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Crystal Ballin 2022: Nfc East Edition


From year to year, the NFC East is one of the most unique and unpredictable divisions. Since 2010, each team has finished in first at least once (Giants). Both Philadelphia and Dallas won four times and three for Washington.

No team has taken the lead in back to back years since the Eagles did so in 2003-2004 - and I believe this trend will continue in 2022...

That being said, I will now be taking out my crystal ball and informing you all precisely how this upcoming season will play out.

If you guys enjoy this series, please let me know! I'd love to see any sort of feedback - be it questions, critique or suggestions! Thanks for reading and have an awesome day!

Note: All win totals are current as of the time of this writing via DraftKings Sportsbook


4. Washington Commanders

Washington has fallen in a big way since 2020 where they had an elite defense and made the playoffs with Taylor Heinicke.

The Commanders made a trade to bring in former NFC East quarterback, Carson Wentz. He played well last year (62% completion for over 3,500 yards with 27 touchdowns and 7 interceptions) despite how the season ended. Washington's roster will definitely be a downgrade and although Wentz has shown that 2017 season is behind him, he can still be the role of a solid starter in this league.

Washington did draft Sam Howell in the fifth round, but one would assume that Washington would sit him until they deem him 100% ready to go.

Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic will be joined in the backfield by rookie third round pick Brian Robinson Jr. from Alabama.

Gibson has great talent, but his injury history and the re-signing of pass catching specialist McKissic basically spells the end for any hopes of a three down workhorse role.

Robinson is a physical bruiser who should work his way into playing time as well.

Terry McLaurin is an underrated wideout who received his big payday (3 years, up to $71 million). Similar to Allen Robinson, McLaurin has played his career with average at best quarterback play, yet continues to put up top receiver stats.

He's joined by Penn State's Jahan Dotson, Washington's top draft pick in the first round. He brings a small, but explosive and dynamic game to the offense and should be monitored by opposing defensive coordinators each week. Agile but often injured veteran Curtis Samuel and second year receiver Dyami Brown are also poised for playing time.

Despite the 22nd ranked finish in total defense for the 2021 season, Washington still rosters one of the best front fours in the league. Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen is a group of players who can annihilate the opposing quarterback from any angle. Although he missed 8 games last year, linebacker Jamin Davis improved as he gained experience. Davis should prove to be a stud in the middle of this defense in 2022.

The secondary looks to be pretty solid, as Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III lock down the cornerback spots, with Kamren Curl and Bobby McCain start at safety with rookie Percy Butler learning behind them.

2021 Record: 7-10

With a wildcard Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, banged up Antonio Gibson and up and down defense, the Commanders finished the season pretty average. Disappointing, but not very surprising.

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2022 Key Performer: QB Carson Wentz

The numbers Carson Wentz puts up this year won't be as efficient as with the Colts, but he'll prove to be an upgrade over Heinicke, and should be enough to keep Wentz's career as a starting quarterback alive and well.

323/525 (61.5%) 3,517 yards 25 TDs 10 INTs

2022 Over/Under: 8

I can see Wentz having a good season, but the schedule and lack of true efficiency (both offensively and defensively) will keep this team from much success this year

Crystal Ball Says: 4-13


3. New York Giants

This is a team who is currently in between the "rebuilding" and "trying to compete" phase. Daniel Jones has shown flashes of game breaking ability (his 80 yard run in 2020, for instance), but for every impressive game he has, Jones seemingly book ends that with a few awful performances. Between his passing and rushing stats, Jones has 50 total touchdowns, with 65 combined turnovers in his three years so far. He needs to break out and cut down on turnovers this year if he wants to remain New York's starting quarterback.

Saquon Barkley is an absolute game changer... when he's healthy. He's a terrific runner and receiver who can take the pressure off of Jones and is dynamic in open space. Since being drafted in 2018, Barkley has suffered a high ankle sprain, torn ACL, sprained MCL and a low ankle injury. The latter occurred in 2021, forcing him to miss four games in the middle of the season. He's been an injury risk to be sure, but when he's healthy, Saquon Barkley is one of the best running backs in the NFL.

The Giants have a rather unique receiver room. Kadarius Toney is extremely fast and can make defenders miss with the ball in his hands. Kenny Golladay is a former star who has incredible size and still has talent. Sterling Shepard tore his Achilles last December, so he will most likely miss a good portion of the 2022 season. This could up opportunities for a pair of rookies the team drafted. Wan'Dale Robinson was taken in the second round over a few stud prospects. He's another receiver with speed, but far from a complete player. Tight end Daniel Bellinger could see targets over the middle early on with Shepard gone. There's pretty much no competition at the position, so Bellinger should be able to make his mark as a rookie.

Evan Neal was a great upgrade in the draft's initial round, and should pair nicely with Andrew Thomas to keep Daniel Jones upright.

Justin Ellis, Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence make for a solid trio on the defensive line. Eliis was signed from the Ravens to replace Austin Johnson, who left in free agency. Eliis isn't known for rushing the passer from the inside (as his 0.5 sack total from 8 years in the league shows) but he's a nice run defender.

Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence is a pretty strong pairing on the line as well. Both men are a handful for opposing linemen and should open up pass rushing opportunity for the two studs New York has coming in off the edge.

I'm a huge fan of edge rusher Azeez Ojulari. He should be able to truly break through this year and enter into the double digits when it comes to sacks. He had a career high 2.5 takedowns of the quarterback against Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker and the Carolina Panthers in week 7, contributing to New York's 25-3 victory.

In the draft, the Giants were lucky to have Kayvon Thibodeaux fall to them at the fifth pick. The rookie will be an instant starter opposite Ojulari and they will only help each other out. Offensive coordinators gameplanning to stop them both will be having fits, as I can see both players racking up 10+ sacks this season.

That edge rushing duo will only make life easier for the back end, and they sure will need it after the team released lock down cornerback James Bradberry to avoid his $21 million cap hit. Adoree Jackson is a solid starter who will likely pair with Aaron Robinson to open the season. Behind them is third round rookie Cor'Dale Flott and Rodarius Williams (coming off an ACL tear). More than likely we will see the trio of Jackson, Robinson and Flott for most of the season.

The safety position looks decent, with Xavier McKinney and Julian Love holding down the starting spots after the team let go of Logan Ryan and Jabril Peppers this offseason. McKinney is a young stud and Love is a decent veteran option. The Giants also added rookie Dane Belton in the fourth round to learn from the pair.

2021 Record: 4-13

The Giants were a lost team in 2021, as they only saw an up and down Daniel Jones for 11 games, and their top offensive weapon Saquon Barkley missed a chunk of the season as well. Mike Glennnon and Jake Fromm didn't inspire any confidence, as the team went 0-6 to close out the season with those two getting the playing time.

2022 Key Performer: EDGE Azeez Ojulari

Ojulari led the team in sacks in 2021 with 8.0. As the edge rusher gains more experience and rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux comes along in the pros, I believe that stats increase this season and Azeez Ojulari becomes a name people start to recognize as one of the best young pass rushers in the league.

62 Tackles, 12.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

2022 Over/Under: 7

New York isn't a team I'd place any kind of Super Bowl bet on (although at +10000, that would be a pretty sweet payout), but I wouldn't count out an average season record-wise for a team usually associated with being a bottom tier team. The pass rush should lead this squad and if Barkley can stay healthy, you never know...

Crystal Ball Says: 8-9


2. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are always an interesting team to discuss, as Jerry Jones and company have high expectations year after year... and many football fans hate their guts.

Admittedly I'm not one of those fans, and I'll give credit where it is due: I believe this is a "good" team and Dak Prescott is a "very good" quarterback. I just don't think they are "great". Prescott did have a great season coming off of his 2020 injury where he had a compound fracture and dislocated his right ankle. With his statline of 4,449 yards 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, it marks a career high in passing scores and a second best yardage total of his career. He does lose a couple pieces entering 2022 but we'll get into that later.

Ezekiel Elliott looks to bounce back into his old form this year as well. Zeke began the season tremendously, averaging 90 rushing yards and scoring five touchdowns in the first five weeks of the season. Unfortunately Elliott began showing up frequently on the injury report with rib and knee issues and later revealed that he played through the majority of the season with a partially torn PCL in his knee. Although he said it didn't require surgery, the hot rumor regarding the Dallas offense in 2022 is the increased workload of Zeke's backup Tony Pollard.

CeeDee Lamb has all the potential (and all the opportunity) in the world to break out and solidify himself as a top 5 wide receiver in the league. With Amari Cooper gone, Michael Gallup missing a chunk of the season recovering from his ACL tear, and recent free agent signing James Washington gone for 6-10 weeks with a foot fracture, the pressure to perform will be immense for Lamb, tight end Dalton Schultz and rookie receiver Jalen Tolbert (who I believe in as a late round steal in fantasy football).

The defense gave up the 14th most yards last season, made offenses pay by forcing the most turnovers as well. This high risk, high reward play is a very risky tactic that only makes Dallas that much more intriguing to watch.

Demarcus Lawrence and free agent signing Dante Fowler Jr. are a pair of defensive ends who aren't going to destroy offenses, but are solid up front. They can hold it down and contain the run while getting a push at the quarterback every now and then. Neville Gallimore should help from the inside, as he only played in five games a year ago.

2021 Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons should improve after more time preparing for the season. He was the heart and soul of this team last year, and his statline of 84 tackles, 13 sacks and 3 forced fumbles absolutely owned opposing offenses at times. He can rush the passer, cover receivers and lay the big hits when needed. A do-it-all stud like that is invaluable to a defense. Leighton Vander Esch has lost steam since his great rookie season but I still see last year's 4th round pick Jabril Cox as an underused and highly underrated depth piece and future starting linebacker.

Cornerback Trevon Diggs was simultaneously the best cornerback in the league and the worst at times based on statistics. He tied the franchise record of 11 interceptions in a season, but also gave up 907 yards and 5 scores as well which ranked dead last for most yards given up by a defender - 42 more than second place.

Anthony Brown pairs with Diggs again this year and is a solid number two. Behind those two is Jourdan Lewis, Kelvin Joseph, fifth round rookie DaRon Bland and Nahshon Wright. Donovan Wilson and Jayron Kearse will start at the safety spots for this secondary, with Malik Hooker as a solid depth piece.

2021 Record: 12-5

Last year obviously didn't end how they hoped, as they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Dallas has the talent to move further than that but we'll see if they can finally live up to the hype.

2022 Key Performer: RB Tony Pollard

I believe Zeke will be healthy this year - but I also believe Mike McCarthy won't want to risk giving him a full workload. Pollard saw more playing time last season and I expect him to receive even more in 2022. Between replacing Elliott when he's tired, being the main back on 3rd downs or playing in the slot, Tony Pollard is going to get plenty of opportunities with the ball in his hands and he will make the most of it.

146 rushes 803 yards 4 TDs, 56 receptions 437 yards 2 TDs

2022 Over/Under: 10

This team has high expectations this season and no doubt they have the talent to deliver... but this is the Dallas Cowboys and I believe they fall short of both the hype and projected win total.

Crystal Ball Says: 9-8


1. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have had an undeniably great offseason where nearly the entire roster has been overhauled and weaknesses have been fixed. Between a great draft class to some great free agent signings and trades, Philadelphia is on the rise and might not have a ceiling.

Jalen Hurts definitely struggled in his first full season as a starter. We saw some flashes of potential, but that was also mixed with inaccurate passes and poor play in general. Hurts ended the season completing 61.3% of his throws for 3,144 yards, 16 touchdowns and 9 picks. Despite his mediocrity through the air, using his legs is where Hurts did the majority of his damage. He led the Eagles in rushing with 784 yards and 10 scores on the ground... an extremely dangerous threat to have at quarterback. He enters the season as a 24 year old with upgraded pieces all around him and should only improve.

Miles Sanders is a good running back who seems to get injured and underutilized at the same time. He is good as both a runner and receiver, but we wouldn't know that based on his stats. There were only two games where Sanders received five or more targets in the passing game. I understand that it's mostly because of the way Hurts plays, but this team should make a more concerted effort to get the ball into Sanders' hands moving forward. There is good depth behind him with Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott.

The trade for A.J. Brown from Tennessee sent shockwaves through the league during the draft. Giving up a mid first round pick and a third rounder for a big bodied, dominate receiver is a no brainer in today's NFL. On top of that, Brown was able to sign the deal he was looking for (4 year extension worth $100 million with $57 million guaranteed). While A.J. Brown has dealt with his own injury issues, he is one of the best young receivers in the game when healthy and should help Hurts break out this season.

Last year's top draft pick for the Eagles, DeVonta Smith will now slide into the number two role which will only help the undersized wideout as he will face lower quality cornerbacks and should thrive if the offense takes the next step. Quez Watkins is the third guy who lives off of speed. His threat to take any target the house will keep defenses on their toes as he always needs to be accounted for on every play.

Dallas Goedert is a very good tight end, as he racked up over 800 yards last year and is a high quality blocker as well.

Philadelphia received a major boost to their defense this offseason in multiple areas. The 13th overall pick brought them the freak of a man Jordan Davis. His 40 yard dash and a little bit of game film is all you need to see to know he will make a major impact for this front four. He joins a very deep position group that includes Fletcher Cox (legendary Eagle with 58 career sacks), Javon Hargrave (7.5 sacks last season), Josh Sweat (7.5 sacks last season), veteran Brandon Graham (8 sacks in 2020 before missing most of last year), and Derek Barnett. The depth of this front four is reminiscent of the 2017 Super Bowl team.

The Eagles added both Haason Reddick and rookie Nakobe Dean to the linebacker room. Reddick is a great pass rusher, picking up double digit sacks in the last two seasons... on two different teams. He looks to extend that to three this season. Nakobe Dean was a Georgia Bulldog who many (including myself) had graded as a first round pick. He dropped down to the third due to injury concerns regarding his knee. These two along with the underrated Kyzir White join a linebacker room also has T.J. Edwards - a solid run defender.

James Bradberry was signed after being cut by the division rival Giants. He pairs with Darius Slay to form one of the best duos this franchise has seen in years. Avonte Maddox is a reliable third corner but there isn't much behind the trio.

Anthony Harris is a solid veteran safety, but the team should look to add another starter opposite him. As it stands, it will be a battle between K'Von Wallace and Marcus Epps for the other safety spot.

2021 Record: 9-8

The Eagles were very much just an average team last year until week 10. The team sat at 3-6, but proceeded to go 6-2 (including week 18 where the team rested their starters in a loss to the Cowboys) to end the year and capture the 7th seed in the NFC. They up getting knocked out immediately by Tampa Bay, 31-15 but the that late season rally gave the team something to look forward to for the future.

2022 Key Performer: QB Jalen Hurts

Hurts didn't play particularly well last season, but he wasn't awful. Another year of experience under his belt and a legit WR1 in A.J. Brown can only improve his outlook moving forward.

304/479 (63.5%) 3,544 yards 23 TDs 10 INTs, 728 rushing yards 8 TDs

2022 Over/Under: 9.5

It's stating the obvious, but potential ceiling on this team all comes down to the improvement we see from Jalen Hurts. If he regresses, we could see Gardner Minshew take the field and potentially a new quarterback in 2023. If Hurts takes the next step... well... anything is possible...

Crystal Ball Says: 10-7

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