The NFC East was historically bad in 2020, but it just might offer one of the NFL's most competitive division races in 2021. Why? Because every single team -- the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles and Washington -- is primed to improve this year. And yet we'd be remiss if we didn't note that all four NFC East contenders also have glaring question marks.
With that in mind, here's a look at one major burning question for each team in the East entering 2021:
Cowboys: Will Dak Prescott return to form and stay healthy?
A lot of people are making a couple of big assumptions about the Cowboys: 1.) That Prescott, who was on pace to be an MVP candidate before breaking his ankle in 2020, will have a seamless transition back into the lineup; and 2.) That Dallas' talent on paper will translate to on-field results. The latter is seemingly an annual issue in Arlington, where the Cowboys have struggled to hit their perceived ceiling regardless of who's manning the sidelines. But the biggest X factor regarding the 2021 team remains Prescott.
The defense may or may not be improved under new coordinator Dan Quinn, who comes in with a high-energy centerpiece in first-rounder Micah Parsons. And Dallas still owns one of the NFL's best skill groups, with Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb giving them elite play-makers. But none of it matters if Prescott isn't himself after a long recovery from the ankle injury. Not only that, but he's also got to stay healthy behind an aging offensive line. There's still the matter of whether video-game production from Prescott even equates to consistent victories (see: early 2020), but the best chance Dallas has at finally living up to first-place hype is keeping No. 4 upright and comfortable.
Giants: Can Daniel Jones ace his (final) audition?
It's probably a bit early to say Jones is definitely out as New York's quarterback if he doesn't shine in 2021. But the Giants will have a decision to make regarding the young gun's fifth-year option after this year, and the reality is they won't be true challengers this fall unless Danny Dimes takes a sizable step forward. General manager Dave Gettleman delivered on promises to surround Jones with more talent this offseason, adding Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Kyle Rudolph while also bolstering an underrated defense. And yet it's up to No. 8 to navigate a still-iffy pocket and cut down on the silly mistakes to make this team a winner.
Jones probably doesn't get enough credit for the talent he showcased as a rookie, but aside from scrambling, his numbers were thoroughly uninspiring in 2020. There will certainly be eyes on those around him: Can Golladay stay healthy and live up to his big payday? Will Leonard Williams keep feasting under his own new deal? Can Saquon Barkley revive All-Pro praise after a lost season? But like the Cowboys (and, frankly, most teams in the NFL), the Giants need their signal-caller to be more than serviceable if they have the playoffs in mind.
Eagles: How will the new HC-QB duo work together?
For a team a few years removed from a Super Bowl win and a few months removed from axing its title-winning coach and former MVP-candidate QB, the Eagles sure seem to be flying under the radar. That's probably because their new QB-head coach duo is a relatively understated one. Jalen Hurts, the presumptive QB1 after a four-game stint as Carson Wentz's replacement, has a reserved persona, may or may not be the long-term answer and hasn't gotten a full endorsement from his own team. Meanwhile, Nick Sirianni may have gone viral for his excitable press conferences as Doug Pederson's successor, but he's still a first-time head man with limited coordinator experience and an unprecedentedly young staff.
The Eagles quietly have some decent pieces on both sides of the ball. First-rounder DeVonta Smith instantly enters as the new No. 1 wideout. Miles Sanders is back in full health. Veteran defenders like Brandon Graham, Darius Slay and former Vikings safety Anthony Harris are solid. But how will Hurts and Sirianni work together? Can the latter tailor his system to the former's strengths as a QB on the move? Can Hurts seize the opportunity and prove he's more than a guinea pig preceding the team's "real" succession plan under center? If the youth movement here pans out, Philly could easily find itself in the playoff hunt sooner rather than later.
Washington: Can Ryan Fitzpatrick last a full season?
Ron Rivera's club has a case to be considered the NFC East favorite going into 2021. This team, remember, won the division relying almost solely on a dominant front four in 2020, what with the overly conservative Alex Smith headlining a QB carousel on the road to a playoff appearance. And there are plenty of reasons, with Smith gone, to have even higher hopes. Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown bring more pop to a skill group already featuring Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin, Jamin Davis and William Jackson III bring upside to an already stout "D," and most of all, Fitzpatrick ups the team's ceiling tremendously with his gunslinging approach at QB.
But this is still Fitzpatrick we're talking about. His fun factor is indisputable. But he'll be 39 in November. He last played a full season in 2015, with the Jets. And his gung-ho style has made him as susceptible to game-breaking plays as game-losing ones. Again, he's a clear upgrade over Smith in that he has the moxie and arm talent to guide Washington further into the postseason. But there's a reason Washington made just a one-year bet on him. He's a short-term fix, and even then, an inherently risky one.