Contrary to what you hear chanted in the parking lot, what you hear echoing through the stands at the Linc, what you see plastered on t-shirts all over town, Dallas doesn’t suck.
The Cowboys are pretty good.
And this is a rare period in Eagles-Cowboys history because the Eagles and Cowboys are both in the midst of extended stretches of success.
Both are coming off back-to-back winning seasons, both are coming off playoff seasons and both look like postseason contenders.
The last time the Eagles and Cowboys both made the playoffs two years in a row was 1995 and 1996. The last time both had a winning record three years in a row was 1979 through 1981.
So this is unusual. Most years, when the Eagles are good the Cowboys aren’t. When the Cowboys are good the Eagles aren’t. From 1985 through 2016, a span of 32 years, there were only eight seasons when both had a winning record.
You never know what’s going to happen, but looking at the Giants and Redskins? It sure looks like the NFC East will once again be a two-team race (although I do think the Redskins had a strong offseason).
The Eagles and Cowboys finished first and second in 2017, with the Eagles obviously going on to win the Super Bowl, and it was Cowboys then Eagles last year.
The last time the Eagles and Cowboys finished first and second in the division three years in a row? That was nearly four decades ago — 1979 through 1981.
Both teams have capable young quarterbacks, both are stocked with weapons on offense, both are disruptive upfront. For the Eagles to get where they want to go — locking up a first-round bye or No. 1 seed — they’re going to have to get through Dallas.
The reality is the Eagles haven’t swept the Cowboys since 2011 and they’re 5-9 against Dallas over the last seven years, although the 2017 finale was a meaningless game with the subs playing. Still, they’ve only won eight of their last 21 games against Dallas going back to 2009.
The Eagles are 1-6 in their last seven games against the Cowboys at the Linc, and the one game they won the Cowboys played Mark Sanchez at quarterback most of the day.
The point of all of this is that the Eagles won’t have a cakewalk to the NFC East title, even though I think there’s a fair chance they go 4-0 against the Redskins and Giants.
The Cowboys are a formidable rival these days. They’re 4-0 against the Eagles with Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup, and Elliott has averaged 116 yards in those games.
The Eagles are a better team. Prescott is better than a lot of people give him credit for, but I’ll take a healthy Wentz over Prescott any day.
The Cowboys have Amari Cooper and Elliott, but overall the Eagles’ weapons are superior.
Defensively, the Cowboys have a couple studs in Demarcus Lawrence and Leighton Vander Esch, but top to bottom I’ll take the Eagles’ D.
And don’t even get me started on Doug Pederson vs. Jason Garrett.
And look at Carson Wentz’s career numbers so far against Dallas: 67 percent, 10 TDs, 1 INT, 100.00 passer rating — third-highest ever against the Cowboys with a minimum of 150 attempts (behind Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees).
But you never know. The NFL is weird. Teams expected to contend for a Super Bowl wind up with five wins. Teams nobody takes seriously win their division.
But looking at it now? The two Eagles-Cowboys games are the season.
Sweep the Cowboys? And the Eagles could very well see their way to a first-round bye. The Eagles have reached the playoffs eight of the nine times since 1970 that they’ve swept the Cowboys and earned a bye four of those years.
Get swept? It’s going to be almost impossible to win the division and have a chance at a bye, which means the road to the Super Bowl becomes very difficult.
The Eagles have been swept by the Cowboys 19 times, and last year was the first time that happened and they still won a playoff game.
The Eagles are in Dallas on Oct. 20, a Sunday night game, and the Cowboys are at the Linc on Dec. 22, a 4:30 p.m. kick.
And for all the talk about roster cuts and the depth chart and the schedule and injuries and everything else we all obsess over on a daily basis, the reality is that the Eagles’ fate this season will depend largely on two things: What happens that October evening in North Texas and what happens that December afternoon in South Philly.
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