PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly has said many time that his team won't look up until Dec. 29, the day of the season finale at Dallas. If Kelly sneaks a peek this week, however, he'll notice that the view has changed.
The Eagles are in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. If they win their remaining games, they will win the division in Kelly's first season and host a playoff game.
They don't need help from anyone else, not after getting some from the Chicago Bears Monday night. The Eagles helped the Bears gain a first-place tie in their division by beating the Detroit Lions Sunday. The Bears returned the favor by whipping the Cowboys, 45-28.
Standings aside, the Eagles just plain look like the best and most complete team in the NFC East right now. They got themselves into this position by winning their last five games. The streak took them from a 3-5 record at the midway point to an 8-5 record with three games left to play.
The countdown to Dec. 29 becomes more intense with each passing week.
On Sunday, the Eagles face the 3-9-1 Vikings in Minnesota. Adrian Peterson, the Vikings' superstar running back, injured his foot Sunday and may not play.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, may have the opposite experience. They how the Green Bay Packers, who were also kept alive in the NFC North race by the Lions' loss. The Packers could have quarterback Aaron Rodgers back for that game.
The pivotal weekend will be the next one: The Eagles host the Bears, who are 7-6 and will be in the thick of their divisional race, on Dec. 22. That day, the Cowboys play on the road against Washington, a dead team that is unraveling at the seams.
The Dallas-Washington game will matter to the Eagles. If Dallas wins, it will have a better record against division opponents than the Eagles. If the Eagles beat Dallas, splitting their season series and winding up with the same record, division record is the next tie-breaker.
That's why getting that one-game lead is so important to the Eagles. They'll likely need to be even or ahead of the Cowboys going into their last game. If they are, they win the division with a victory over the Cowboys without tie-breakers coming into play.
Earlier in the season, Kelly was asked about the Eagles moving into a first-place tie with the Cowboys.
"I was fired up," Kelly said. "I called the league office. I wanted to find out when the trophy presentation would be."
That was two months ago. Three weeks from now, the league office might call back.