Nfl Preview 2004

The League

September 09, 2004|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN STAFF

DIVISION PREVIEW

NFC EAST

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

1 -- PRESEASON PICK

Coach: Andy Reid (56-33), sixth season with Eagles.

Last season: 12-4, first place. Lost NFC championship game to Carolina, 14-3.

Burning question

Will WR Terrell Owens push the Eagles over the top or off the ledge?

Must-do project

The Eagles had two glaring deficiencies last year -- stopping the run and protecting QB Donovan McNabb.

Team MVP

McNabb finally has a big-play weapon in the passing game.

On the hot seat

Reid likes to spread his offensive wealth, but now he's got to find a way to keep Owens, a chronic malcontent, happy.

Upside

Even with Owens aboard, McNabb will remain the team leader on the field and in the locker room.

Downside

Three straight losses in the NFC championship game will put a lot of pressure on the whole team when the playoffs arrive.

Projection

Barring a debacle involving Owens, there's no reason the Eagles shouldn't finally get to the Super Bowl.

DALLAS COWBOYS

2 -- PRESEASON PICK

Coach: Bill Parcells (159-113-1), second season with Cowboys, 17th in NFL.

Last season: 10-6, second place. Lost wild-card game to Carolina, 29-10.

Burning question

Can immobile, 40-year-old relic Vinny Testaverde last a full season at quarterback?

Must-do project

Protect Testaverde. The Cowboys have baseball player-turned-QB Drew Henson behind him and that spells disaster.

Team MVP

SS Roy Williams has become the Cowboys' enforcer.

On the hot seat

Jettisoned by the Bucs as a big-time distraction, WR Keyshawn Johnson pleaded for the chance to play under Parcells. He got his wish.

Upside

True to his reputation, Parcells turned the team around overnight.

Downside

The offense looks hamstrung with age and inexperience.

Projection

Cutting QB Quincy Carter effectively took the Cowboys out of the Super Bowl hunt.

NEW YORK GIANTS

3 -- PRESEASON PICK

Coach: Tom Coughlin (72-64), first season with Giants, ninth in NFL.

Last season: 4-12, fourth place, under Jim Fassel.

Burning question

How many games will QB Kurt Warner get before Eli Manning nudges him to the sideline?

Must-do project

Craft a new offensive line from last year's shambles. Barry Stokes and Shaun O'Hara, both ex-Browns, are reinforcements.

Team MVP

DE Michael Strahan remains the dominant player on a defense that never found its legs a year ago.

On the hot seat

Fumble-prone RB Tiki Barber is on the clock with the intolerant Coughlin.

Upside

The Giants still have playmakers on offense -- including WR Amani Toomer and TE Jeremy Shockey -- and could regroup quickly.

Downside

Shockey was slowed in training camp by a foot injury and the defense has a long way to go to be competitive again.

Projection

Forget the postseason. This year is about waiting for Manning.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

4 -- PRESEASON PICK

Coach: Joe Gibbs (140-65), first season with Redskins since 1992, 13th in the NFL.

Last season: 5-11, third place, under Steve Spurrier.

Burning question

After an 11-year hiatus, can Gibbs pick up where he left off as one of the NFL's best coaches?

Must-do project

Re-establish the team in the hard-nosed, tough image that won for Gibbs the first time around.

Team MVP

RB Clinton Portis is the best runner Gibbs has had.

On the hot seat

Gibbs won in an era when he was able to stash players. There's no stashing with the salary cap.

Upside

QB Mark Brunell has a lot of experience and savvy, but he was in decline in Jacksonville.

Downside

Owner Dan Snyder can't keep his nose out of locker room business.

Projection

Keep an eye on the Redskins in December; that's when you'll know if Gibbs is back.

SCHEDULE

PHILADELPHIA

9-12 N.Y. Giants, 4:15 p.m.

9-20 Minnesota, 9 p.m.

9-26 at Detroit, 1 p.m.

10-3 at Chicago, 1 p.m.

10-10 Open

10-17 Carolina, 1 p.m.

10-24 at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

10-31 Ravens, 1 p.m.

11-7 at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

11-15 at Dallas, 9 p.m.

11-21 Washington, 4:15 p.m.

11-28 at N.Y. Giants, 1 p.m.

12-5 Green Bay, 4:15 p.m.

12-12 at Washington, 8:30 p.m.

12-19 Dallas, 1 p.m.

12-27 at St. Louis, 9 p.m.

1-2 Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

DALLAS

9-12 at Minnesota, 4:15 p.m.

9-19 Cleveland, 4:15 p.m.

9-27 at Washington, 9 p.m.

10-3 Open

10-10 N.Y. Giants, 1 p.m.

10-17 Pittsburgh, 4:15 p.m.

10-24 at Green Bay, 4:15 p.m.

10-31 Detroit, 1 p.m.

11-7 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

11-15 Philadelphia, 9 p.m.

11-21 at Ravens, 1 p.m.

11-25 Chicago, 4:35 p.m.

12-6 at Seattle, 9 p.m.

12-12 New Orleans, 1 p.m.

12-19 at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

12-26 Washington, 4:15 p.m.

1-2 at N.Y. Giants, 8:30 p.m.

NEW YORK GIANTS

9-12 at Philadelphia, 4:15 p.m.

9-19 Washington, 1 p.m.

9-26 Cleveland, 1 p.m.

10-3 at Green Bay, 1 p.m.

10-10 at Dallas, 1 p.m.

10-17 Open

10-24 Detroit, 1 p.m.

10-31 at Minnesota, 1 p.m.

11-7 Chicago, 4:05 p.m.

11-14 at Arizona, 4:15 p.m.

11-21 Atlanta, 4:15 p.m.

11-28 Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

12-5 at Washington, 4:15 p.m.

12-12 at Ravens, 1 p.m.

12-18 Pittsburgh, 1:30 p.m.

12-26 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

1-2 Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON

9-12 Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

9-19 at N.Y. Giants, 1 p.m.

9-27 Dallas, 9 p.m.

10-3 at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

10-10 Ravens, 8:30 p.m.

10-17 at Chicago, 1 p.m.

10-24 Open

10-31 Green Bay, 1 p.m.

11-7 at Detroit, 1 p.m.

11-14 Cincinnati, 4:05 p.m.

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