There's nothing wrong with wanting revenge. It's a perfectly natural impulse. It's also tricky. There's an expiration date with these things.

Let's say you have a beef with someone bigger and tougher, and that someone deals you a beating in public - not once or twice, but three times. After you mend and get stronger and prepare to settle things, you might go looking for the aforementioned foe.

But what if, by the time you find your bully, he's already on life support, badly beaten and breathing through a tube? Sure, you could smother him with a pillow, but where's the satisfaction in turning payback into a mercy killing?

The Cowboys smacked the Birds around last year in the regular season and the playoffs. This season, the 'Boys are 4-8 and were forced to fire the incompetent bungler who masqueraded as their head coach. But they're supposedly "playing better." You probably heard that a lot lately - that the Cowboys are "playing better."

That particular phrase was repeated quite a bit by the media and the Eagles this week. That's because the Cowboys are supposed to be Philly's primary rival and the Eagles are supposed to want revenge. That, and curb stomping someone who's already been tenderized isn't as gratifying and is generally frowned upon in polite society.

For those and other reasons, people have made this Cowboys game sound like a bigger, tougher affair than it probably is. That's what happens around here when it's Dallas week. The hype increases even when there's no real justification for it.

"Well, obviously, they changed head coaches," Andy Reid said when asked - yep, you guessed it - why the 'Boys are playing better. "Listen, I'm a big Wade Phillips fan and I think Jason Garrett is a very good football coach, too. I think they went from one good coach to another good coach."

Mercy. The man is a master of deadpan. He delivered the "one good coach to another good coach" line without so much as a smirk. I laughed so hard I thought I might swallow my tongue.

After losing seven of their first eight games - which contributed heavily to the firing of the first good coach and the hiring of the second good coach - the 'Boys have won three of their last four. That's how this "playing better" nonsense started. One of the victories was a quality road win over the Giants. No arguments there. But the other two wins came courtesy of the hapless Lions and a Colts squad that has more closely resembled a M*A*S*H unit than a football team this season. (Don't be surprised if you see Alan Alda hauling in passes from Peyton Manning in the near future.)

The Cowboys lost Tony Romo earlier in the season and Dez Bryant last week. The offense is led by perennial castoff Jon Kitna and the defense is ranked 23d overall.

But, hey, they're playing better and it's Dallas week and there's revenge to be had and . . . Boo! Scared yet? No? Well, it's not because no one tried.

"What happened last year was embarrassing," Eagles safety Quintin Mikell said softly in front of his locker, failing to sell the idea that the Eagles (or anyone else) see Sunday's game as a matter of pride. "They're going to be ready to play, but we're going to be ready to play, too."

Both teams plan to play. Good to know. That hasn't always been the case with the Cowboys this season.

Even so, the real game is next week in New York. Everyone knows it. They're just pretending otherwise.

If you made the fantasy football playoffs, congratulations. As Reid said to a reporter earlier this year, maybe I should ask you the questions.

Start

QB: Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan

RB: Felix Jones, Fred Jackson, Mike Tolbert

WR: Mike Williams (Tampa Bay), Johnny Knox, Hines Ward

Flex (RB/WR/TE): Chris Ivory, Johnny Knox, Brandon Pettigrew

Bench

QB: Donovan McNabb, Matt Cassel, Matt Schaub

RB: Cedric Benson, Ryan Mathews, Brandon Jacobs

WR: Santana Moss, Braylon Edwards, Mario Manningham

Flex (RB/WR/TE): BenJaruvs Green-Ellis, Deion Branch, Zach Miller

Sunday Sixer

(Home team in CAPS)

Last week: 5-1

Season: 28-23-3

Browns +1 over BILLS: Cleveland hasn't let me down yet. Has to be the first time that sentence has ever been written.

JETS -51/2 over DOLPHINS: Good team in a bounce-back game after a tough loss on national TV.

Ravens -3 over TEXANS: (See the Jets principle above.)

CARDS +4 over Broncos: Denver is in disarray. So is Arizona, but the Cards are at home and their coach didn't get fired this week.

Giants -3 over VIKINGS: Won't be long now until Brett Favre is freed up to be alone with his cell phone.

Eagles -4 over COWBOYS: Still chuckling about Reid's "they went from one good coach to another good coach" line. Killer material.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.
Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gonzophilly