Cowboys: S.I. Divided On NFC East Prediction


Sports Illustrated writers Doug Farrar and Chris Burke have differing viewpoints on Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles when predicting the winner of the NFC East.

I just can’t figure out how some people do basic arithmetic. Granted, I wasn’t too hot in the math department in school, but I don’t think I’m lacking in the area of common sense.

So I really scratch my head when I see the cascade of preseason predictions that actually go all the way back to the pre-draft season of winter and spring.

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At this point, we know little more about all 32 NFL teams than we did some six months ago when free-agent talent began re-upping or relocating across the league. Unless you’re a believer that approximately one half of ‘starting player’ football this summer, on average, is an adequate sample size with which to judge any team in the league, there’s nothing to know right now.

Which brings me to this week’s divisional predictions brought forth by Sports Illustrated contributors Chris Burke and Doug Farrar.

To start with, it seems like a safe bet that the Washington Redskins, complete with everything wrong with that franchise, don’t make a very good candidate to win the NFC East. Everything from the quarterback position all the way up to owner Dan Snyder is just a mess.

Burke and Farrar know that.

I think that to ignore the New York Giants, who happen to be the only team in the division to enter the 2015 regular season with both a head coach and a quarterback that have won two Super Bowls in the last eight seasons is a huge mistake.

Time will tell if either of these journalists, along with so many others, actually end up regretting that decision.

That leaves the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Burke goes with the Cowboys, as so many others have, for some good reasons – they probably are the best team in the division. Burke also adds a different reason which happens to include the Dallas defense, as opposed to just it’s volatile offense:

"That unit survived on a lot of smoke and mirrors last season only to upgrade this off-season with Randy Gregory, Byron Jones and (eventually) Greg Hardy. The return of LB Sean Lee will help, as well."

So will the impact of linebacker Rolando McClain and second-year veteran defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

Right or wrong, that’s a logical selection, and Burke doesn’t even mention an offense that’s poised to rock this season with a healthy quarterback in Tony Romo, who had an MVP-caliber season last year, and newly re-signed wide receiver Dez Bryant, who really is positioned to explode entering his sixth season.

But Farrar sees things in a very different way, at least with those Eagles shades on.

The take here seems to be the idea that all Philly needed a year ago to win the Super Bowl was free-agent cornerback Byron Maxwell and – well, I guess Kiko Alonso. Now that head coach Chip Kelly has them, it’s all over for the NFC East and maybe even the National Football League.

Farrar mentions the following in his prediction:

"If Sam Bradford can stay healthy in his new environs (big if, we know), Kelly’s offense will be just about unstoppable most Sundays. The Cowboys will have a better pass rush, but serious questions abound elsewhere on that defense, and the run game is now an issue."

So, if Bradford, playing on a new team and a new system, can stay healthy, Kelly’s offense is just unstoppable on Sundays. Never mind the fact that running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin are no longer around.

And what are those big questions elsewhere on the Dallas defense, despite that pass rush which will be improved for sure?

Lee is back at linebacker, and eventually McClain will join him. Behind those two is a platoon of good linebacker talent. This could be the best linebacker corps in the NFL, at least if healthy.

The secondary has lost cornerback Orlando Scandrick, but this is still a deep group with Brandon Carr, a healthy first-round pick in Morris Claiborne and another first round pick in rookie Byron Jones, who plays corner or safety.

The Cowboys will run the football as well as they did last year simply because the best offensive line in football is still in north Texas, not Pennsylvania. I can’t see fatal issues for the Cowboys rushing attack simply because DeMarco Murray isn’t lining up behind Romo any longer.

Just because I don’t get where Farrar is coming from doesn’t mean that he may not be right. I said the same thing about my geometry teacher back in high school. I knew she was right, I simply didn’t understand, nor did I really care.

From a logical standpoint, an NFC East divisional championship for the Eagles doesn’t make much sense. Kelly only has one divisional title because of a regular season finale in 2013 in which Philly beat the Cowboys without Romo in the lineup.

Little else suggests that those Iggles are flying anywhere but south come January.

Next: Cowboys: How Far Have They Come In One Year?

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