They have all been part of one during their careers, whether it happened in high school or in college, or even in previous stops during their NFL careers. Every team has a rival, and some of the rivalries across this great sport are epic. Around these parts, nothing compares to the week ahead, culminating with Sunday night's nationally-televised game against the Dallas Cowboys.
So for all of the new Eagles -- rookies like Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy and Macho Harris and Moise Fokou as well as veterans such as Leonard Weaver, Sean Jones, Will Witherspoon, Stacy Andrews and Jason Babin -- this is a Welcome To The Best Week Of The Season letter. Anybody who has been an Eagle for a season or longer knows that to play Dallas is not enough. You come to the table with an intense dislike of the Cowboys, or you don't bother coming.
Certainly, the hatred isn't for the men themselves. Take them out of the Dallas uniform and they are all, undoubtedly, fine guys. Scarred by wearing the Dallas star, perhaps, but good people nonetheless.
But that star inspires extraordinary emotions from Eagles fans. They have a pure, honest and very real hatred for the Dallas Cowboys.
Donovan McNabb knows all about it. So does Brian Westbrook. And DeSean Jackson learned right away last year that if there is one team in the NFL that the fans really care about beating, it is the Dallas Cowboys. Yeah, the wins over Washington and New York were nice, and for Andy Reid's purposes, you play each game the same way throughout the course of the season.
This week, though, is special.
"I've been told that, so I'm looking forward to seeing what this is all about," said Weaver, a member of the Seattle Seahawks before signing with the Eagles as an unrestricted free agent. "I guess in Seattle we had St. Louis and all of the teams in the division. I know the NFC East is a little bit different because three of the teams and the fans are real close to each other. Then there is Dallas, and from what people have said, this is the team that the fans get the most amped for.
"Sunday night should be quite an experience."
It is very, very true. There is something special about having Dallas come to down, especially with the Cowboys playing good football having won three straight games. Both teams are 5-2 and tied atop the NFC East and both teams have a national television audience watching. Considering the magnitude of the game, Sunday night might be something special.
Then again, it usually is with Dallas. You think about all of the great games the Eagles have played over the years, right? How many of them have come against Dallas? Fourth and 1 at the Vet ... pelting Jimmy Johnson with snowballs ... Michael Irvin's injury ... the 1980 NFC Championship Game ... Donovan McNabb's scramble and throw down the field to Freddie Mitchell ... beating Dallas in Dallas on Christmas Day ... Lito Sheppard's interception of Drew Bledsoe in the end zone and returning it for a touchdown ... winning 44-6 over Dallas to end the regular season last year ... on and on it goes. Dallas brings out that certain something in the Eagles.
"It is a very emotional game whenever the Eagles play the Cowboys," said defensive end Chris Clemons. "I found that out right away."
So for all of the new Eagles, the advice from here is this: Enjoy the week. This isn't like any other week for the Eagles or their fans. This is a week that separates fans and divides families. Cowboys fans living in Philadelphia who sold out in the 1970s and 1990s when the Cowboys won Super Bowls and became Dallas fans are the scum of the Earth this week. There is every bit of respect for the Cowboys now, and for the football team that comes into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night, and at the same time there has never been a more eagerly-anticipated event.
Dallas Week, Round 1, is here. Weaver and Jones and all of these newbie Eagles are going to have an experience this week. Wherever they are, in a grocery store or a gas station or out at dinner, they will encounter men, women and children who all want one thing, and thing only:
Welcome to the best week of the regular season, guys.
* SOME OF THIS AND SOME OF THAT *
- Dallas, which started slowly in the pressuring-the-quarterback-department on defense, has 17 sacks in the last five games. There is no more dangerous player in the NFL than linebacker DeMarcus Ware, the modern-day version of Lawrence Taylor. While the Eagles played well up front against the Giants, this is another great test. The tight ends and backs have to help handle the blitz.
- I am going to miss playing against Terrell Owens in a Dallas uniform, I admit. Clearly, the Cowboys don't miss the guy at all.
- The Eagles lead the league with 21 takeaways and have produced 67 points off of those turnovers. Huge number there.
- Maybe the most interesting story of the year is Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin, who was really not discussed much when people diagnosed the Dallas offense prior to the season. He has been as good as any receiver in the league of late, and his 482 yards in his first three NFL starts is a league record. Quarterback Tony Romo clearly has confidence in Austin.
- By the way, I think the Eagles will get Michael Vick on the field more and more here and there this season. He took one meaningful snap on Sunday and dashed around right end to convert a third-and-1 play, so the Eagles have a streak of three straight positive plays with Vick running the spread formation. He had a completion to Brent Celek and he ran for a first down to the left side in the win over Washington. Maybe it's me, but I see his speed and quickness improving.
- The players were off on Tuesday. They begin practice for Dallas on Wednesday, and we will see if running back Brian Westbrook is ready to go against the Cowboys.