Last year, the Giants did not fare well against the NFC east. They were swept by Dallas and Philadelphia, while sweeping Washington (which the other two teams failed to do, surprisingly).
But 2015 is a new beginning, and one that the Giants desperately need. With back to back losing seasons (the team’s first losing seasons since 2004, with 2014 being the first double digit loss season since 04).
Dallas seems to have the Giants number right now. Since the Giants won Super Bowl 46, the Cowboys have won five of six meetings. There were so many problems with the run defense last year that DeMarco Murray just had a field day against the Giants in both meetings, rushing for 128 and 121 yards in the two games last season. But Murray is gone, and the Cowboys will go back to the running back by committee approach. Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar will compete for carries this season. Randle should get the most carries, as he averaged 6.7 yards per carry last season. McFadden has over 1,000 career carries, and averaged just 3.4 yards per carry last year. He seems to have lost his burst. Even though the Cowboys still have a great line, the back makes a difference without a doubt.
Defensively, Dallas overachieved in 2014. While defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli deserves a ton of credit for getting that unit to play as well as they did, I think they will regress in 2015. Even with Sean Lee coming back, I doubt he can stay healthy. They did pick up Greg Hardy but this isn’t the 2013 version of Hardy—he’ll be far from an elite pass rusher. Randy Gregory was a first round talent at pass rusher, but he seems to lack discipline with his drug issues and his size makes him likely just a third down rusher. The secondary has been a weakness for years—Morris Claiborne has never lived up to the hype, Brandon Carr is either great or awful, Byron Jones is a rookie, and he will get plenty of playing time opposite their stalwart Orlando Scandrick. Safety is a weak spot though, they can get beat over the top.
I expect a step back from Dallas in 2015, and if Victor Cruz can stay healthy with Beckham on the other side, the Giants can finally settle the score with Dallas this season.
Philadelphia is an interesting squad. The Giants have struggled against the Eagles recently too, winning just twice against their arch rivals in the last three years. Like the Cowboys, the Eagles run the ball as well as anyone. Last year the offensive line was incredibly banged up, but they will be healthy this year despite the loss of Evan Mathis. Jason Peters is a great tackle, Jason Kelce is a good center and they’ll have him back, and Lane Johnson was a top five pick in the draft. However, with Dennis Kelly and Allen Barbre set to start at guard, that is their weak spot up front. They’ve made a change at quarterback with Nick Foles now gone and Sam Bradford in. While that trade vexed most people, the Eagles wanted the oft-injured quarterback to be paired up again with Pat Shurmur, his offensive coordinator in St. Louis. I doubt he can stay healthy, so it’s likely we’ll see a lot of Mark Sanchez or possibly Tim Tebow.
DeMarco Murray was the free agent prize of the offseason, and he will be lucky to rush for 1,000 yards this season. Last year was an anomaly that the Eagles paid top dollar for. Defensively, the Eagles are solid and rush the passer as well as anyone. Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are two very good rushers, though they lost Trent Cole in the offseason. In the secondary they drafted Eric Rowe from Utah and brought Byron Maxwell in from the Seahawks. They will be solid on that side of the ball in 2015. If Bradford can stay healthy, this team will likely be division favorites. But considering how unlikely that is to happen, it leaves the door open for the Giants to leap over them. They have a young secondary that the Giants can exploit, but the burden is on the Giants offensive line to protect Eli Manning during those games.
The battle in the trenches will decide who wins the two games between them and the Giants this season.
Unlike the other two teams, the Giants have had a lot of success against the Redskins over the past two seasons. Since winning Super Bowl 46, the Giants have won five of six meetings. After 2012 the Redskins have struggled to find any consistency with Robert Griffin III, and with a poor offensive line that only gets more difficult. They have a very good duo of receivers in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, but if they can’t protect their quarterback (find one too, three different quarterbacks started for them last year). Alfred Morris has seen his yards per carry decline each year since his rookie year. He’s also not much of a pass receiver, but getting him going is the key to their offense. Someone needs to take the pressure off RG3, otherwise defenses will continue to tee off on him and likely cause him to get hurt again.
Defensively the Redskins have struggled for years, and they are most effective when they can turn loose the blitz. With the west coast offense that Ben McAdoo brought in, blitzing is not as effective against offenses that get the ball out quickly. Their corners are not that good, and both Cruz and Beckham should be able to make plays. Overall, the Giants won both games comfortably last year and they should be able to do so again.
The NFC East should have one of the most interesting three way division races in the league. Each of the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys have weaknesses, and those division games will determine who will win the division this season.