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Prepared For The Hype

Wade Phillips can draw the parallels. As Buddy Ryan's defensive coordinator in Philadelphia for three seasons in the late 1980s, the teams in the NFC East consistently beat up on each other.

Fast-forward 20 years and - despite the division's distant cousin moving back out West - not much has really changed. For the remaining three rivals, each team, some of which are thrown about as potential Super Bowl contenders, provides a check for the other three.

And Phillips should know: in his first season as the Dallas Cowboys head coach last year, his team lost only four games, including the playoffs. But every other squad in the East managed to top the Cowboys once. So it's no question, Phillips said, the division is the toughest in the NFL.

"Nobody goes through it unscathed," he said.


QB Tony Romo
So Phillips doesn't plan to take anything for granted heading into Monday night's showdown with the Eagles. In fact, Phillips' lessons learned in Philadelphia had him anticipating the rivalries before he even put on the headset for his first divisional clash in 2007. With the famous 46 defense Phillips had perfected with Ryan, the Eagles won the brutally competitive East in 1988, the first of three consecutive titles.

It was the first season after a two-year run of NFC East Super Bowl champions (the Giants in 1986 and the Redskins in 1987) and just two years before a 5-for-6 run (three Cowboys titles and one each for New York and Washington).

Phillips sees much of the same thing this season. Despite the Giants' title a season ago, many outlets seem to be hyping the Eagles and Cowboys, and Eagles head coach Andy Reid went so far as to call Dallas "the best team in the National Football League right now." And Washington, Phillips said, can never be discounted.

That's why Monday's chapter in the vitriolic rivalry has all the makings of those late-80s-early-90s classics: two teams coming off of no-doubter performances, two teams primed for a playoff run and the curtain call for one of the sport's most storied venues, Texas Stadium.

Yeah, there's that point, too. The final home opener under the famous hole in the roof should bring out the best in both fan bases – the Eagle faithful do travel well.

So as one storm dies out and moves through Dallas, an arguably bigger one moves in. And few will be evacuating this one.

"I don't think you can get away from it in Dallas," Phillips said. "I think anybody's that's got a pretty good football team from the year before, the people are expecting a lot of things, the players are expecting a lot of things, the coaches are."

The excitement might seem a bit premature for Week 2, but the offseason had told its stories to Phillips, also. At least there's some football going on.

And for a Dallas team that wants to replicate the success of the 1990s, the frenzy's expected.

"Well, there's been a lot of hype: about our season, about this game, a big game," Phillips said. "It's typical around here, so we're looking forward to the ball game."

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