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Eagles turn attention to Cowboys and division title

Minutes after the Eagles' 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Chip Kelly shifted his attention from the defending Super Bowl champion to a new measuring stick: How his team stacks up in the NFC East.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

Minutes after the Eagles' 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Chip Kelly shifted his attention from the defending Super Bowl champion to a new measuring stick: How his team stacks up in the NFC East.

Kelly said the NFC East is "what this season is about right now," and the winner of Sunday's rematch with the Dallas Cowboys will have the late-season edge. The question is no longer whether the Eagles can compete with conference heavyweights such as Green Bay and Seattle, but whether the Eagles can even stay atop the division.

If the Eagles had beaten Seattle, the Cowboys game would have been a win-and-in scenario. But the Eagles still control their postseason prospects, although they only remain in control of the NFC East if they can top the Cowboys for the second time in three weeks. They beat Dallas, 33-10, on Thanksgiving.

"We don't talk about it, but we're aware of it," Kelly said Monday of the team's postseason chances. "Everybody understands the more games you win, the better opportunities you have to play in the postseason, and that's what this deal is all about. But I don't think talking about it does anything for us."

Kelly said he's not going through the playoff possibilities with the team this week, and the emphasis on winning the division is only because the remaining three games are against division opponents.

Washington and New York have been eliminated, so the NFC East will be won by the Eagles or the Cowboys. Both teams are 9-4. The Eagles are 3-0 in the division, while the Cowboys are 2-2, giving the Eagles the advantage should the teams finish the season with the same record.

Dallas will follow Sunday's game with a tough matchup against the Indianapolis Colts before finishing the season in Washington. The Eagles will visit the Redskins and Giants to close the season.

"There's no reason to talk about Washington or New York if we can't take care of business against Dallas," Kelly said.

The Eagles are still in contention for a wild-card spot, although the tiebreakers could make it a challenge. That's why the key is winning the division.

The Eagles have not lost back-to-back games since October 2013. The combined record of the four teams they have lost to is 35-16. The combined record of the three teams they played after those losses is 15-24. The Cowboys are the best team they've played after a loss, though.

"I think this group is really focused," Kelly said. "We have lost to some really good teams, and I don't think it's from a lack of effort or a lack of attention to detail."

The last two losses were disturbing because of the apparent lack of competition the Eagles presented. In losses to San Francisco and Arizona, the Eagles were more competitive than they were against Green Bay and Seattle.

A Kelly mantra, "Praise and blame is all the same," is as applicable this week as it was a week ago, when the Eagles were hailed as contenders after a dominant performance against the Cowboys. .

The players "just understand it doesn't define you," Kelly said. "You have to answer to yourself. You know how well you played. You know how you performed on a given day. You're going to have days when you're really successful. We've had days like that. You're going to have days where it doesn't work out the way you wanted it to work out. But you can't pack your bags after that and go home.

"I don't think we have a group like that," he said. "This group has good resolve."

That resolve will be tested this week. Monday was the players' off day. They will return to the practice facility on Tuesday. The team will meet in the morning and practice in the afternoon.

Their resolve will be evident for all to see come 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.

"I expect them to be flying high when they get in tomorrow and be ready to go," Kelly said. "There's no better thing to get their attention than playing the Dallas Cowboys at home at the Linc in front of the home crowd."