearly had the best trio of DEs. Jason Pierre-Paul was coming off a 2011 season in which he was a legitimate NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Meanwhile, Justin Tuck was coming off a down regular season, but was excellent during the Giants’ playoff run, and Osi Umenyiora was still making his share of big plays.
Umenyiora is gone, Tuck is firmly on the down side of his career, and JPP may had back surgery, which could be a continuously nagging injury. Mathias Kiwanuka will be added to the pass rush mix, but what was once the Giants’ best strength is now a major question mark.
2) The Giants can't stop the run. Here are the rushing yardage totals they gave up by game last year:
Gross. And its not as if they got much better on defense this offseason.
3) The Giants lost two key players to injury. First they lost safety Stevie Brown to a torn ACL. Brown is a major loss, as the Giants are otherwise very thin at safety, especially with Will Hill being suspended for the first 4 games of the season. It appears as if Ryan Mundy will start for the Giants early in the season. At times last year, he was the Steelers' 5th safety.
Then they lost RB Andre Brown to a broken leg, which leaves the Giants without a RB they can trust in pass protection and short yardage situations.
4) Hakeem Nicks can't stay healthy. In 4 NFL seasons, Nicks has never played all 16 games, although he has never missed more than 3 games in a season. Last year, Nicks missed training camp after having surgery on his foot, an injury he was still recovering from when he injured his knee in Week 2. Nicks missed three games, then played through his knee injury the rest of the season, but was never close the player he was in 2010 and 2011. One great game against Tampa in Week 2 aside, Nicks’ production was not good:
Without a healthy Nicks, the Giants' offense simply isn't the same. Which Nicks will the Giants get this year? The one that makes them a highly potent offense, or the frustrating one who only reminds fans of what could be?
5) The offensive line remains a concern. Center David Bass has an injured MCL, and may not be ready for Week 1. But beyond that, rookie OT Justin Pugh didn't make it a no-brainer for the Giants to definitely name him the starter at RT until roughly a week before the beginning of the season.
There was some debate as to what position Pugh would play in the pros. He was a star OT at Syracuse, but he has the smallest arms of any OT who worked out at the Combine since 1999, so there was a thinking that he could never survive on the edge in the pros. Via mockdraftable.com:
Small arms are not a good thing for an offensive tackle. Per Wes Bunting of the National Football Post:
Football is a contact sport where collisions take place on every play. Most NFL players are asked to win battles at the point of attack and the players with the biggest frames and longest reaches have a clear advantage when engaging with an opposing player.
The reach or arm length of an NFL prospect is a key attribute to any position, especially to those playing along the line of scrimmage. However, at no position is a prospects reach more vital then at the offensive tackle spot.
So it appears it'll either be the already-proven bad David Diehl at RT, or a significant question mark in Pugh. Here is what Pugh's arms look like in person:
Also, Pugh apparently grew up an Eagles fan. It could be possible that his commitment to the Eagles led him to be a star player all throughout high school and college, convincing the Giants to draft him, and then sabotaging their season. It could happen.