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East Division

In order of predicted finish (2008 record)

September 03, 2009|Sam Farmer

New York Giants (12-4)

Big questions: Do the Giants have the field-stretching receivers to fill the vacancies left by Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer? Can battering ram Brandon Jacobs stay healthy, especially now that backup Derrick Ward isn't around? How much of a difference will it make getting defensive end Osi Umenyiora back? If there was a benefit to his absence, it was the emergence of Justin Tuck as a leader.

Big moves: New York bolstered its receiving corps by drafting Hakeem Nicks (first round) and Ramses Barden (third). The Giants also did some serious defensive shopping in free agency, signing linemen Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, and linebacker Michael Boley.

Bottom line: With former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo now coaching the St. Louis Rams, the Giants' biggest challenge might be filling that sideline void. Eli Manning has proven 2007 was no fluke and that he's enough of a leader to take the club where it wants to go.

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Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1)

Big questions: How is Philadelphia going to use Michael Vick? What is the defense going to be like minus coordinator Jim Johnson, who died in July, injured middle linebacker Stewart Bradley and departed safety Brian Dawkins? The team has a revamped offensive line, including Pro Bowl addition Jason Peters, but the group has barely spent any playing time together because of injuries.

Big moves: After years of concentrating on the big men up front, the Eagles have turned their attention to skill-position players, adding Vick, signing a true fullback in Leonard Weaver, and drafting receiver Jeremy Maclin in the first round and running back LeSean McCoy in the second.

Bottom line: The Eagles, playing in the league's toughest division, look good enough to make a playoff push, but first they have to survive their regular season. Check out this killer stretch: at Redskins, Giants, Cowboys, at Chargers, at Bears, Redskins, at Falcons, at Giants.

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Dallas Cowboys (9-7)

Big questions: Now that they've tried to improve chemistry in the locker room, are the Cowboys finally ready to make a playoff run? Assuming he can stay healthy, will Felix Jones make good on the promise he showed as a rookie last season? Is this Tony Romo's year to prove he can win a postseason game? Will former Detroit receiver Roy Williams live up to his whopping price tag?

Big moves: The Cowboys did some major shuffling, getting rid of Terrell Owens, Greg Ellis and safety Williams, and bringing in defenders Keith Brooking, Igor Olshansky and Gerald Sensabaugh, and a very capable backup to Romo in Jon Kitna.

Bottom line: With the distractions of Jessica Simpson and T.O. out of the picture, the Cowboys have no more excuses. It's time for them to prove they have more than warning-track power and can make a push in December. Wade Phillips will be acting as his own defensive coordinator, and there's a comfort level there.

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Washington Redskins (8-8)

Big questions: Will Coach Jim Zorn and quarterback Jason Campbell rebound from last season's mirror-image collapse -- 6-2 in the first half, 2-6 in the second? Was the blockbuster signing of Albert Haynesworth money well spent, or another of Dan Snyder's fantasy-football failures? What kind of impact will the pursuit of quarterback Jay Cutler have on Campbell's confidence?

Big moves: The acquisition of defensive tackle Haynesworth was the big deal, but not the only risk. The Redskins also signed condo-size tackle Mike Williams, hoping he can salvage his once-promising career.

Bottom line: What began as a very promising season started heading south when their offensive line broke down. Washington has some excellent offensive players in running back Clinton Portis and tight end Chris Cooley, and a defense that could be one of the better units in the league. Now, it's a matter of going from good on paper to good on the field.

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