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 IRVING, Texas (AP) -Over the next three Sundays, the Dallas Cowboys can go a long way toward reclaiming supremacy in the NFC East.
So it's only fitting their path begins in Philadelphia, home to the division champion five of the last six seasons.
Dallas goes in 6-1 and leading the division. The Eagles are 3-4 and in last place, but quarterback Donovan McNabb still believes Philadelphia is the team to beat.
``In order for you to be a champion, you have to beat the champion,'' he said. ``In the division, if you're the defending champion and have been for a numerous amount of years specifically, in order for you to become the champion of that division, you have to beat the champion.''
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips brought up McNabb's road-goes-through-Philadelphia speech on Monday. He claimed he doesn't consider it bulletin-board material - ``I mean, I think he's stating the fact,'' Phillips said - but ... how can it not be?
Phillips certainly didn't bring it up to try intimidating his players. If anything, it's a dangling carrot: You want us to come get? OK.
``We know we've got to go up there and win,'' tight end Jason Witten said Thursday. ``This team is up for that challenge.''
Witten added, ``Hopefully we can make that transition.''
Safety Roy Williams looks at the standings and figures it's already happened.
``Right now, they are in no position to talk about 'Everything goes through Philly.' Some teams went to Philly and they beat them,'' Williams said. ``No one is worried about 'You have to go through Philly.' You have to go through Dallas, you have to go through Washington and you have to go through New York, too. Everybody feels they are the best. Right now, it's just about how you play on the field that proves you are the best.''
Reminded about the Eagles' recent dominance over Dallas - two straight wins, five of seven and 11 of 14 - Williams dismissed that, too.
``They are another team that's in our way of reaching our goals,'' he said.
The others are the New York Giants (6-2) and the Washington Redskins (4-3). Dallas plays at New York a week from Sunday, then the Redskins visit Texas Stadium the following Sunday.
Linebacker Greg Ellis still considers Philadelphia the beast of the East. That should be expected from the longest-tenured Cowboys player; he's lost more games against the Eagles than any other team.
Ellis said one of the most painful losses of his career was the 2000 opener, when Philadelphia came to Texas Stadium and used a game-opening onside kick to set the tone for a 41-14 victory. That game also is often remembered for the Eagles beating the heat with pickle juice - some of which they spit at Dallas players, Ellis said Thursday.
So beating Philadelphia, as rare as it is, always means a lot to Ellis.
``If you look at it, you're going to say, this is the year,'' he said. ``You've got to remember, Philadelphia is not going to lay down.''
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