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NFC DIVISIONAL PREVIEW

East

September 01, 2007|David Wharton

2007 predicted order of finish . . .

* 1. Philadelphia: With Jeff Garcia heading off to Tampa Bay, the Eagles avoid any possibility of a controversy and Donovan McNabb, back from a knee injury, can reassert himself among the top quarterbacks in the conference. Brian Westbrook returns as a multi-talented running back, and free-agent Kevin Curtis should strengthen the receiving corps. On defense, Philadelphia ranked 26th against the rush last season, which means the front seven must bounce back. If they do, and the secondary continues its strong play, the Eagles have a shot at the Super Bowl.

* 2. Dallas: Bill Parcells is gone, so the new coach -- easygoing Wade Phillips -- and the new offensive coordinator -- untested Jason Garrett -- must prove they can nurture quarterback Tony Romo while keeping the volatile Terrell Owens happy at wide receiver. Not easy tasks. Marion Barber and Julius Jones return as a capable tandem at running back. The steady defense should be more aggressive with Phillips' blitzing version of the 3-4 alignment that worked so well at San Diego last season. If the new coaches can keep this team together, the Cowboys will be in contention come December.

* 3. Washington: Owner Daniel Snyder has a history of throwing money at the free-agent market, but last spring he and his woebegone franchise took a quiet approach. The Redskins are gambling that young quarterback Jason Campbell can grow into a reliable starter and running back Clinton Portis can rebound from an injury-plagued 2006. The few changes the team made were on defense, where Washington tumbled to 31st in the league last season. London Fletcher arrives from Buffalo to shore up the linebacking corps, and Fred Smoot could help a secondary that needs cornerback Shawn Springs to come back strong.

* 4. New York Giants: The hot seat doesn't get any hotter than in New York, where defensive star Michael Strahan just ended his holdout Friday and prematurely retired running back Tiki Barber took some shots at his former team from the broadcast booth. On the field, Coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning face a defining season. Coughlin shook up the coaching staff after barely holding on to his job last winter, and Manning must improve his accuracy, running the offense without Barber in the backfield. It appears the Giants will use two backs, Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns, to fill the void. On defense, second-year player Mathias Kiwanuka has been shifted off the line to linebacker.

-- David Wharton

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