PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 28: Head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles meets with head coach Wade Phillips of the Dallas Cowboys after the game on December 28, 2008 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Cowboys 44-6. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles will battle for supremacy in the NFC East, tied at 5-2 a piece. It will be, in all likelihood, an intense showdown in (arguably) the most intense environment in professional sports; it will also represent the convergence of two very similar paths.
While the New York Giants were running through the steerage class of the league with ease, Dallas was struggling with the Chiefs in Kansas City. The next week, the Raiders beat the Eagles. According to any number of talking heads on the "worldwide leader," the "division race" was no more. The Giants would take it, in all likelihood, running away from the middling 'Boys and Iggles, to clinch as early as December 1.
This thinking was a monument to short-sightedness, which seems, as far as I can tell, to be a prerequisite for employment in Bristol.
The Giants, once a mighty 5-0, are now 5-3 after losing three straight; Philadelphia bounced back from the shocking loss in Oakland to rattle off two convincing division wins in a row, over the Redskins and, last week, with ease, the once-mighty Gigantes de Nueva York.
Dallas has won three straight, including the abjectly ugly Kansas City game, and thorough beatdowns of Atlanta and Seattle, respectively.
Both teams have risen from that messy wasteland of NFL purgatory, to the cusp of sole ownership of the division, reminding us of that old, vaguely annoying truism: it's not a sprint, but a marathon. Win or lose, one of the more promising aspects of this edition of the Dallas Cowboys is their ability to remain levelheaded in sun and rain--and this, considering the length and unpredictability of an NFL season, is an incontrovertible positive.
The same, certainly, can be said of the Eagles, who hear cries for Donovan McNabb's ticket out of town at least (at least) once a season.
Make no mistake: that these are the two that will meet for the division lead on Sunday night, after being so thoroughly mired in inconsistency, mediocrity, is anything but an accident.