I THINK Chip Kelly is finally starting to get this whole "Dallas Week" thing in Philadelphia.

As the offensive coordinator and then head coach of the University of Oregon, Kelly was involved in seven "Civil War" games against archrival Oregon State University.

Coaching in the one of the most played rivalry gamed in the FBS subdivision of college football, Kelly knows the vitriol such a game can elicit.

Perhaps he just didn't figure those kind of emotions could translate to the NFL.

After previously toning down the notion of a Dallas game being a little bit more special, Kelly said this about the Eagles game on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field against the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East — "There's no better thing to get [Eagles players'] attention than playing the Dallas Cowboys at home, in the Linc, in front of our crowd."

That is a far cry from what Kelly said on Oct. 16, 2013, leading up to his first encounter with Dallas as Eagles head coach.

"No, we don't talk about [the rivalry with Dallas] ... I think whether it's the Chiefs or the Chargers or the Broncos or whomever, I think there's a professionalism that I really kind of like about this league ... Every week is a season for us, and our challenge right now is as big as it can get because it's the Dallas Cowboys and it's the only game we are going to play this week."

The AFC West Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos? The same as the Cowboys? To Eagles fans?

On Dec. 26, 2013, Kelly still wasn't putting much stock into the Philadelphia hatred for Dallas even though the upcoming game was a "win-or-stay home" scenario for the NFC East title and a playoff bid.

Having the game being against the Cowboys in Dallas added no extra juice in his evaluation. The opponent might as well have been the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I mean, it is what it is," Kelly said. "I think everybody understands what's at stake. It's the first game of the playoffs for us and for [Dallas]. If you win on Sunday, you get to play again and if you don't win on Sunday, you go home."

Yes, yes, but NO! NO!

It was Dallas.

Knocking the Cowboys out of the playoffs is almost as big as the Eagles getting in. Nobody in Philadelphia struts and preens because the Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons to seal a playoff bid.

Even only 2 weeks ago, when the Eagles were preparing to play in Dallas on Thanksgiving, Kelly didn't appear to view this as much more than the next game on the schedule.

He did not seem to see how a game against Dallas on Thanksgiving could either cause Eagles fans to have the best meal ever or get a severe case of indigestion, depending on the outcome.

"I don't really — just tell us when we're going to play," Kelly said about Thanksgiving in Dallas. "We don't really put much into it or wax nostalgic. It's not like we're going to have a cornucopia and a turkey on the sideline ... "I don't get into the — because they're in the division, obviously it's a division [game]. It means a lot more because of what's at stake because you get division records are the first thing you're going to look at in terms of ties and all those other things. But the excitement is when you get a chance to play against a really good team, and Dallas is a really good team."

Again. No. No. NO.

Dallas could be as bad as Oakland and Jacksonville are and Eagle fans would be hyped to the extreme for "Dallas Week."

Some of the fondest memories for Eagles fans are when the Buddy Ryan and Andy Reid-coached Birds would beat downs Dallas when the 'Boys were at their lowest.

Kicking the Cowboys when they are down is a top-rated guilty pleasure in Philadelphia.

But now, I think Kelly finally gets it. For the third straight time, first place in the NFC East is the prize for the winner of the Eagles/Cowboys game. With three games remaining and both teams at 9-4, this could determine the NFC East champion.

At home and on the road, Kelly has learned what a valuable 12th man Eagles fans can be for his team, so having them extra amped up for the Cowboys plays to his advantage. And so, what he said about firing up his players bears repeating:

"There's no better thing to get [Eagles players'] attention than playing the Dallas Cowboys at home, in the Linc, in front of our crowd."

Email: smallwj@phillynews.com
Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood