It's NFC East preview time, which means it's time for everyone's favorite statistic about the division: the NFC East has had 18 consecutive seasons without a repeat division champion. Andy Reid's and Donovan McNabb's 2001-04 Philadelphia Eagles were the last group to win this division in back-to-back years.
The 2023 season is as good as any for this streak to end since the defending division champion Eagles return much of a squad that went 14-3 and narrowly lost Super Bowl LVII by a field goal, 38-35, against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. General manager Howie Roseman also pulled off many value-adding transactions in the 2023 NFL Draft in addition to locking down face-of-the-franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts on a new long-term deal, five years for $255 million.
The Dallas Cowboys, the 2021 NFC East champion, put up an identical 12-5 record in 2022 with a worse offense and a better defense than they had in 2021. The offense could catch up to their top-five defense in 2023 with a healthy Dak Prescott and Michael Gallup, now back in his ideal role as WR3 after the addition of Brandin Cooks as the Robin to CeeDee Lamb's Batman.
The New York Giants are building a strong defensive formation, and they did a solid job in upgrading Daniel Jones' support cast by trading for Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller in a deal with the Raiders, drafting Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, and taking a flier on oft-injured speedster Parris Campbell. The second-round selection of Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz Jr. should be a noticeable upgrade in the middle of their offensive line. However, it's unclear if the Giants have the ability to overcome the top contenders in this division, the Eagles and the Cowboys, after going 0-5 against them a year ago, including a horrendous 38-7 NFC divisional round playoff defeat in Philadelphia. Jones likely needs one or two more talented pass-catchers to close the gap offensively.
The Washington Commanders are taking steps in the right direction with the hiring of associate head coach and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, but 2022 fifth-round quarterback Sam Howell is an unknown, having played one career game, and journeyman Jacoby Brissett is a number of notches below Hurts' and Prescott's abilities. However, they did field a top-10 scoring defense without 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young. He's expected to be healthy entering his contract year in 2023. Both Washington and New York have the same issue: not enough offensive firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Eagles and Cowboys.
With that in mind, here's a look at each of the two true contenders for the 2023 NFC East title, the Eagles and Cowboys, and why each could come out on top.
The Eagles have the most complete roster in football, rich in depth up and down the roster like Scrooge McDuck is with money.
They lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to the San Francisco 49ers on a four-year, $84 million contract, but general manager Howie Roseman maneuvered his way up one spot from the 10th to the ninth overall spot in the 2023 NFL Draft by sending a 2024 fourth-rounder to the Chicago Bears. That's where they selected Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who was once the draft's highest-touted prospect prior to legal issues. The rest of the Eagles' starters from a unit that led the NFL in sacks (70) have otherwise all returned. Philadelphia's offensive line is similarly buttressed with 2022 second round pick Cam Jurgens sliding into the right guard spot vacated by Isaac Seumalo's departure to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since the Eagles still possess one of the NFL's best lines on each side of the ball, they're once again in position to dominate their opposition. MVP runner-up quarterback Jalen Hurts' contract situation being resolved early locks the Eagles into a position of stability offensively that should allow their passing game, entering Year 2 with Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Brown, to continue to make strides to catch up to their dominant ground game -- now led by trade acquisition D'Andre Swift and former first-round running back free-agent signee Rashaad Penny. This will be Hurts' third season as a full-time starting quarterback. All the pieces are present for another strong season in Philadelphia.
The Cowboys under head coach Mike McCarthy have been winning in the regular season like it's the 1990s again: consecutive seasons with 12 victories in 2021 (12-5) and 2022 (12-5), with quarterback Dak Prescott playing 12 or more games each season. The last two seasons marked the first consecutive Dallas seasons with 12 or more wins since the 1992-95 seasons, when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four years with Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin leading the way. In the 2021 season, that was good enough to make them NFC East champions. Last season it wasn't, since the Eagles went an unrelenting 14-3.
However, there's plenty of reasons why the Cowboys could retake the division crown in 2023. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones made some smart moves this offseason, trading late-round picks for quality veterans who can plug key roster roles. He did so in the deals to acquire wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Both are already making an impact on their new Cowboys teammates in their roles as the team's and . These moves were made on top of retaining just about all of their key defensive players from a unit that allowed the fifth-fewest points (20.1 points per game) in the NFL in 2022. Dallas also finally crowned following the release of the fading Ezekiel Elliott.
Then, Dallas had a safe, down the fairway 2023 NFL Draft by filling in remaining needs at defensive tackle, tight end, linebacker, defensive end and running back. While their pick of Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith wasn't the greatest value add at that spot, it's a selection that should aid two-time First-Team All-Pro Micah Parsons' full-embrace of the defensive end position in the upcoming season. Their biggest value picks -- third-round Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, fourth-round San Jose State defensive end Viliami Fehoko Jr., and sixth-round Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn -- could all contribute as nice depth pieces in 2023 and factor into the Cowboys' longer-term plans in a bigger capacity down the line.
Dallas enters the 2023 regular season with a much-improved roster compared to the one they had at this time a year ago. The improved support for Dak Prescott in the passing game between Cooks' arrival and number three receiver Michael Gallup feeling "" being further removed from his torn ACL should lead to better efficiency and fewer interceptions with those two alongside 2022 second-team All-Pro CeeDee Lamb. Gilmore's arrival should be critical in shoring up the Cowboys' . These upgrades along the margins could make all the difference for Dallas in their efforts to regain the NFC East throne.