Rivalry? Eagles-Cowboys just good game

Sure, the rivalry is real enough. For Philadelphia Eagles players who grow up in other parts of the country, or play in other cities, that much is made clear early on.

Mark Sanchez grew up in Southern California and started his NFL career with the New York Jets. It started for him when he first came to Philadelphia for offseason workouts.

"It's huge," Sanchez said. "Fans on the street, back in June, were like, 'Hey, man, you've got to get Dallas.' I'm like, 'We haven't played a game yet. I just signed here. What are you talking about?' You start to see how important the rivalry is."

This season, though, the Eagles' games with the Dallas Cowboys don't require any extra spice. Both teams are 8-3 going into Thursday's game at AT&T Stadium. That meeting, and the one two weeks later in Philadelphia, will have a profound impact on the NFC East.

"We're tied with them for the division," Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. "This is going to be a race for that playoff spot. There's stuff on the outside that makes it fun, but we're taking it as, somebody's going to the playoffs and somebody's not."

This is the second consecutive meeting with such implications for these two rivals. Last December, the Eagles traveled to Dallas for the final game of the season. The winner earned the NFC East title and advance to the postseason. The loser was done.

For Eagles fans, getting to the playoffs at the expense of the Cowboys is just that much sweeter. By the same token, losing out to the Cowboys would be just that much more bitter.

For Chip Kelly, last year's game had a different feel from this week's game.

"That game was different because it was the last game of the year so you had to win," Kelly said. "There's still a lot of football to be played after we play this game. We're not talking about first place games or anything like that because they don't crown a champion after Thursday's game. We're just excited about the opportunity to go play against a really good team."

For Eagles fans, it doesn't matter where the Dallas game falls on the schedule. It's tied for game of the year with the other Cowboys game.

"There's a different energy," Eagles guard Evan Mathis said. "Not to take anything away from every other week, but both teams are leading the division right now. Both teams are playing extremely well. So obviously, it's an incredibly huge game."