FORT WORTH, Texas - Here come the Eagles of Philadelphia on Christmas Eve, which gives us about a three-hour Saturday window to mix in some acceptable hate and venom in the otherwise joyous holiday season.

It's kind of like when your in-laws from Arkansas show up this time of year with cheap presents, while also asking for the high-dollar wine to be poured immediately. Venom happens.

My friend, the football Einstein, has informed me the Cowboys will not win this must-win game (don't start with me on "they could lose this game and still . . . ") because of, well, let Einstein explain it:

"Matchups. Football is a game of matchups. The Cowboys, across the board, don't match up with Philly."

Based on what was observed two months ago, that's a valid theory. On Oct. 30, the Cowboys were kneecapped, 34-7, in Philadelphia. That score is deceiving. The game was not that close.

In fact, Jerry Jones is still confused, eight weeks later. Imagine that. Jerry confused.

Jones said this week he was "scared" of the Eagles "after that butt-kicking we had up there."

Except after the game up there, he bravely proclaimed, "there's no alarm. I want to be real clear. There is no alarm in me. . . . I'm going to say one more time. There's not a cause for alarm."

This kind of confusion over the Cowboys is not unusual this season. Check the Cowboys' defense. That bunch plays confused much of the time.

Now also hear this:

The NFL "formulas" for making the playoffs tell us the Eagles will know by kickoff Saturday if they still have a postseason shot. The Birds have to have the Jets beat the Giants, a game that kicks off three hours before they tee it up at the Big Yard.

But the Cowboys will also be fully engaged if the Jets win. They can beat the Eagles and clinch a divisional title.

If the Jets don't win, it's a grab-bag situation in attempting to evaluate the Eagles' motivation. And for the Cowboys, based on a Giants win on Saturday, there would be the technical situation that the Eagles game doesn't matter. Only New Year's Day in the Meadowlands against the Giants would matter.

My answer to all this mumbo-jumbo is the same as Jason Garrett's answer this week:

The Cowboys need to win, period. This week and next week. For motivation, for momentum, for manhood. (There's also still the remote chance for a wild-card spot on the line for the Cowboys, but it's real, real remote.)

Forget the formulas. Just win.

But against Philly, they don't match up across the board, at least according to my friend, the football Einstein. I'd say, however, the deficit is more so on defense than offense, although that game two months ago was a wipeout on both sides.

What to do, what to do.

Two things, actually.

Out-hate 'em. Then outpoint 'em.

If that 34-7 tattoo is not a motivational kick in the butt for the Cowboys, then turn in your football man card.

Plus, in the short Garrett era of Cowboys history, covering 22 games now, October in Philly was by far the worst loss, and the only blowout loss. The second-worst loss was earlier this month to Arizona, 19-13 in overtime.

No matter what you think of Garrett's work, his team is in every game. On Oct. 30, they were out of the Eagles game by early in the second quarter, down by 21-0.

Tony Romo is also now on a great roll with his receivers. The running game situation is rather iffy with yet another Felix Jones injury, but the offense can still fire against an Eagles defense that has been a failure overall, although playing better lately.

Plus, help could - I said could - come from Rob Ryan's defense. Ryan rolled out the worst defensive scheme in the history of football the first time, playing the safeties backed up to the New Jersey state line and then blitzing off that.

The middle of the field became a 12-lane freeway. Quarterback Michael Vick was a mere 18 of 20 throwing between the numbers. It looked like a practice-field passing drill.

"It's ridiculous. I never gave our guys a chance. The whole thing was on me," Ryan said afterward.

And we definitely took his word for it, and will now be scheme-watching closely on Saturday. Ryan, yes, is dealing with a somewhat fading collection of aging talent, but he's got to be better than the clueless game plan of two months ago, right?

The Eagles are 6-8 for a reason. Were the Eagles not a "matchup nightmare" for those eight teams, including Buffalo, Seattle, St. Louis?

Or were the Birds a team in October that simply fired its best shot of the season at the Cowboys, and then quickly went gutless again despite a collection of "dream team" talent.

In a real bad NFC East, the Cowboys have been barely the best of a bad bunch so far.

But this one on Christmas Eve is personal. It's the Eagles, for one thing. It's about what happened in October for another thing.

If that doesn't matter, then the Cowboys don't matter, no matter what kind of playoff life the formulas would still give them.

Just win.