Cowboys, Eagles can take big strides with a victory

Updated: October 11, 2003, 3:41 AM ET

IRVING, Texas -- Only four games into the Bill Parcells era, the Dallas Cowboys already have reached a potential breakthrough.

Beat the Philadelphia Eagles at home on Sunday and the Cowboys will be 4-1 for the first time since 1995 -- their most recent Super Bowl-winning season. They'll have a four-game winning streak and firm control of the NFC East.

And with lowly Detroit up next, Dallas would be in position to match the win total of its three previous non-Parcells seasons long before Halloween.

Such talk is foolish to Parcells. Players aren't looking ahead dreamily either, although they do realize they've already started generating the kind of momentum last seen when Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were suiting up.

"We've just got to keep it going," receiver Joey Galloway said. "It's early, very early."

No team is more accustomed to sending the Cowboys crashing back to reality faster than the Eagles (2-2).

Philadelphia has beaten Dallas six straight times and seven of eight, starting with a 13-10 win in 1999, when the Cowboys were 3-0. That was the last time they started a season this strong and their last three-game winning streak. Irvin's career ended in that game and the franchise hasn't been the same since.

The Eagles consider that track record ancient history, a nod to the impact Parcells has had as well as to their own early season struggles.

Philadelphia is on the upswing, though, having won two straight since losing the first two.

A win Sunday would give the Eagles a winning record and put them back in the thick of the race for their third division title in a row. Should they win and Washington lose, Philadelphia would at least be tied for first.

But if the Eagles lose, it could turn into a big step backward, especially if Dallas proves to be for real.

"We're hungry," Philadelphia safety Clinton Hart said. "We're so close to getting this thing really cracked open like we want it. This will put us at the top. If we go in there and win this thing, we're tied for the top of the division and that's going to drive us even more. ... The snowball is rolling now. Once it gets going, it's hard to stop."

Going into this matchup of strong-armed, mobile quarterbacks, Dallas' Quincy Carter is surprisingly outplaying Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb so far this season.

The two have become good friends through their mothers, who are involved in the Professional Football Players Mothers Association. The quarterbacks call each other regularly, with Carter describing McNabb as "just a great inspiration to talk to."

These days, McNabb could be asking Carter for advice.

Carter has thrown for 200 yards all but once, while McNabb has yet to do so. Carter has thrown four touchdown passes to McNabb's one.

"Things are definitely going to change," McNabb said. "We're going to continue to attack the whole field and in doing that, just continue to get better and get our chemistry and timing down."

The Eagle defense will be the toughest Carter has seen. In winning the last two games, Philadelphia has stopped Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe and held Washington to 219 total yards until the Redskins got hot late, although not enough to pull out the victory.

Pro Bowl cornerback Troy Vincent is expected to return from a hamstring injury that kept him out last week. Bobby Taylor, another Pro Bowl corner, might return from a foot injury that's sidelined him for three games. The Eagles will still be without All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins (foot).

Defense has been the backbone of the six-game winning streak against Dallas. The Philadelphia defense has scored as many touchdowns (five) as it has allowed the Dallas offense. The Cowboys haven't scored an offensive TD in the last three meetings.

"There was a time when we used to do that to them when I first got into the league," Cowboys safety Darren Woodson said. "They've turned the tables on us. Now we've got to get it back."

At halftime, the Cowboys will honor the late Tex Schramm by inducting him into the Ring of Honor. He'll be the 12th member of the elite fraternity that was his idea. It comes 12 years after he entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Schramm was president and general manager for Dallas' first 29 seasons and was one of the leading figures in turning the NFL team into the powerhouse it is today.

He and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones patched up a long feud in April. Schramm died two months later.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index