Cowboys can clinch division crown

The Dallas Cowboys have complete control of their path to another NFC East title, and they might be even closer by kickoff.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ playoff fate could be determined then, too.

The Cowboys may have a chance to clinch the division crown when they host the surging Eagles on Saturday.

Most sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product have installed the Cowboys as slight 1 1/2-point home favorites, with the total set at 50 1/2.

Dallas (8-6) leads the second-place New York Giants by one game and is two in front of the third-place Eagles (6-8) heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Only one of those teams will reach the playoffs, and the Cowboys could clinch that spot Saturday with a win combined with a Giants’ loss to the New York Jets earlier in the day.

That matchup also has serious implications for Philadelphia, which also needs a Jets victory to remain alive in the division.

For the Eagles to repeat as East champions, they must beat the Cowboys and Washington at home on Jan. 1. They need the Giants to lose to the Jets and then beat Dallas in their last game.

That would leave all three teams at 8-8, and Philadelphia would own the tiebreaker based on a superior divisional record.

“I’m a big Jets fan this week,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “You control what you control. You have to play the game whether that team wins or loses.”

The Eagles’ playoff hopes remained alive after a 45-19 romp over the Jets on Sunday, their second straight victory.

“It feels good that we are still alive,” said tight end Brent Celek, who had a career-high 156 yards and one touchdown. “That is all you can ask for at this point. We just have to play together as a team and go up there, fight and beat Dallas.”

The Cowboys should be eager for revenge after losing 34-7 at Philadelphia in Week 8. That was just their second loss in the last six meetings in the series since the Eagles kept them out of the playoffs with a 44-6 win in Week 17 of 2008.

“We’ve got to get the wins. We’ve got to get in,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “Best way to do it is win this thing.”

Dallas regained some momentum by beating Tampa Bay 31-15 last Saturday after blowing fourth-quarter leads in consecutive games.

“We just can’t let up,” receiver Dez Bryant said. “We know where we want to go and it don’t matter who comes in here, we’re going to keep the same intensity and just play hard and hopefully we can win out. … We just got to keep focusing and keep playing hard.”

Tony Romo is doing his part to get Dallas into the postseason, completing 69.9 percent of his passes for 869 yards with eight touchdowns, no interceptions and a 121.4 passer rating over the last three games.

Romo has thrown 18 touchdown passes and just two picks in the past seven contests since struggling with a season-low 66.7 rating against the Eagles. He finished with 203 yards on 18-of-35 passing with one touchdown and one INT in that defeat.

Romo has 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while going 5-4 as a starter against Philadelphia.

The onus may again be on Romo and the passing game since Dallas is dealing with a rash of injuries to its backfield, with Felix Jones’ hamstring tightness the latest issue.

Jones’ status is unclear after he ran for over 100 yards each of the past two weeks. He may be joining rookie running backs DeMarco Murray and Phillip Tanner on the sidelines, leaving the Cowboys with 12-year veteran Sammy Morris and practice squad member Chauncey Washington.

Morris made his season debut with 12 carries for 53 yards against the Buccaneers.

“Sammy is the most logical choice … and we have another young back on our practice roster (Washington), so he’ll get a chance to do some of that too,” coach Jason Garrett said.

Dallas’ defense is looking to build on its best performance of the season, holding Tampa Bay to 190 total yards.

The unit is likely to be tested much more thoroughly by LeSean McCoy, who ran for 102 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries last week.

He’s scored eight TDs in the past four games, giving him 20 total scores – an Eagles single-season record. Two of those came when McCoy ran for a career-high 185 yards in the October rout of the Cowboys.

“It tells you I’m a pretty good back and I have an outstanding offensive line,” said McCoy, who had 149 yards on 16 carries in a 30-27 win at Dallas on Dec. 12, 2010. “It’s definitely a team thing.”

Michael Vick also starred against the Cowboys earlier this season, completing 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns while running seven times for 50 yards.

“It feels good to still have a chance to even be considered in the playoff race,” said Vick, who threw for 274 yards with one touchdown while adding another score on the ground last week.

“We’ve been through a lot, but we’re resilient.”

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