Mike Sando did an interesting post on NFC West delusions heading into both last year and this year. I thought it was a great idea and have decided to rip it off... So we're going to examine the expectations the NFC East teams had going into last year that didn't work out as well as the delusions they may have heading into this season.
Delusional 2010 Storyline - The defense would have no problem dealing with the losses. We expected Sean McDermott would step into Jim Johnson's shoes and run the defense like he had been groomed to do. We thought that the hole created by the trade for Sheldon Brown could be filled by Ellis Hobbs. None of those things proved to be true.
Post-lockout storyline to resist: Getting rid of Sean McDermott will improve everything. McDermott made his mistakes last year, but it's not fair to pin all of the defenses' problems on him. No defensive coordinator is going to make Dimitri Patterson a starting corner or turn Ernie Sims into the player Madden NFL seems to think he is. Juan Castillo can't make Stewart Bradley an injury impervious iron-man. There were serious personnel problems on the defense last year that still need to be addressed.
Delusional 2010 Storyline - The Cowboys had as much talent as any team in the NFL. This was easily the biggest delusion the Cowboys faced last year, that everyone thought they were so stocked with talent. As it turns out, they really weren't. Anthony Spencer never built on the strong finish he had to 2009. Their secondary was exposed (especially Mike Jenkins). Roy Williams wasn't poised for a breakout. They didn't really have three or four starting caliber running backs. Their vaunted pass rush ended up being just mediocre.
Post-lockout storyline to resist: Tony Romo and Jason Garrett will solve everything. This kind of relates to the 2010 delusion. While free agency may change things, Dallas hasn't done much to change the complexion of a roster that proved to be overrated last year. The Cowboys were 1-5 with Romo before he got hurt, so it's not as if his absence was the only reason they struggled last year. And while Jason Garrett will be the head coach this year, he still only finished the year 5-3, with one of those wins coming against the Eagles backups.
Delusional 2010 Storyline - Honestly, of all the teams in the division, I really had the most trouble figuring out what the Giants were most deluded about. So I reached out to Ed from Big Blue View and he cited the secondary.
In retrospect, I think the biggest 'delusion' the New York Giants might have had going into the 2010 season is that with the additions of veteran safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant, and the return of a healthy Kenny Phillips, that they had solved all of their issues in the back end of their defense. In 2009, with Phillips sidelined by a knee injury and guys like CC Brown and Aaron Rouse playing safety, the Giants were a sieve in the back. They spent a ton of money to fix that with Rolle and Grant, and counted on Phillips to return. Yet, they still surrendered 44 plays of more than 20 yards and 10 plays of more than 40 yards. That is too many for the amount of talent they have in the secondary.
Post-lockout storyline to resist: That last year was the anomaly for Eli Manning. The Giants' QB had a problem with turnovers for the first four years of his career, but then he seemed to turn a corner and dramatically cut down on the turnovers. The Giants got themselves a Superbowl partly as a result (he had one turnover in the playoffs that year). However, in 2009 they started to go back up as he turned it over 22 times (14 INTs, 8 F). Last year, it was as bad as it's ever been as he led the league in INTs and turned the ball over 30 times (often in hilarious fashion) (Really hilarious). More and more, it seems like the anomaly was 2008.
Post-lockout storyline to resist: Mike Shanahan is a great coach and will turn things around. Shanny won two Superbowls as head coach of the Broncos, 14 years ago. Since then his winning percentage is just .551. The Redskins offense marginally improved under Shanahan, but their defense got worse. They only won two more games and still finished last in the NFC East. Now, it doesn't mean we can definitively say that Shanahan doesn't know what he's doing anymore, but we can't really assume that he still does. He's been fairly mediocre since John Elway retired.