Eagles set to battle for first place in NFC East

Eagles set to battle for first place in NFC East

Collinsworth looks ahead to the Eagles-Cowboys matchup

October 20, 2013, 7:00 am
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The Eagles and Cowboys, both 3-3, play for the division lead at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Linc. (USA Today Images)

A year ago this week, the Eagles were kicking off an eight-game losing streak that would last 2 ½ months, bury them in last place in the division, knock them out of the playoffs for a second straight year, and ultimately end the 14-year Eagles coaching career of Andy Reid.

Today?

Today, the Eagles are getting ready to battle for first place.

The Eagles and Cowboys, both 3-3, play for the division lead at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Linc (see game notes).

The winner will find itself in sole possession of first place in the NFC East with nine games to go.

“Right now we have a chance to really take over this division,” LeSean McCoy said.

“It’s a division game, and that tells you how important it is, and knowing that [this game] could be the difference between going [and not going] to the playoffs. It’s definitely a big game for us.”

The Eagles have lost five of their last eight home games against the Cowboys after winning six straight.

No coach in NFL history has beaten the Cowboys more than Reid, who is 18-12 vs. Dallas (including a win this year with the Chiefs). But overall, the Eagles are just 3-6 vs. the Cowboys since 2009, including a playoff loss that year.

“We don't talk about first place the seventh week into the season,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “The only time we talk about that [is] whatever this thing finishes on Dec. 29, after our last game.

“I've seen improvement from our team as from where we started to where we are right now. We are still disappointed in the three losses that we have. So you can't say, ‘Hey, we are really happy where we are right now.’ You don't want to be 3‑3. You wish you were 6‑0.”

The Eagles have won back-to-back games since a 52-20 embarrassment against the Broncos. Those wins in East Rutherford and Tampa have come over two winless teams, which is why today’s game is so intriguing.

Have the Eagles truly progressed over the past two weeks or did they just take advantage of an easy part of the schedule?

If they can beat their biggest rival, a team that lost to the Broncos by only three, that would be the biggest sign yet that they’re moving in the right direction.

“It’s a huge game,” DeSean Jackson said. “We’re both 3-3, division rival. Going back and looking 1-3, everybody on the team came together as one and took on the challenge and wanted to prove what we could do and what what kind of team we can be.

“It’s still early. Everybody’s still jelling together. Week by week just going out there and really just putting the effort in to be one complete team in all three phases of the game. We’ve been able to do that the last two games.”

Cowboys QB Tony Romo is second to Peyton Manning with 14 touchdowns and third in the league with a 108.6 passer rating.

Romo has completed 70 percent of his passes against the Eagles five times -- two more than anybody else in history. He has five career games vs. the Eagles with a 100 passer rating, fourth-most ever. And his five career 300-yard games are tied with Eli Manning for the most ever vs. the Eagles.

“It’ll be a tough test for us,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “They have a bunch of playmakers on offense. It’ll be a good challenge to see how we match up against these guys.

“They’re throwing the ball around a lot more. Romo has better control of the offense, and they’re giving him a chance to show what he can do, and he’s definitely playing really well this year.”

After losing their last five division games under Reid (by an averaged of 17.4 points), the Eagles are 3-0 in the NFC this year and 2-0 in the division.

A win would give the Eagles four straight wins vs. the NFC for the first time since 2010 and their first 4-0 start within the conference since 2004.

The Eagles were 8-17 in their last 25 conference games under Reid.

No wonder he wanted to coach in the AFC.

“We just want to make the playoffs,” McCoy said. “We haven’t made the playoffs the last two years. We just want to keep winning games and keep our momentum going.

“We’re 2-0 in the division and as long as we can keep going out and winning our divisional games, we’re going to have a great chance to make the playoffs.”

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