1. Dallas Cowboys
It’s assumed that Mike McCarthy will avoid the same head scratching decisions that led to Jason Garrett’s exit in Dallas.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
A lot has to go right, but they are fortunate they play in an extremely weak division.
3. New York Giants
The future looks good at quarterback and running back, but there is still plenty of work to be done elsewhere.
4. Washington Redskins
If Ron Rivera thought his last year in Carolina was a rough ride, this first year in Washington will take the cake.
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (Green Bay Packers – 2018)
Key Position: Quarterback
Normally when a quarterback throw for nearly 5,000 yards the previous season I wouldn’t highlight that position the next season. This is different in that Dak Prescott doesn’t have a long term extension and is playing on a franchise tag. If he has a repeat performance and there isn’t any evidence to suggest that. With Amari Cooper re-signed, Michael Gallup emerging as a legitimate second option and the drafting of CeeDee Lamb in the first round. Prescott has all the talent around him and Ezekiel Elliott the workhorse in the backfield. But another 8-8 finish will have Jerry Jones thinking about finding a replacement.
Key Acquisitions: QB Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals), OL Cameron Erving (Kansas City Chiefs), DE Everson Griffen (Minnesota Vikings), DT Dontari Poe (Carolina Panthers), DE/LB Aldon Smith (Oakland Raiders – 2015), K Greg Zuerlein (Los Angeles Rams)
Key Rookies: WR CeeDee Lamb, CB Trevon Diggs, DT Neville Gallimore
Head Coach: Doug Pederson
Key Position: Running Back
This position is a key factor in the Eagles offense and QB Carson Wentz could use a break or two from throwing the ball. Miles Sanders emerged as the lead back, but Boston Scott made his presence known down the stretch towards a playoff spot. If these two can remain healthy, there’s no doubt how much more potent this offense can be. There’s a possibility that QB Jalen Hurts will be utilized in gadget plays being that he was an unexpected pick for them in the 2nd round.
Key Acquisitions: DT Javon Hargrave (Pittsburgh Steelers), CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (Los Angeles Rams), CB Darius Slay (Detroit Lions)
Key Rookies: WR Jalen Reagor, QB Jalen Hurts, LB Davion Taylor, S K’Von Wallace, OL Jack Driscoll, LB Shaun Bradley
Head Coach: Joe Judge (New England Patriots)
Key Position: Defense
The downfall for the last two head coaches wasn’t the offense, it was the poor play of the defense. Ownership shifted away from an offensive minded head coach and found Joe Judge the former special teams coordinator of the Patriots. He brings accountability and discipline which is something this unit has been lacking. It won’t be fixed over night, but there is talent to work with. The defensive line should set the tone with Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence. There isn’t an elite pass rusher and that will be a priority in the off-season assuming one doesn’t emerge this year. Jabrill Peppers is in a prime spot for a breakout year in the secondary and he needs to be that to justify the Odell Beckham trade to Cleveland.
Key Acquisitions: CB James Bradberry (Carolina Panthers), LB Kyler Fackrell (Green Bay Packers), OT Cameron Fleming (Dallas Cowboys), K Graham Gano (Carolina Panthers), DT Austin Johnson (Tennessee Titans), RB Dion Lewis (Tennessee Titans), LB Blake Martinez (Green Bay Packers), CB Logan Ryan (Tennessee Titans)
Key Rookies: OT Andrew Thomas, S Xavier McKinney, OT Matt Peart, CB Darnay Holmes, OL Shane Lemieux
Head Coach: Ron Rivera (Carolina Panthers)
Key Position: Everything
This won’t be a walk in the park for Ron Rivera. He does have control over personnel decisions as well as being the head coach. He inherits QB Dwayne Haskins who looked good at times, but really didn’t have a lot of options on offense and the line didn’t give him time to find them. The running back position will be a committee approach until a workhorse emerges. WR Terry McLaurin is the lone playmaker for Haskins. Rivera’s specialty is on defense and they should be a lot better. DE Chase Young was the only choice for them at number two overall in the draft. CB Kendall Fuller and LB Thomas Davis were smart free agent acquisitions. The pass rush should be even better and that should help their flaws elsewhere on defense.
Key Acquisitions: QB Kyle Allen (Carolina Panthers), RB Peyton Barber (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), CB Ronald Darby (Philadelphia Eagles), LB Thomas Davis (Los Angeles Chargers), CB Kendall Fuller (Kansas City Chiefs), WR Dontrelle Inman (Indianapolis Colts), RB J.D. McKissic (Detroit Lions), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (Chicago Bears), OL Wes Schweitzer (Atlanta Falcons), TE Logan Thomas (Detroit Lions)
Key Rookies: DE Chase Young, RB Antonio Gibson, OT Saahdiq Charles, WR Antonio Gandy-Golden