There's something about Dallas week that gives cornerback Lito Sheppard an extra bounce in his step and there's no wondering why.
In the four games against Dallas since former Eagles receiver Terrell Owens joined the Cowboys before the 2006 season, Sheppard has recorded five interceptions. In three of those games, Owens was held to three catches or less and scored just once.
Much of that responsibility fell on Sheppard, who always seems to rise to the occasion against Dallas.
"He's one of the best receivers ever to play this game," Sheppard said about Owens. "Definitely a future Hall of Famer, and whenever you can do well against somebody of that caliber, it shows a lot about yourself. But I always want to do my best when I'm playing against players of that caliber."
|Lito's eight picks against Dallas are the most by any player vs. a team since 2003|
In 2004, when it seemed like Dallas was going in for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Sheppard returned an interception 101 yards for a score. That play set a new Eagles record for the longest interception return by a single person. That started a streak of sorts for Sheppard, who's had at least one interception in seven of the Eagles' last eight games against the Cowboys.
In 2006, Sheppard burned Dallas again. This time, quarterback Drew Bledsoe was driving the Cowboys toward a game-tying score only to have Sheppard pick off a pass in the end zone and return it 102 yards, breaking his previous record, for a game-sealing touchdown in a 38-24 victory.
In 10 career games against Dallas, Sheppard has eight interceptions for 241 yards and two touchdowns.
"It's not necessarily T.O., it's the whole Dallas-Eagles rivalry," Sheppard said. "It's a big game, and you want to play your best in it. That's the way I try to prepare mentally and physically for this game."
After witnessing how Sheppard shut down Owens in last season's 10-6 win at Dallas, fellow cornerback Sheldon Brown expects more of the same.
"We did that last year in the last game and we had some success with it," Brown said of Sheppard trailing Owens for the entire game. "I would think (defensive coordinator) Jim (Johnson) would start out that way, knowing the success (Lito) had. We'll see how that rolls, but that's up to the coaches to make that decision and we'll just go with the game plan."
On Monday, Johnson said that Lito will have a crack at T.O. but that he felt Asante Samuel and Brown would have success covering Owens as well.
"I think all three of our guys can," Johnson said. "It was one of those games (last year) we just felt we were going to match up Lito. That's about the only time we do it, with T.O. But I think all three of those guys can cover (him)."
Despite being just the second game of the season, Dallas week seems to have put the Eagles in midseason mode.
"We can see them whenever," said Brown, who himself has two career picks against the 'Boys. "It's a rivalry, it's going to always be a rivalry no matter when we play – it could be in the offseason. The important thing is to understand that this is week No. 2, game No. 2 and we have a long season."
In his seven years with the Eagles, Sheppard has realized what Dallas week means to the fans. What the fans may not realize is how much Dallas week means to the Eagles.
"We try not to feed into all the hype outside the locker room," Sheppard said. "We know how big a game it is. It's an NFC East division game, so the winner of this will definitely have the upper hand on the other. It's important. So you want to get this game out of the way, but it's a heated rivalry."
In an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Tuesday morning, Romo's significant other, Jessica Simpson, made a bold prediction about the outcome of Monday night's game.
She said that the Cowboys would kick the Eagles' collective butt. But that didn't concern Brown or Sheppard.
"I could care less. She's not playing.," Brown said.
"I didn't hear any of her comments," Sheppard said. "She's a cutie, though."