The scenario is as grim as it gets for Eagles fans.

Their favorite team will go into Texas Stadium tomorrow locked in last place in the NFC East. Their least favorite team, the hated Dallas Cowboys, has already locked up the division title for the first time since 1998 and has a legitimate chance to go 15-1, an accomplishment that would be getting far more attention if the New England Patriots weren't trying to become the first 16-0 team in NFL history.

For the record, only four teams in history - San Francisco in 1984, Chicago in 1985, Minnesota in 1998, and Pittsburgh in 2004 - have finished 15-1.

Anyway, back to the gloom and doom for the Eagles and their fans.

Wasn't it just last Christmas Day that the Eagles went into Texas Stadium and thumped the Cowboys, 23-7, to take control of the division they have won five times since the new millennium?

How, in the name of Chuck Bednarik, did Terrell Owens' former team and his current team experience such a drastic role reversal in less than a year's time?

"I think the biggest thing is that [Tony] Romo is playing a lot more consistent than he was last year," Eagles general manager Tom Heckert said yesterday. "He's not throwing interceptions, and he's really, really playing well. I think their offensive line is playing a lot better, too."

It's a fair assessment. Unlike the Patriots, the Cowboys didn't make a bunch of significant additions in the off-season. Nobody in Philadelphia trembled when Dallas signed safety Ken Hamlin and offensive tackle Leonard Davis as its big free-agent additions, and nobody envisioned this kind of turnaround when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones picked Wade Phillips to replace the departed Bill Parcells as head coach.

The Cowboys even had a couple of significant injuries early, losing wide receiver Terry Glenn before the season started and nose tackle Jason Ferguson on opening night against the New York Giants.

"From a personnel standpoint, they really have the same guys," Heckert said. "Romo and the offensive line are the difference."

There's no arguing that Romo has been brilliant. In fact, for the last six weeks, he's been better than the Patriots' Tom Brady, throwing for 19 touchdowns and suffering just five interceptions in that time. His 35 touchdown passes are a single-season franchise record, and his 10 300-yard passing games in just 23 career starts are only three fewer than Hall of Famer Troy Aikman had in his entire career.

If you don't have a good quarterback, "you're just going to struggle," Heckert said. "You can find some places that's not the case, but if the quarterback is playing well, it makes everybody else play well. You're not getting in third and longs, especially if you're completing a high percentage of passes. That's tough to stop."

Romo has completed 67.4 percent of his passes this season and 73.3 percent in his last six games. If there were an NFC MVP, Romo would be it.

"Plus, they've got the best of both worlds because they can run the ball, too," Heckert said.

Yes, Romo has weapons galore. T.O. and tight end Jason Witten have already combined for 154 catches, 2,225 yards and 21 touchdowns, while the tandem of Marion Barber and Julius Jones has combined for 1,837 yards from scrimmage - 85 more than Brian Westbrook - while each has taken half the pounding of the Eagles' superstar running back.

Defensively, the Cowboys are good but far from great. Outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis have combined for 211/2 sacks, the second-highest total of any duo in the NFL, and no running back has rushed for 100 yards against them this season.

So if the Cowboys didn't make a bunch of big free-agent additions in the off-season, it becomes a fair question to wonder if they've just drafted better than the Eagles in recent years.

"I think they've drafted well, but I think we've drafted well, too," Heckert said.

If you go back to 2002, both teams have a total of 12 drafted starters, and that number includes Cowboys rookie kicker Nick Folk. It doesn't take into account Romo, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003. The Eagles' best undrafted free agent in that same time frame is safety Quintin Mikell.

Romo, Ware, Witten and safety Roy Williams have combined to play in eight Pro Bowls, and that number is going to grow for at least three of them on Tuesday and possibly all four. The Eagles' Westbrook, Lito Sheppard and Shawn Andrews have combined to play in four Pro Bowls, and only Westbrook is guaranteed to increase that number this year.

The Cowboys have hit it big in free agency the last two seasons with Davis, who has played exceptionally well on the offensive line; Hamlin, whose five interceptions are tied for the team lead; and, of course, T.O., who is likely going to be selected to his sixth Pro Bowl this year.

By contrast, the Eagles' free-agent additions in the last two seasons have been defensive end Darren Howard; defensive tackles Montae Reagor, Ian Scott and Kimo von Oelhoffen; linebacker Takeo Spikes; and wide receiver Kevin Curtis. Only Curtis has been a major contributor.

So, now, as a lost season fades, the question is this: Are the Cowboys about to dominate the NFC East for the next six years the way the Eagles dominated the previous six?

"I think they're going to be able to sustain what they're doing," Heckert said. "It's just a matter of what happens with us."