Game Day Preview: Eagles / Cowboys

The Eagles and Cowboys matchup in a key NFC East battle Monday night in Dallas. The division title is on the line and the Eagles would love to go 5-1 in the division and put themselves in the driver's seat for the division's top spot.

Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) at Dallas Cowboys (9-5)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Monday, 5:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/25/06
SURFACE: Sportfield Realgrass
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer
SERIES: 95th meeting. The Cowboys lead the series, 53-41. The Eagles have won 10 of the last 13 meetings, including a 38-24 victory in Philadelphia in Week 5. The Eagles sacked Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe seven times in that game and forced three interceptions, including a game-clinching one by cornerback Lito Sheppard that he returned 102 yards for a touchdown.
2006 RANKINGS: Eagles: offense 3rd (11th rush, 3rd pass); defense 18th (28th rush, 12th pass). Cowboys: offense 4th (10th rush, 4th pass); defense 11th (7th rush, 20th pass)

FAST FACTS:
Eagles: Clinch a playoff berth with a win. ... RB Brian Westbrook (1,092) has topped 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career. ... LB Omar Gaither is the team's first rookie linebacker to record a sack since Ray Farmer in 1996.

Cowboys: Clinch NFC East with a victory. ... Barber leads the NFL with 15 touchdowns overall and 13 rushing. ... Owens has 10 touchdowns in his past 10 games.

Cowboys Notebook:

Credit Bill Parcells with the Eagles being in the midst of the playoff chase.

According to Eagles coach Andy Reid, Parcells gave him a surprise phone call when quarterback Donovan McNabb went down with a knee injury, supposedly taking the Eagles' season down with him.

"I don't know, coach Parcells called me up and told me not to be pessimistic," Reid said. "He relayed to me the story about when (Phil) Simms went down (when he was with the Giants), and they had the quarterback change and they kept on winning at a championship caliber level. If I had any plan of keeping my head down, he took care of that.

Indeed.

Then 5-5, backup Jeff Garcia has led the Eagles to three wins in his four starts.

A victory against the Cowboys (9-5) Monday would put them in the driver's seat for the NFC East title.

Parcells said he has no regrets.

"Like he said the other day, 'If you've got to be doing something on Christmas it might as well be something important' and that's true," Parcells said.

Parcells said he called Reid because coaches reached out to him when he was a young coach.

"I don't know why but just sometimes, even though you don't really know a coach well, you kind of identify with the guy and there's kind of like a little kinship, even though you're rivals," Parcells said. "That happened with myself and Mike Holmgren years ago. I don't know why, it just did. I don't spend a lot of time with Mike or Andy, but the communication basis is very simple and I've enjoyed getting to know him and the competition and I think he does a good job as well.

"When I was a young coach in this league, several of the more senior coaches, several, not all but several, took time for me and I'm not trying to be corny or anything but I made up my mind that if I was ever in that spot I would always do that for any young coach and I have done that."

Notes From The ‘Nest…

The Eagles can move into the driver's seat in the NFC East on Monday with a win over the Cowboys in Dallas.

It will be the Eagles' third straight road game against a division opponent. They've already beaten Washington and the New York Giants. If they can beat the Cowboys for the second time this season, they'll be able to clinch their fifth division title in six year the next week with a victory over Atlanta in their final regular-season game.

The Eagles face an enormous challenge this week. They're not only going on the road for the third straight week, but they'll be away from home on Christmas. Coach Andy Reid has talked to his team about making sure they are focused when they get on the team charter Sunday for Dallas.

"I mentioned it to them this morning," he said. "Just that you have to make sure that you have it all situated. Some of the guys have kids and you're going to be leaving your kids and it is not an easy time to do that. You just have to make sure that you have it together and that they understand."

Reid was asked whether it actually might be better to be on the road for a Christmas Day game than at home.

"I'll tell you on Tuesday," he said with a smile. "There are different ways of looking at it, I'm sure. I'm sure that the Cowboys are looking at it one way and we're looking at it another way. Bottom line is you have to go play. You have to kind of put the distractions aside whether you're at home or away."

PREDICTION: Eagles 27-24


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