By Joseph Santoliquito

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles were 5-1 against their NFC East rivals last year and probably could have finished 6-0, if they cared a smidgen about the final game versus the Cowboys.

But they also received a few breaks against the Redskins, Giants and Cowboys, who combined to go 32-15-1 in 2016. One glaring area for the Giants and Cowboys was playing without stars Odell Beckham Jr., who missed the majority of the season with an injury, and Ezekiel Elliott, who missed six games for the Cowboys, serving a suspension, with one of those games being a pivotal Nov. 19 game against the Eagles.

The Eagles will be favored to win the NFC East, which would be a first since actually the Eagles last did it in 2003 and again 2004. But the Giants are a better team, possibly far better than their 3-13 finish last year.

If any team could topple the Eagles in the NFC East, it may be the Giants. Tackle Nate Solder, a staple on the Patriots for years, and guard Patrick Omameh, who signed a three-year deal worth $15 million to leave Jacksonville, are certainly quality additions to an offensive line that was decimated by injuries last year.

Also, rookie guard Will Hernandez could be a solid piece to a team that will pound the ball with future star Saquon Barkley, who promises to be a headache to any defense charged with stopping the former Penn State standout.

Eli Manning is a future Hall of Famer, and though he is on the downside of his career at 37, having the ROP threat of Barkley and a healthy Beckham, in new coach Pat Shurmur’s system could mean some trouble for the Eagles twice this coming season.

The huge, gaping hole that will challenge the Giants is repairing a defense that finished 31st in the NFL last year, giving up a whopping 373.2 yards a game last season. You’ll have to excuse Nick Foles and Carson Wentz for salivating over a Giants’ pass defense that gave up 252.4 yards a game passing and were 27th in the NFL against the run, surrendering 120.8 yards a game to opponents on the ground.

Here’s where Barkley comes in. The Giants play a ball-control game, which they’ll be forced to anyway considering their defensive holes, behind Barkley and the revamped offensive line.

Do they have a shot against the Eagles?

Not really. But with Barkley, they could pose the biggest threat.

In Dallas, Dak Prescott has no one proven to throw to, and Jason Garrett better win something this season, or he may be gone, while in Washington, the Redskins may have taken a step down moving from quarterback Kirk Cousins to Alex Smith. Also, while the Giants had their issues against the run, the Redskins were the worst in the NFL, giving up an average of 134.1 yards rushing a game—in a division that now had Barkley, Elliott and Jay Ajayi.

Does anyone have a realistic chance of winning the NFC East this coming season other the Eagles, Nah. In fact, with Rams, Vikings, Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars and Texans on the schedule, an occasional visit from an NFC East team may be quite welcome in 2018.

Joseph Santoliquito