Sometimes, divisions are both won and lost by one unit on a team either dominating or self-destructing on the field.
Last year's NFC East race was a prime example, where we saw Washington's defense take over down the stretch enough to push themselves into the playoffs, while the Cowboys' defense and Eagles' offense landed them both in the top 10 of the subsequent draft.
As the 2021 NFL season rapidly approaches, here's a look at how each team's offense and defensive units stack up in the forever entertaining NFC East.
1. Washington defense
This is the group that won the division last season and they have a good chance at doing it again. All four first-round defensive linemen are back, led by phenom Chase Young. Washington added William Jackson III to the secondary through free agency and Landon Collins is expected to rejoin the safeties after a miraculous 7-and-a-half month recovery from an Achilles tear.
The only hole on this unit last year was at linebacker, so they used their first-round pick on Kentucky standout Jamin Davis. The Washington defense was elite to close the 2020 campaign and there's no reason outside of injuries to expect them to be anything else in 2021.
2. Cowboys offense
Before Dak Prescott was lost for the season with a gruesome ankle injury, the Cowboys were one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. Now that he's back, Prescott will still have a solid offensive line in front of him, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard at running back and Amari Cooper with Year 2 of CeeDee Lamb at wide receiver.
It'll be difficult for this group to maintain the pace they were on a year ago before Prescott's injury, but this is without a doubt the top offense in the division.
3. Eagles defense
The Eagles' defense was much better than their 4-11-1 record would suggest. It just goes to show how bad their offense was. The defensive line brings back all its normal anchors in Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, while Josh Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan should provide valuable pass-rushing juice throughout the year.
Philly also added veteran linebacker Eric Wilson to address their hole at that position, while finally adding actual cornerback depth behind Darius Slay. There's more than enough talent for this group to be a good defense, it'll simply be up to health and the imagination of first-year defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
4. Washington offense
Washington found some success on offense last year with Alex Smith at quarterback and Antonio Gibson's emergence as one of the best young running backs in the league, but it was clear that it needed talent infusion on that side of the ball.
Enter Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. There are still questions concerning the offensive line and Fitzpatrick's past battles with consistency, but this is an offense that has a much higher ceiling than it did a year ago.
5. Giants offense
This is a big year for Daniel Jones' development and he'll have just about every weapon he could ask for. Saquon Barkley is back, Kenny Golladay joins Darius Slayton and Sterling Sheppard at receiver and first-round pick Kadarius Toney figures to provide a few big-play opportunities after the catch.
The main question will be whether Jones can maximize all of these playmakers behind an offensive line that remains suspect. Couple that concern with Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator, and you can see how things could get ugly in New York.
6. Giants defense
The Giants defense was better than expected last year thanks in part to James Bradberry turning into a Pro Bowler, but the font office didn't do much to add to it in the offseason. A surprisingly large contract for Adoree Jackson and drafting Azeez Ojulari in the second round should help, but neither player feels like someone to move the needle.
The Giants need this defense to hold firm and hope the offense hits another level.
7. Eagles offense
The Eagles had one of the worst offenses in the NFL last year, bad enough for Doug Pederson to lose his job and for Carson Wentz to get shipped out of town. Now, it's up to former second-round pick Jalen Hurts and first-year head coach Nick Sirianni to set things right.
As good as DeVonta Smith was at the college level, it'd be hard to expect him to carry this offense as a rookie wide receiver if Hurts can't get it done.
8. Cowboys defense
Dallas had one of the worst defenses in the league before Prescott went down and they finished the season that way too. Then in the draft, the Cowboys added a first-round linebacker to a group filled with good linebackers and failed to really address the rest of the unit.
The Cowboys are going to have to score a lot of points to win games this season.