It is an exaggeration to say that Sunday was the best day of the season for the Eagles, but only a slight one. As they sat through their bye week, which was kindly scheduled near the midpoint of the season, the Eagles watched one division rival score 49 points and lose, then watched another surrender just one touchdown and two field goals and also lose.

The message should have been loud and clear: If you want to win the 10th NFC East title in franchise history, it is there for the taking. The 4-4 New York Giants play pass defense like they are a Big 12 team and the 2-5 Dallas Cowboys have provided weekly confirmations that quarterback is the most important position on the field ever since Tony Romo went down in Week 2 at Lincoln Financial Field. You can consider the 3-4 Washington Redskins contenders, but it's not advisable.

It's possible - even probable - that this mess of a division will not be decided until the final game of the season. The Eagles, for the record, play the Giants at MetLife Stadium that day and it's easy to envision that deciding the division title. That, however, does not diminish the significance of what will unfold Sunday night when the Eagles play the Cowboys down in Arlington, Texas.

This is a chance for the Eagles to stomp all over the Cowboys' rapidly declining playoff hopes. Lose a sixth straight game without Romo and Dallas can forget about winning a second straight division title. Romo cannot return until the Cowboys' Week 11 game at Miami. When he does come back, it's overly optimistic to think he will be in top form. At 2-6, Dallas will be hard-pressed to get to eight victories, especially when you look at a schedule that includes games against Carolina and at Green Bay. Even in the parity-stricken NFC East, eight wins is probably not enough.

From the Eagles' perspective, however, this game against the rudderless Cowboys has to be about a lot more than the opponent. The bye week provided coach Chip Kelly and his staff with an opportunity to scout their own team and you have to believe they spotted plenty of flaws in quarterback Sam Bradford and the offense. If they did not, this season is doomed.

When we last saw Kelly the day after the Eagles' jagged loss at Carolina, he was still insisting that he had a good football team that just needed to play better.

"We just need to clean things up," Kelly said.

The coach proceeded to reel off a list of costly penalties that stalled drives, but stuff like that happens in the course of a game and a season. Good teams overcome them. Proof: The New England Patriots and Eagles have both been penalized 51 times this season. The Patriots have been penalized 63 more yards. They've won every game they've played.

The Eagles have also been the beneficiary of opposing-team penalties 65 times this season. Only the Indianapolis Colts have had more go their way at 71, so we can dismiss penalties from the top five reasons the Eagles sputtered to their bye week with a 3-4 record.

Drops by receivers? The Eagles are letting more passes slip through their fingers per game than any team in the NFL, so we can put that at the top of the list.

Erratic play at quarterback? Put that in the top three even if Kelly insists the quarterback is playing well. The numbers do not lie and they go far beyond the 76.4 passer rating that is 30th in the NFL. According to SportingCharts.com, Bradford averages a league-low 2.79 air yards per completion. That means the average of his 170 completions is traveling less than three yards. He is the only quarterback in the league who can say that and you would think that is something the coaches want to change.

Offensive line issues? It belongs high on the list and any complaints need to be lodged with Kelly for failing to add help in that area during the draft and free agency.

Was a week of intense film study by the coaches enough to correct all the problems that have made the Eagles a mediocre and inconsistent offense? Is Kelly right when he says Jordan Matthews just needs to relax? Is this team's poor start more about execution than talent?

We should get an answer to that question against the Cowboys. As poorly as Matt Cassel and the Dallas offense played in Sunday's loss to Seattle, the Cowboys are a formidable defensive team, especially since the returns of defensive end Greg Hardy and linebacker Rolando McClain.

Neither of those guys played in Dallas' coyote-ugly Week 2 win in Philadelphia. The Cowboys were penalized 18 times for 142 yards in that game and the Eagles managed just 10 points in what was an embarrassing home-opening loss.

If Bradford and his receivers want to prove they are good enough to win this division, then they need to be able to put up some points after their bye week. Become the first team to lose to Dallas without Romo at quarterback and the rest of this Eagles season figures to be a bust regardless of what the NFC East standings say.

bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob