Updated: Aug 27
Two weeks of preseason games in the books, one more to go. As NFL training camp marches on, each day we get a better idea of the potential of each team. For most of us, our eyes turn directly to the quarterback situation. This is where we always start.
According to modern NFL-theory, no team, no matter how talented, or well-coached, or expertly constructed, can hoist the Lombardi Trophy without a top-tier signal caller. That’s why the Los Angeles Rams went out and traded for Matthew Stafford last year. That’s why the Denver Broncos traded for Russell Wilson, why the Indianapolis Colts traded for Matt Ryan, why the Washington Commanders traded for Carson Wentz and on and on and on…
If you don’t have one of the top guys, it’s like having no one at all. But…that can’t be completely true right?
What about last year’s San Francisco 49ers squad that nearly reached the Super Bowl despite running a hobbled Jimmy Garoppolo under center throughout the postseason? Jimmy G can’t find a job in 2022. So, was he the elite QB the Niners needed to go far in the playoffs? Or was he just an average QB who did his job and allowed his excellent supporting cast to carry him?
There may be more QB-talent in the NFL than ever before, but a team with the right mix of skill, discipline, leadership and luck can still reach the promised land - even if their QB isn’t savior-material. The 2000 Ravens won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer as their QB. The 2002 Buccaneers won the title with Brad Johnson calling the shots. Peyton Manning is an all-time great, but he sure wasn’t during the Broncos’ 2016 Super Bowl run. More recently, the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles won it all with their backup QB Nick Foles behind center.
It might be hard to make a lot of noise in the playoffs without a proven, top-end QB, but it’s not impossible. You just need a confluence of factors to work out in your favor. Basically, you need the best-case scenario.
With that in mind, today I am going to break down the best-case and worst-case scenarios for every team in the NFC East. Some of these will be obvious: Tom Brady will likely be winning his (let me double-check this) eighth championship if the best-case scenario works out in Tampa. That’s just what Tom Brady does - win championships.
But the best-case scenario isn’t a given. Sometimes, if you’re like the Baltimore Ravens last year, you end up ravaged by injuries, finish 4th in your division and miss the playoffs for the first time in three years. That’s the worst-case scenario. Try and avoid that (just a recommendation).
So, with all that said, please enjoy the Best-Case/Worst-Case: NFC East Edition!
OL Tyler Smith (draft)
DE Dante Fowler (free agent)
DE Randy Gregory
WR Amari Cooper
OT La’el Collins
OG Connor Williams
WR Cedrick Wilson
Best-Case Scenario: 12 - 5, 1st in the NFC East
Same record as last year. With so many notable offseason losses, it’s hard to imagine this team’s ceiling is much higher than last year’s. However, just because the ceiling isn’t as high doesn’t mean that if everything breaks right for the 2022 Cowboys, that they can’t be a serious threat in the playoffs.
With QB Dak Prescott, a strong running back tandem of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, solid receiving options and a reliable, if top-heavy, offensive line, the Cowboys have the goods to repeat last year’s awesome offensive performance. And on the other side of the ball, one player makes all the difference: Micah Parsons.
Parsons burst onto the scene last year as the ultimate positionless defender. The defensive rookie of the year showed chops in coverage, as a pass rusher, and as a run stopper. He has all the makings of a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate, not just next year, but every year. The impact he made defensively was eclipsed by just a handful of players.
In the secondary, CB Trevon Diggs lurks, ready to intercept any wayward pass. Between him and Parsons, the Cowboys defense has two of the very best players at their position in the NFL. If the supporting cast can rise to the occasion, the Cowboys have the makings of a top defense. Maybe Dante Fowler finally figures it out and shows everyone why the Jacksonville Jaguars made him the #3 pick in 2015. A Super Bowl run might be a little unlikely, but it’s not out of the question.
Worst-Case Scenario: 5 - 12, 4th in the NFC East
Among all eight division winners from last year, the Cowboys feel like a sneaky contender to go first-to-worst. They might have too much talent to reach the floor of a team like Washington, but if everything goes wrong, we could see some heads roll in the offseason.
First on the chopping block could be head coach Mike McCarthy, who did not inspire much confidence that he’s the right man for the job in the Wild Card playoff game versus the San Francisco 49ers. With the Cowboys again looking undisciplined in their first preseason game of 2022, there’s a growing sense that these problems have not been fixed. Even a team with as much top-end talent as Dallas can be sabotaged by a bad coaching staff.
Considering the losses on the offensive line, there’s a good bet that the Cowboys’ offense struggles to replicate their performance from last year. Elliott has been on the decline for a few years now, and WR Cee Dee Lamb has yet to prove he’s a sure-fire #1 option in the passing game. If neither produces as expected, the Cowboys could see their offensive efficiency drop drastically.
Prescott’s seat is also a bit hot, for as beloved as he is in Dallas, there isn’t a lot of patience for first-round playoff exits. If the Cowboys stumble to 4th in the East this year, the anti-Dak contingent of Cowboys fans will grow exponentially.
The defense, meanwhile, was already extremely dependent on two players in Parson and Diggs. If either one slips, the Cowboys’ defense could fall straight to the bottom of the statistical standings. Throw in the loss of veteran pass rusher Randy Gregory, and there really isn’t a lot of room for error with this unit, or this team as a whole, frankly.
New York Giants
DE Kavon Thibodeaux (draft)
OT Evan Neal (draft)
OT Nate Solder
TE Evan Engram
CB James Bradberry
Best-Case Scenario: 10 - 7, 2nd in the NFC East
The Giants are in a strange position right now. They brought in new head coach Brian Daboll to help develop QB Daniel Jones, but it feels like Jones could be out the door if he doesn’t make huge strides in 2022. If Daboll is able to bring out the best in Jones, though, the Giants could be a surprise contender for a Wild Card spot and could even win a playoff game.
Of course, it all starts with Jones, who has not proven to be a consistent option for the Giants since being drafted in 2019. For all of his athletic gifts, Jones has not demonstrated the high-level accuracy or decision-making necessary to be a top-tier QB. Maybe Daboll is the guy to bring that out in Jones.
If that’s the case, Daboll and Jones could unlock an offense that’s littered with unrealized potential. RB Saquon Barkley can take over games, if he ever stays healthy, that is. WRs Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney each bring a unique and dynamic skill set to the passing game. And with new lineman Evan Neal joining improving youngster Andrew Thomas, the Giants could actually have a decent O-Line in 2022.
Defensively, much of the 2022 season depends on #5 pick Kavon Thibodeaux. The supremely gifted defensive end was projected throughout much of his college career to be the top pick in his draft class. He ended up falling, but if he can show why those college-prognosticators were right, he could team with second-year DE Azeez Ojulari and former top pick Leonard Williams to form a fearsome pass rush. While the secondary is still in flux, the front seven is more than capable of helping this Giants team overcome those deficiencies.
Worst-Case Scenario: 3 - 14, 4th in the NFC East
With a team like the Giants, the downside to their season is bad, really bad. That's what can happen when you combine a first-year head coach with a lame duck QB and a leaky defense. The worst-case scenario for the Giants is that they end up with the worst record in the NFL, although that might not be the worst-case scenario for this team long-term.
Basically, if Jones stinks up the place again, the Giants don’t really have any good alternative. In fact, they may be better off prioritizing draft position than winning games, especially with two fantastic QB options at the top of the 2023 draft class in Bryce Young of Alabama and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State. Would anyone be surprised to see Daboll make a business-decision if the Giants start the year 0 - 6?
WR A.J. Brown (trade)
OLB Haason Reddick (free agent)
DT Jordan Davis (draft)
CB Steven Nelson
Best-Case Scenario: 12 - 5, 1st in the NFC East
This is one of the it-teams of 2022. With a strong draft class, a competent QB on a rookie contract, an up-and-coming defense, and a massive upgrade at WR, the Eagles look like a dark-horse contender to reach the Super Bowl. If everything breaks right, they certainly have the makeup of a team that can make it all the way to Phoenix.
Much of this season will come down to QB Jalen Hurts and whether or not he can prove to be a quality starter in this league. He has plenty of talent, especially as a runner, but has not shown the consistency at this stage to make us full believers. If he has a Pro Bowl-caliber season, that could be just the boost the Eagles need to jump from “good” to “great.”
Of course, the newly acquired A.J. Brown will play a big role in Hurts’ development. Brown was a consistent big-play receiver with the Tennessee Titans. If he can replicate that performance in Philadelphia, he will give Hurts the downfield option he sorely missed last year. Plus, with defenses forced to commit extra attention to Brown, last year’s first-round pick WR Devonta Smith will have more room than ever to show off his silky-smooth route running. Throw in an excellent offensive line and a strong, Hurts-led running game, and you have a team with plenty of balance and explosiveness to challenge for the top seed in the NFC.
Worst-Case Scenario: 6 - 11, 3rd in the NFC East
With Washington and the New York Giants in the division, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles falling off too hard, even if crap hits the proverbial fan. Second-year head coach Nick Siriani looked capable last year, but what if that was a mirage? What if Hurts regresses? What if A.J. Brown can’t be the top option he’s being paid to be? What if this draft class doesn’t have the immediate impact many expect them to have?
Unfortunately for Eagles fans, it’s very possible that they get the answers they don’t want to these questions. Still, even if things don’t go the Eagles way, this team is too young and talented to completely fall apart. There will be wins to be had versus the Giants and Commanders. That may be as good as it gets in Philly in 2022, I’m afraid.
QB Carson Wentz (trade)
WR Jahan Dotson (draft)
RB Brian Robinson Jr (draft)
OG Trai Turner (free agent)
OG Brandon Scherff
Best-Case Scenario: 11 - 6, 1st in the NFC East
Is it possible we wrote off Carson Wentz too early? Sure, he stunk up the joint versus the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18 when the Indianapolis Colts needed the victory to seal their postseason invitation. He blew it in that game, but he was actually pretty good throughout most of the 2021 season.
Washington’s roster stayed fairly stable after a tumultuous offseason for owner Daniel Snyder - at least, for him personally. If the team is able to rally around head coach Ron Rivera, there’s enough talent on offense and defense to do some damage.
With a deep running back room, a developing wide receiver corps, and potential stability at the QB-position, Washington’s offense looks more than capable of holding up its end of the bargain. It’s the defense that could be dominant, though.
With tremendous talents like defensive end Chase Young and defensive tackle Jonathan Allen up front, the Commanders have the ability to put massive pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Plus, given the state of the rest of the teams in the NFC East, that could be the perfect recipe for a surprise division title.
Worst-Case Scenario: 4 - 13, 4th in the NFC East
Yeah, this team could be bad. Remember what I said about Wentz earlier? There’s a good chance we were right all along, especially when you remember how badly the Eagles and the Colts wanted him out of the building after his tenures with those teams.
The defense, which does have significant potential, was wildly disappointing last year. If they are unable to take the next step in 2022, this Washington team could vie for one of the worst records in the NFL.