The Philadelphia Eagles are the favorites to win the NFC East in 2012, according to several different oddsmakers. The question is, should they be?
Somewhat surprisingly, the Eagles have been declared the favorites in several different ways already. Sportsbook has opened with the Eagles being favored to win the NFC East, including an over/under of them winning 10 games in the regular season.
Vegas Insider has the Eagles as 10-1 favorites for winning Super Bowl XLVII, the best odds by far over any other NFC East team (and the 4th best odds in the NFL).
Furthermore, oddsmaker RJ Bell at Pregame.com has the Eagles listed as favorites to win 13 of their first 15 games of the 2012 season.
So, it appears that most gambling operations seem to think the Eagles will be the best team in the division and one of the best teams in the conference and/or league. Oddsmakers make a living on identifying what teams stand the best chance of winning so they don’t lose too much money if and when these teams win.
These are pretty lofty expectations for a team that finished 8-8 in 2011 and failed to make the playoffs. What could the oddsmakers be looking at to make them see the Eagles as one of the top contenders?
In contrast, the Giants have gone 10-8, Dallas has gone 9-9 and Washington has gone a putrid 4-14 against the division. So while the Eagles have only won the division once in this three year span (2010), they seem to have the other teams’ number.
And when you can beat the teams in your division with regularity, it boosts up your odds of winning the division. This is probably the key stat in which the oddsmakers are considering because, not coincidentally, the order of the records of each of the teams in the East coincide with their odds to win the division (Eagles, Giants, Cowboys, Redskins).
However, there are other reasons to think the Eagles will be the team to beat even though the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Eagles ended 2011 with a four-game winning streak and many people thought they were one of the hottest teams to close out the season. The perception is/was that the team finally started play like everyone thought they would after all of their offseason star acquisitions.
Well, except for Jeff Lurie, who call those four wins "fools gold."
Then, you take into consideration what the Eagles have done this offseason to further improve upon what they were building last year.
There have been a few additions by subtraction in getting rid of Vince Young, Steve Smith and Ronnie Brown. They have also tremendously improved team morale by re-signing and/or extending several key players.
Furthermore, the Eagles added a blue-chip linebacker in Demeco Ryans and followed that up with an outstanding draft that should fill any lingering holes in the team, and then some.
The Eagles also finished 2011 ranked the highest in offense and defense in the NFC East as well as in the top 10 in the NFL. They finished fourth overall in total offense and eighth overall in total defense, as per NFL.com.
In comparison, this is where the rest of the NFC East teams finished in the rankings: Giants (8th in offense, 27th in defense), Cowboys (11th in offense, 14th in defense) and Redskins (16th in offense, 13th in defense).
As you can see, the Eagles are the only team in the division ranked in the top 10 on both sides of the ball.
We can also take a look at the talent level on each team in the division and see how they stack up. Below are my personal rankings based on a mix of observation and stats (i.e., they’re not based solely on stats):
Wide receiver: (1) Giants (2) Eagles (3) Cowboys (4) Redskins
Running back: (1) Eagles (2) Giants (3) Cowboys (4) Redskins
Quarterback: (1) Giants (2) Eagles (3) Cowboys (4) Redskins
Offensive line: (1) Eagles (2) Giants (3) Cowboys (4) Redskins
Defensive line: (1) Eagles (2) Giants (3) Cowboys (4) Redskins
Linebacker: (1) Redskins (2) Cowboys (3) Giants (4) Eagles
Cornerback: (1) Eagles (2) Giants (3) Cowboys (4) Redskins
Safety: (1) Giants (2) Redskins (3) Eagles (4) Cowboys
Overall offense: (1) Eagles (2) Giants (3) Cowboys (4) Redskins
Overall defense: (1) Redskins (2) Eagles (3) Giants (4) Cowboys
Special teams: (1) Giants (2) Cowboys (3) Redskins (4) Eagles
Some of those rankings may leave you wondering a little bit, but like I said, that’s how I see it and I based them off of watching the teams play last year, stats from NFL.com and PFF stats.
Even though I have the Redskins ranked lower in most defensive categories except linebacker, I still see them as having the most “complete” defense and they play very well as a unit, which is why I have them ranked first in overall defense.
Otherwise, out of the 11 categories I have ranked, the Eagles lead the way with five No. 1 rankings in the division in that respective category. The Giants come close with four, and for the most part, it’s back and forth between New York and Philly.
With all that said, some of these rankings are extremely close and could go either way. Especially if you want to anticipate what they might do this year. For example, if Dez Bryant gets his head on straight, the Cowboys wide receivers could be a pretty damn good duo.
Looking forward to 2012, I see a division that will be extremely competitive.
I don’t see any one team as head and shoulders above the rest. The division's worst team, the Redskins, should be much tougher this year with the addition of RG3 and a few other players. They have a tough defense and they're entering Year 3 of the Shanahan era.
I fully expect them to up their win total from last year and be an opponent to take seriously.
If the Cowboys can ever put all of their pieces together, they have the talent to be a very good team. I expect the division will ultimately come down to a battle between them and the Eagles.
The Giants will be tough and win their share of games, but I think they fall off a little bit this year and miss the playoffs. Remember, they struggled in the regular season last year and finished just 9-7.
The NFC East has historically been a very competitive division. It didn't get the nickname "NFC Beast" for nothing.
Two of the past three years there have been two teams that finished with the same record and last season three teams finished within one game of each other.
There are many reasons to logically think why the Eagles should be the favorites to win the division. To be honest, though, I don't like being the favored team.
That's because there are still several reasons why they won't win the division. I'd rather have the underdog role any day of the week.
However, I don't want to be a negative Nancy here. The Eagles should win the division this year.
That's right, they should.