Eliot Shorr-Parks
NJ.com for NJ Advance Media

Coming off of a 13-3 season, led by a young quarterback in Dak Prescott and a young running back in Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys should run away with the NFC East this season, right?
Nope.
Is history sticks, the Cowboys won't be winning the NFC East, since no team has won the division two seasons in a row since 2004.
So can the Eagles be the 2017 NFC East champion?
Here is a look at why it is more likely than you think.

COWBOYS ARE PRIMED FOR A LET DOWN
Let's start with the rest of the division -- and why the Cowboys likely won't repeat.
Outside of just history not being on their side, there are a few reasons the Cowboys are primed for a letdown.
Last season, the Cowboys played a schedule that was based on their 4-12 record in 2015. Now, they will get a 2017 schedule that is based off of their 13-3 record last season. So their path to another division crown will not be easy.
The Cowboys have also had trouble maintaining success. Since 1996, the Cowboys have won 10 or more games six times. Their average record the following season? 6-10.
Combine history not being on their side with the fact the Cowboys have lost nine free agents this offseason, and it seems Dallas is primed for a big let down.

REDSKINS SEEM LIKE A MESS WAITING TO HAPPEN
In the NFL, a team is as good as it's quarterback. The Washington Redskins have a good one in Kirk Cousins. The issue is, how long will they have him?
The situation in Washington is not a good one, as they won't commit to Cousins on a long-term deal, and he is likely counting down the days until he can bolt for San Francisco.
If the Redskins sign Cousins, things could turn around. But for now, this team feels like a disaster waiting to happen.

THE GIANTS CAN'T BEAT THE EAGLES WHEN IT MATTERS
The Giants look like a team that will be a problem for the Eagles. They have improved their already strong receiving unit by adding Brandon Marshall. Their defensive line is stacked. They have a quarterback in Eli Manning that has shown he can play, at times, at an elite level.
The issue? The Eagles own the Giants.
The Giants have beaten the Eagles just once in the last three seasons, and that was a five-point win at MetLife last season. The Eagles, however, beat the Giants when things counted last season, taking a key Week 16 game at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Giants need to show they can beat the Eagles -- especially when it counts.

THE DEFENSIVE LINE
The Eagles have one of the best defensive ends in the league in Brandon Graham. They have one of the best defensive tackles in Fletcher Cox -- and they might have two of the best now that Timmy Jernigan was added.
In addition to those three, the Eagles could end up getting serious contributions from veteran Chris Long, rookie Derek Barnett and fifth-year Vinny Curry. All three have the talent to potentially contribute eight-or-more sacks. This unit isn't only the best on the team, but it has the potential to be the best defensive lines in the league.
If the Eagles make the playoffs in 2017, it will be behind the play of the defensive line -- and the unit has the talent to do just that.

THE CORNERBACKS WERE BAD LAST YEAR TOO
Now, for the Eagles. Let's start with their biggest weakness -- the cornerback position.
There is no denying the Eagles cornerbacks were bad last season, and the team clearly agreed, as they let both Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll go.
Despite the poor cornerback play, the Eagles still finished in the top half of the NFL last season (13th) against the pass.
No, the Eagles didn't do much to address their cornerback position this offseason. The starters -- Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson -- might be the worst duo in the league.
The reality is, however, that the cornerback play this season can really only go up from last season. It is tough to envision a scenario where Mills and Robinson are worse than McKelvin and Carroll.

SECOND YEAR FOR DOUG AND HIS STAFF
The Eagles were not expected to be good last season. They were not, however, as bad as everyone expected.
Finishing 7-9 in a season with a rookie head coach in Doug Pederson and a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz should not be over looked. That is an impressive accomplishment.
Now, the Eagles come back in 2017 with a duo in Pederson and Wentz that have a full season under their belt. The duo has already experienced the bumps-and-bruises of adjusting to their new jobs, and they did it together.
The Eagles will be better in 2017 for having gone through 2016 with rookies at arguably the biggest jobs on a football team -- the quarterback and the head coach.

THIRD DOWNS
The Eagles' record last season would have been a lot better had they been able to convert a few key third-or-fourth downs -- especially in the division.
Their was the failed screen-pass to running back Darren Sproles in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on the road last season. There was the bad play call against the Giants on the road, when on 4th down Pederson sent Wentz on a roll to the outside in an attempt to get the first down. There was the huge fumble by running back Ryan Mathews late in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions.
If two of those big plays go the Eagles way, the team might have been in the playoffs.

The Eagles feel they have addressed their need to improve in short-yardage situations by adding running back LeGarrette Blount, and they might be right. Blount was one of the best running backs in the NFL last season in short-yardage situations, as he averaged a whopping 5.4 yards-per-carry on short-yardage situations, most in the NFL, and exactly twice what the Eagles' running backs averaged.
Blount potentially converting a few key third downs will go a long way in helping the Eagles capture the NFC East next season.

ALSHON JEFFERY AND THE RECEIVERS
It can be debated just how good new Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery is. He might be the worst No. 1 receiver in the NFC East.
What is he, however, without question? A big upgrade for the Eagles.
The Eagles receivers were a mess last season. Their top options on the outside -- Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor -- might have been the worst duo in the NFL. Agholor was even benched for a late-season game against the Green Bay Packers.
Now, the Eagles come back with a retooled and redone receiving core, featuring not only Jeffery, but also veteran Torrey Smith and two rookies in Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson. Jeffery has shown he has Pro Bowl ability when healthy, as he has topped 1,000 yards both seasons he has played 16 games in his career.
If he can play at the level he is capable of, Jeffery will change the Eagles' offense in a big way, and will be a player opposing secondaries have to worry about -- something the Eagles didn't have last season.

CARSON WENTZ
As mentioned above, an NFL team is as good as their quarterback.
Wentz is the top reason the Eagles could be division winners next season.
Forget the underwhelming stats last season -- anyone who watched Wentz knows he showed flashes of greatness last season. He can make any throw on the field, he is mobile, he is lethal before the snap and can win from the pocket.
Now, with a season under his belt and some new weapons on offense, Wentz is primed for a big step forward this season.
If he can be more consistent than last season, Wentz has the tools and the talent to lead the Eagle to the NFC East crown.


Now comes the blood sweat and tears .