At my deli and at my gym and at my golf course, one theme was consistent Monday: At least we beat Dallas.

“At this point," said one guy, “I’m as happy we beat Dallas and kept them out as I am we won.”

I’d known this guy for years. At least, I thought I knew him.

Same thing happened Tuesday, when I picked up my meatball Shorti at my Wawa.

"We’ll beat the Giants next week, but then ... " the store’s general manager said. “At least Dallas didn’t beat us.” He was forlorn and elated at the same time. Mostly elated.

Santa brought him a win over Dallas, and even if the prospects of his 8-7 team are sour, that victory was a delicious Christmas pudding.

If the Cowboys had won Sunday they’d have taken the NFC East. Denying them seems to be more satisfying to many than wedding-night consummation. Whether or not the Eagles beat the Giants this weekend this strange, this current two-day afterglow will linger for months.

What’s more, if Jerry Jones winds up firing his coaches and remaking his roster, then Sunday’s 17-9 loss in Philly will have been the Cowboys’ nuclear moment -- a loss that will set Dallas back for years; and so the afterglow in Philly will last for years.

This is nuts.

After 25 years of living in this region it still astonishes me that a pedestrian achievement like beating a .500 team in the 15th game of what will be considered a lost season can have such a profound effect on so many. In my defense, as a transplant, I have no historical connection with the franchise: My dad didn’t take me to Veterans Stadium to wish Roman Gabriel was younger and Mike McCormack was smarter.

Still, how sane is it that Eagles fans are made less miserable because people in North Texas are now miserable, too? Apparently, misery loves company, especially when the company is wearing 10-gallon hats.

It’s all completely irrational, which is probably why it all makes sense to Jim Schwartz.

The Eagles’ defensive coordinator arrived at Lincoln Financial Field at 10 a.m. Sunday, more than six hours before kickoff, where he faced significant traffic and saw packed parking lots. After four years of enduring Eagle-mania at Georgetown, he expected nothing else.

“I got introduced to that a little bit when I was in college,” Schwartz said. “A lot of my college friends [came from] schools here in Philadelphia. Even though they were college kids, they were always hyped up about that.”

That was the mid-1980s, when Schwartz was playing linebacker and studying economics, and the Eagles were riding Reggie and Randall, and Buddy Ryan was running up the score, while the Cowboys were in the death throes of the Tom Landry years. Neither team was particularly good, and the rivalry was largely a one-way phenomenon. The Cowboys largely dismissed animosities directed at them; it was like a big brother holding a little brother at arm’s length while the little kid flailed. The Cowboys had Redskins to hate.

This, of course, only amplified Philadelphia’s rage.

Lately, though, a Cowboys team without a Super Bowl appearance in 24 years and just four playoff wins in that span has grown to view the Birds with increasing anger, which increased in October when Doug Pederson foolishly and inaccurately guaranteed a win.

Pederson made no such guarantee for Sunday, and he was subdued after the 17-9 win that put the Eagles at 8-7 and left the Cowboys at 7-8. An Eagles win at the Giants on Sunday or a Cowboys loss to to visiting Redskins assures the Eagles a playoff slot, which most people properly consider a consolation prize, considering how undermanned the Eagles are and how good the 49ers, Packers, Saints, Seahawks, and Vikings look by comparison.

It’s almost as though the ugly victory Sunday was enough. It’s real, but it’s weird. Again, Schwartz understands the intensity.

“Being around the NFL, you sort of felt that,” he said. “That rivalry is one of the special rivalries in the NFL.”

Which is something that I keep learning, with every win over Dallas.