Playoffs or Not? We'll Know Sunday

Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles is perhaps more important that any game played at Texas Stadium in the last 4 years. Not only does it give the Boys a chance for sweet revenge against a team that has been nothing less than dominating, it also will prove the rest of the world that the Cowboys are indeed back and headed towards the playoffs.

Sunday afternoon is only a few days away, yet the Dallas Cowboys have been waiting for this matchup for almost 4 years.

That's right, for the first time since the late 1990's, the Cowboys actually have a chance to not only be competitive against the Eagles, but also beat their NFC East rivals.

After all, the Eagles are riding a six game winning streak in the series and have won by an average margin of 23.5 points, and the last time these two teams strapped it on at Texas Stadium, the Eagles won 27-3 in a game that could have been much worse.

"They've taken it to us ever since I've been here," said Joey Galloway. "We just haven't been able to get it going offensively or on defense. They've had our number."

This year may be a little bit different however.

The Eagles come into Texas Stadium with an unimpressive 2-2 record, including two games against Tampa Bay and New England, in which they scored a combined 10 points.

As a team, Philadelphia is averaging less than 150 yards passing per game, and Donovan McNabb has thrown only 1 touchdown pass as opposed to 5 interceptions on the year.

"We are still a little bit off," said McNabb after leading the Eagles to a 2-point home win over the Redskins last weekend. "And that still falls on my shoulders. I did a better job today, but I've got to put the football in a better position so our guys can make plays. Right now, I'm just not doing that consistently."

The Cowboys aren't buying it however.

"We know, and the rest of the league knows, what those guys are capable of doing," said Darren Woodson. "But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter what they've done this year or in the previous years against us."

"We have to come ready to play," Woodson added.

The Cowboys have certainly "come to play" in each of the last three weeks, with two victories in two trips up to New York and a 24-7 thrashing of Emmitt Smith and the Arizona Cardinals last weekend.

But Sunday represents the first true test of the season. The Eagles are still a favorite of many experts to challenge Tampa Bay to get to the Super Bowl, even with their 2-2 start.

The Cowboys, who surprisingly sit atop the NFC East at 3-1, know that if the rest of the league is going to take them seriously, they need to take care of business Sunday afternoon.

"They've gotten their offense back on track the last few weeks," said Bill Parcells. "And I'm judging what they have done recently as opposed to what they did the last few weeks."

McNabb and company have seemingly turned things around the last two weeks with impressive wins over Washington and Buffalo, and the defense also appears to be regaining it's form of a year ago, even without the services of pro-bowl safety Brian Dawkins.

"They are a pressure defense. They are going to try and press you," said Parcells. "They aren't going to change their philosophy or anything against us. They are going to press you and bring pressure every time they can and at the same time try to stop the run and put you in long yardage situations."

And of course, that could mean trouble for Quincy Carter.

Carter has enjoyed unparalleled success this season, but he knows that the Eagles will be bringing the heat Sunday. In fact, that's an understatement in his eyes.

"You've seen what they've done to us the last few years," said Carter. "This is a game that we know we'll have our hands full. We just have to be prepared for whatever they bring, and we will be. It will all boil down to execution."

The name of the game is always execution, but it becomes especially important this weekend. With first place and respect from the rest of the league on the line....how could it not?

A win would strengthen the notion that this team is poised to make a run at the playoffs, while a loss would likely pave the way for a shot at 8-8 at best.

Like it or not, that's how it is.

8-8 is certainly improvement, but until the Cowboys can prove that they can handle a team like Philadelphia at home, that's about as far as this prognosticator is willing to go.

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